Even now, at old-timers' games, they call him "The Rope." Bob Boyd has been known as The Rope since Orioles spring training in Arizona in 1957, when he kept sending line drives whistling past the ears of coach Luman Harris, who was pitching batting practice.
"Hey, Boyd, watch them frozen ropes," Harris said.
Bob Boyd: The Rope.
In nine major-league seasons, Boyd had only 175 RBIs and 19 home runs, but he collected enough hits of other denominations to compile a .293 career average.
"Boyd may not drive in many runs," Orioles manager Paul Richards said, "but he sure drives a lot from first to third."
After Harris' remark, Boyd spotted a piece of rope on the ground. He carefully placed it on the ground in front of him whenever Harris pitched batting practice. He eventually lost it and found another piece in the clubhouse and kept it in his back pocket.
"From then on, I just kept belting those ropes," said Boyd, 68, a retired city bus driver in Wichita, Kan. "I wasn't a long-ball hitter, and my hits didn't get much height. I hit line drives all the time. I was hardly ever without my piece of rope."
It was with the Orioles, from 1956 to 1960, that Boyd had his best years. Primarily a first baseman, he batted over .300 four times in those five years, with a high in 1957 of .318, fourth in the American League.
In 1956, he was batting .357 on May 21 when he broke his left elbow throwing a ball and was out 10 weeks. He wound up with a .311 average and had a 19-game hitting streak.
In 1958, Boyd got off to a slow start, but said in early July he intended to bat .300 even if it meant making good on a promise to his wife, Valca. She predicted he would finish over .300, and he said he would buy her a mink stole if he did.
Boyd finished at .309 and was reminded of his promise to Valca.
"I guess I don't have any choice except to buy her that mink stole," he said.
After his major-league career ended in 1961, Boyd settled in Wichita and played seven years for semipro teams that competed in national tournaments as far away as Alaska and California. Since then, he has limited his playing to old-timers' games, mostly in Kansas City and Chicago.
"Guys still call me The Rope out here," Boyd said. "I kept hitting frozen ropes after I left the big leagues and we won national tournaments here. I was the MVP two or three years."
Boyd drove a bus in Wichita for 17 years and retired 11 years ago. He works with Little Leaguers -- including his two grandsons, whom he coaches.
He's a regular at autograph shows, in Kansas City, Wichita, Chicago and Memphis, Tenn. In mid-September, he's going to New York for a major two-day show.
"I like going to different cities and signing autographs," he said.
Next: He made an unassisted triple play six years after leaving the Orioles.