Moe Drabowsky, the Oriole Bird

Showing that he hadn't lost his touch, prankster Moe Drabowsky puts shaving cream on the head of the Oriole Bird mascot before the start of an Orioles old-timers' game in 1998. (Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / August 7, 1998)

A pitcher whose repertoire included smoke bombs, sneezing powder and live snakes.

A catcher who bought cattle during road trips and hauled livestock in his Cadillac.

An outfielder known to run the bases backward and spout maxims like, "This year I'm going to play with harder nonchalance."

What strange birds these Orioles can be.

Moe Drabowsky, Clint Courtney and Jackie Brandt are just three of the characters who have played for Baltimore through the years.

"Every player has a few screws loose because of the pressure of that goldfish-bowl existence," said Dick Hall, an Orioles pitcher in the 1960s and '70s. "Those [three] were just a little looser than the rest."

From the start, the club had its share of zanies. "Goony Bird" was the tag players pinned on Don Larsen, who pitched Opening Day 1954.

Larsen, 3-21 that season, would as soon have been playing pinball in a bar. "An overgrown kid" is how teammates described him.

Shelled from one game, Larsen headed for the clubhouse, where he flew into a rage.

"He was kicking lockers and throwing his glove around," said Dick Armstrong, the club's publicity director. "I said, 'Don, tomorrow's another day.'"

"You don't understand," Larsen said. "Somebody stole my Flash Gordon comic book!"

Larsen's catcher, Courtney, was a hoot - a tobacco-chewing, Louisiana farm boy who was strong as an ox and who smelled like one, too. On Western swings, Courtney visited stockyards in Chicago and Kansas City, looking to beef up the herd on his 200-acre spread.

"Clint would stomp around in that cow manure, wearing his only suit, then come straight to the park," shortstop Ron Hansen said. "The stink didn't bother him."

On the road, Courtney liked to lie in bed and spit at the ceiling, to the chagrin of his peers.

"I roomed with him - once," first baseman Jim Gentile said. A dapper dresser himself, "Diamond Jim" watched in horror in a New York hotel room as Courtney unpacked a suitcase filled with dirty clothes.

"We'll only be gone six days," the catcher said.

Courtney always drove Cadillacs, into which he squeezed everything from heifers to hound dogs. "I rode with Clint once," said Hall. "It was like being in a barn."

Courtney was bowlegged, balding and absurdly myopic. The first big-league catcher to wear glasses on the field, he struggled with pop-ups, circling the ball and squinting through Coke bottle lenses. The media likened the moves to those of a waiter serving pizza on roller skates.

Fiercely combative and quick to rile, the man whom teammates called "Scrap Iron" fought often but never won a brawl, they said.