Joseph Gordon Mueller, who spent more than a decade as a relief pitcher in professional baseball and then became a shopping center leasing executive, died of heart disease Thursday at Stella Maris Hospice. The Timonium resident was 83.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Greenmount Avenue, he was a pitcher on his parochial school ball team, Blessed Sacrament, and at City College, from which he graduated in 1940.
While at City, he was scouted by Orioles manager Alphonse "Tommy" Thomas, who was impressed by the 6-foot-4-inch pitcher's fastball. Signed as an 18-year-old, Mr. Mueller played much of his first season on a lower minor league team in Lancaster, Pa.
"He always had a nice motion and a good curve, but he wasn't very fast at the start," wrote Rodger H. Pippen, sports editor of the old Baltimore News-Post.
Mr. Mueller pitched at old Oriole Park on 29th Street in the early 1940s before enlisting in the Navy during World War II.
He remained in the Orioles organization until December 1947, when he was released from his contract.
He subsequently pitched for teams in Birmingham, Ala., Scranton, Pa., and the Louisville Colonels, Boston's Triple-A farm team in Kentucky. In the winter, he drove an oil truck to support his young wife and their growing family.
After an impressive showing of 10 wins and 4 losses with the Colonels, Mr. Mueller was called up to the major leagues with Boston in late 1949, primarily to pitch batting practice, when the Red Sox bought his contract from Louisville.
"He has a deceptive motion and his fast ball is sneaky," sports commentator and former ballplayer Irving Darius "Bump" Hadley wrote of the rookie in the 1950 preseason.
Mr. Mueller made his major league debut in 1950 as a relief pitcher, but not with the same success he had in Louisville. Listing his player name as "Gordy" Mueller, the Baseball Encyclopedia shows that he appeared with the Red Sox in eight games, for a total of seven innings, giving up 11 hits including a home run and 13 walks, and posting no wins, losses or saves. He had one strikeout and compiled an earned run average of 10.52.
"Every kid dreams of being a big league ball player, but it's not until you actually live and work with a big league club that you realize just how much you want it," he told a Boston newspaper reporter at the beginning of the 1950 season.
He played out the 1951 and 1952 seasons with the Orioles.
"It was a struggle for a young father," said his son Mark Mueller of Bel Air. "He would tell us the stories, of the constant moving, the call-ups from Double-A to Triple-A, to the big show in Boston, back to Triple-A, back up to Boston and back down.
"It was lousy pay, with my mother taking care of the babies alone, setting up new home after new home, alone while Dad was on the road," his son said.
At the end of the 1952 season, with a failed pitching arm and another child on the way, Mr. Mueller left baseball and supervised home construction on the Eastern Shore.
In 1954, he joined Lardner & Wich, a construction firm, and became its executive vice president in 1963. He became the leasing agent for the Perring Parkway Shopping Center in the mid-1960s and later sold and leased commercial real estate for W.C. Pinkard & Co. and was state director for Maryland and Delaware in the International Council of Shopping Centers.
In 1976, he founded J. Gordon Mueller & Co. He signed tenants at Padonia Village in Timonium, St. John's Plaza in Ellicott City and Kenilworth Bazaar in Towson before retiring in 1996.
In October 1991, at the final Orioles game played at Memorial Stadium, Mr. Mueller was honored at a ceremony with other members of the International League Orioles.
A funeral Mass was offered Monday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Essex, where he had been a member.
His wife of 58 years, the former Dorothy Marie Dorl, died in 2003.
Survivors include four other sons, Robert Mueller of Easton, Don Mueller of Glen Arm, Gordon Mueller of Stewartstown, Pa., and Tom Mueller of Abingdon; 15 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.