Doug DeCinces has a fine major league career where his legacy was that of bad timing.
He was a player whose tenure with the Baltimore Orioles was sandwiched between two legends. His time with the Angels included unreal heart break. And his brief stint with St. Louis was too little too late.
The Burbank native was drafted by Baltimore in 1970 and by 1973 made the big league roster. He did not play in the post season for the 1973 nor 1974 AL East champion Orioles. The reason? DeCinces (pronounced De SIN say) was a third baseman. The Orioles had a third baseman. Perhaps you heard of him. His name was Brooks Robinson.
Manager Earl Weaver broke young DeCinces in by using him all over the field in 1975 but by 1976, he had supplanted the beloved Brooksie. Fans never seemed to embrace him for the main reason that his name was NOT Brooks Robinson. He hit for power and played fine defense, but not like Brooks. Tough standards. The fact that the Orioles failed to make the post season in 1976, 1977 and 1978 only made Baltimore fans more uneasy and DeCinces was a nice symbol for the fallen times.
In 1979, he launched a dramatic walk off homer in a game in June that warmed him up to fans as Baltimore took the AL East. He batted .308 in the playoffs and homered in the World Series, but the Orioles fell in 7 games to the Pirates. So close to a title, yet falling short.
Two more solid but unspectacular seasons later he was shipped off to California for Dan Ford after the 1981 season. The player who took his place? Cal Ripken.
He was sandwiched between the two most beloved figures in Orioles history.
Back in his native California, his production exploded. He became an MVP candidate in 1982. He launched 30 homers, batted .301 and posted a .916 OPS.
He shone on a mind bogglingly star studded team that included Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor, Fred Lynn, Bobby Grich and Tommy John. They took a 2-0 lead in the Best of 5 ALCS over Milwaukee and DeCinces looked like he was World Series bound while batting .316 in the series.
But Milwaukee stormed back, taking the final 3 games and capturing the pennant, leaving DeCinces wounded again.
He remained a steady and consistent performer in Anaheim and in 1986, was back in October again. He helped the Angels take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Red Sox and scored on Bobby Grich’s go ahead homer as the Angels took a 5-2 lead into the 9th for the clincher.
Then of course Dave Henderson homered off of Donnie Moore. But I bet you forgot that the Angels tied the game in the 9th. In fact they had the bases loaded with 1 out. A fly ball would clinch the pennant, and DeCinces was at the plate.
He did indeed lift a flyball to right field. But it was not deep enough and the Red Sox right fielder, Dwight Evans, had a cannon for an arm. The runner was held.
The Angels didn’t score again that game and the Red Sox won Games 6 and 7 in blow outs. Yet another DeCinces heart breaker.
The next year the Angels struggled as did DeCinces, who gave way to Jack Howell at third base. He was released towards the end of the season and finished out the final week of the year in St. Louis, filling in for the injured Terry Pendleton. This was reflected in today’s card which says NOW WITH CARDINALS at the bottom.
He was added too late to be eligible for post season play and watched from the sidelines as St. Louis blew an early Game 7 lead to lose the World Series to Minnesota.
He would not come back for the 1988 season. He had a fine career, was an All Star and a fan favorite in Anaheim and ultimately retroactively embraced in Baltimore.
But between the close calls in every post season he played in and being sandwiched between two legends, his timing could have been better.