It seemed the money would last forever.
At 32, former Orioles right-handed reliever Don Stanhouse still had two years to go on a five-year, $2.2 million contract. He was out of baseball, playing golf and dabbling in real estate in Dallas, but not especially concerned about his future.
That contract, signed in the early years of the free-agent market, "seemed like the world," says Stanhouse, 43. "I assumed with the money I made through free agency I'd live forever."
Reality dawned sometime around 1985, a year after the contract expired. Stanhouse, who had a wife and one child at the time, decided he had better find a second career. Through a friend, he found his way into the investment banking business, where he has worked since 1986. He is now vice president of the bond department at Southwest Securities Inc. in Dallas.
He talks to many people on the phone in the course of business, and every so often someone remembers the Don Stanhouse who played ball.
Stanhouse attributes the name recognition to his membership on the Orioles' team that won the American League pennant in 1979, the year he went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 21 saves, his best year in baseball, the year he put up the numbers that played so well in the free-agent market.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to the $2.2 million deal in 1980. Then, everything unraveled.
Bothered by back trouble that season, he finished with two wins, two losses and seven saves in 21 games and a 5.04 ERA. The night before Opening Day in 1981, the Dodgers released him. He kept working out during the strike-shortened season and went to spring training with the Orioles in 1982 hoping to make the team. He did and was greeted by a huge ovation.
"Probably one of my most thrilling moments was that Opening Day in Baltimore. The way I was welcomed by the fans," Stanhouse says.
His arm strength, however, never recovered. He appeared in only 17 games, lost one and compiled a 5.40 ERA with no saves. The Orioles released him after the season.
Stanhouse and his wife, Kyle, moved from Baltimore to Dallas in 1982 to be closer to her family and because the opportunities seemed better in the Southwest than around his southern Illinois hometown of DuQuoin.
He and his wife live in Dallas now with their three children. He has season tickets to the Texas Rangers' games and still enjoys watching baseball, although he says the pitching looks a bit thin across the league.
And when office baseball discussions turn to the high-scoring games that seem to be more common lately, he says, "you have people patting you on the back saying, 'There's still hope for you yet.' "