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Bamberger throws back offers to return to game


This is the measure of George Bamberger: As he approaches his 70th birthday, a major-league team still calls now and then and asks if he can check out a pitcher.

From 1968 to 1977, when he was with the Orioles, Bamberger came to be regarded as one of the best pitching coaches in the business.

Orioles pitchers logged 17 20-win seasons during his 10 years on the job. In the 10 years before he arrived, there was only one, by Steve Barber. In the 17 full seasons since he left, there have been five.

"Bamberger was a great pitching coach," retired manager Earl Weaver said. "He got inside the pitchers' heads. We didn't have a staff of Nolan Ryans, but Bamberger got them to throw for strikes."

Bamberger is retired, for the third time, and this time he means it. After leaving the Orioles for the Milwaukee Brewers' managing job in 1978, he retired after three seasons, managed the New York Mets for two seasons, retired, returned to Milwaukee and retired in 1986. In seven years, his managing record was 458-478.

"Clubs will call and say they've got a pitcher in Butte, Montana, can I take a look," Bamberger said. "Hey, I don't want that.

"I've been offered jobs. Montreal asked me to stop at their camp a few times as a consultant to talk to their kids, and I did that. But they called another time and wanted me to be the pitching coach in their whole minor-league system and I didn't want that."

Since 1979, Bamberger has lived in North Redington Beach, Fla., between St. Petersburg and Clearwater. He plays golf and putters around the house. "I'm always doing something. I don't ++ just sit around," he said.

Bamberger disagrees with some the of things young pitchers are being taught today.

"Kids throw 70, 80 pitches and they're out," he said. "I'm against that. When you're in Double-A, getting ready to pitch in the majors, you can't be pulled out at the first sign of a jam. That doesn't make a good major-league pitcher.

"That's not the way Palmer came up. Or McNally, Torrez or Cuellar. When Palmer and them went into the seventh or eighth with a one-run lead, you could relax because you knew the game was in good hands. Now you can't relax with a six-run lead."

For all his success as a coach, Bamberger was undistinguished as a pitcher. He played for 18 seasons, 15 in Triple-A, and appeared in only 10 major-league games, totaling 14 1/3 innings, and didn't have a decision.

In 1959, Orioles general manager Lee MacPhail summoned him from Triple-A Vancouver, but Bamberger wanted to go back. He had a house on the West Coast and a sporting goods store.

"I was a big fish in a little pond out there," he said. "I was 34 at the time. I wasn't going to fool anybody that I was a big-league pitcher at that age."

Little did even Bamberger know that he was about to become a whale of a big-league pitching coach.

Next week: He was one of Brooks Robinson's predecessors at third base.

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