Mora, Roenicke and Lowenstein inducted into Orioles Hall of Fame
They came from very different cultural backgrounds and very different eras of Orioles baseball, but Melvin Mora and Gary Roenicke showed up at a very special place at exactly the same time.
Both were inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame during a ceremony before Friday night's series opener between the Orioles and Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards. Outfielder John Lowenstein, who teamed with Roenicke in a legendary left-field platoon during the 1983 world championship season, and longtime scout and executive Fred Uhlman Sr. also were inducted, but were not able to attend the festivities.
Mora, who grew up in Venezuela and started his career with the New York Mets, evolved from super utility man to starting third baseman in 10 seasons in Baltimore from 2000 to 2009. Roenicke played in parts of eight seasons with the Orioles and was a member of World Series teams in 1979 and 1983.
"I feel like I just won the Masters," Roenicke joked, sporting his new green Hall of Fame jacket on the temporary stage between home plate and the pitchers mound.
Mora was more subdued when he met with the media a few minutes later in the stadium's press conference room.
"It's been very emotional for me," he said. "To be here, coming from nowhere, I came from a poor town in my country. To be here wearing this jacket is something I can't describe. Just a lot of emotion."
Roenicke, who grew up in Southern California and was a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos four years before being traded to the Orioles in 1977, echoed a similar sentiment.
"I feel the same way," Roenicke said. "I think you've heard me say that this was really a special place to play. I think we really realize it more now that I haven't been playing for 30 years. Looking back on it, I wish I would have known then how I would look back on it now. It has a great history and a lot of great people have put on an Orioles uniform. To put this on and be in that elite group, and be considered by our peers and the media and the Orioles Advocates to put us in that group is just such an honor."
Roenicke is best remembered by Orioles fans as half of that platoon with Lowenstein, but he is quick to point out that the legend is somewhat exaggerated. It was only a full-time platoon system in 1983. He and Lowenstein played in the same outfield frequently during the Earl Weaver years.
"Years and years later at some banquet where they were introducing us when they did my bio and Earl heard it, he said to me after, 'I didn't platoon you,'" Roenicke said. "I said, 'I know. I know. It came after you.' But when you're on a winning team in '83, that's what we did in '83 and we did it again in '84. But '83 was the big, big platoon year."
Mora still lives in the Baltimore area with his wife and six children, but he said that he is currently involved in a project to build a baseball academy in Aruba to serve young players in several Latin American countries.
"I think baseball needs more people like Melvin," Roenicke said. "It's a passion for him and I know the country that he came from and a lot of the Latin countries, those kids, that's all they do. They love baseball. So, if you can help those kids out, and they can get a chance. These teams are bringing more Latin players over every year. So if he can help them out and there are more people like him to help those people and give them a better chance, it's better for our world and it's better for our game."
Roenicke spent eight years scouting for the Orioles before being let go in October 2011, not long before Dan Duquette was hired to replace Andy MacPhail as executive vice president. Roenicke said he still hopes to play some role in the organization in the future.
"I would love to come back and work for somebody," he said. "I was a big part of Adam Jones coming here. I was a big part of Chris Davis coming here. I don't know if the front office knows that. That's how good players come to teams, is you have to have guts and the inside part of the guys who are out in the field looking at these players and evaluating these players, and I felt I had a talent to do that.
"I love the game. It's all I've done. I feel I have a lot to give back."