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No shame being a part of Brady's bunch

August 26, 2004|by ANDY MASON

Several summers ago, I spent a week camping on the beach at Cape Cod with friends.

Sun, sand, seafood, beer, campfires, sunsets, laughs, bikinis - it was about all a guy could ask for on vacation.

I'd give just about anything to live it all over again today, to be able to dive into the refreshing New England waves to make "Brady Anderson catches" with the Frisbee.

We spent hours each day tossing that plastic disc, with the most acrobatic and aerial feats celebrated as those of the Baltimore Orioles' longtime center fielder.

"Brady Anderson catches" - that's what I coined them. Somehow it stuck, although I was teased - and still am - for it.

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I'm a lifelong Orioles fan, and Anderson, ranking just above Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, is my all-time favorite player. Laugh all you want; everyone else does whenever I reveal that. (Actually, just being an O's fan has put me on the receiving end of some jokes these days.)

But when it comes to speed, power, sheer athleticism and rock-star sideburns, no player wearing the orange and black, in my opinion, ever has displayed quite the total package as Anderson did.

His career began with the Red Sox in the 1980s and ended last year with the Padres, who waived him from their Triple-A affiliate. In between, Anderson played 13 1/2 seasons with the Orioles, finishing his Baltimore tenure as the club's all-time leader in stolen bases (307) and ranked in the top five in hits (1,614), runs (1,044), doubles (1,044), home runs (209) and total bases (2,698).

In 1996, when the O's ended a 13-year absence from the playoffs, Anderson helped lead the way with MVP-type numbers, batting .297 with 50 homers (an O's single-season record) and 110 RBI.

While he never came close to hitting that many homers again in a season, he seemed to make up for it by robbing them from opposing teams.

Last weekend, the three-time All-Star rightfully became the 41st member of the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Take away his hordes of female fans - "Brady's Ladies" the banners used to read at Camden Yards - all the bare-chested, weight-room posters they sold of him at the ballpark - no, I never owned one - and the unfounded rumors about his sexuality, and I probably would not be teased.

Not that the ribbings ever once have bothered me in the least. I mean, come on, the guy hit 50 homers in a big-league season and had his own female fan club. What boy growing up - or 25-year-old man playing Frisbee on the beach - wouldn't want to aspire to that?

True story: A few years ago (post-Cape Cod), when I worked for another paper, I went to the Yards as a rookie sportswriter to cover an Orioles-Phillies interleague game.

All I really remember is that the O's won, Mike Mussina was the winning pitcher, Anderson had a few hits and a few RBI and I definitely was a bit star struck in the O's clubhouse after the game.

I was the only reporter who immediately approached Anderson for some comments.

"Nice game," I said.

"Thanks, man, I really appreciate that," he said.

Then my brain froze and my tongue tied like they never had before.

"What do you think?" was all I could come up with.

"You have to ask me a better question than that," he replied.

I needed an ocean to go bury myself in a wave. Luckily, I quickly became more articulate and saved myself in front of Brady Anderson - much like Brady Anderson inspired me to save that Frisbee from a life at sea several summers ago.




Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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