Biggest busts in Baltimore sports history

As the Ravens weigh their options in this week's NFL draft, The Sun takes a moment to reflect on the biggest busts in Baltimore sports history. Here, alphabetically, are major acquisitions that fans would as soon forget.

Gary Bradds, Bullets, 1964-65


In hindsight, the Baltimore Bullets could have taken Willis Reed, who would become a Hall of Fame center. Or Jeff Mullins, a budding All-Star guard. Instead, the Bullets' first-round pick in the 1964 NBA draft was Gary Bradds, a skinny kid from Ohio State who was National College Player of the Year … but a flop in the pros.

The third player selected overall, Bradds was 6 feet 8 and 200 pounds, a two-time All-American who'd averaged 30.6 points and 13.4 rebounds as a senior for the Buckeyes. He stunned the Bullets initially by turning them down, opting to teach junior high physical education for $5,000 a year. When Bradds finally wised up and joined the team, he proved ordinary at best.


"The way he scored in the Big Ten, he must know his way around the court," coach Buddy Jeannette surmised.

Bradds never showed it. As a rookie — The Sun called him "a long-legged scarecrow" — he averaged 3.3 points per game. In 1965, he reported to camp 20 pounds heavier, to no avail. The Bullets cut him after three games.

Kyle Boller, Ravens, 2003-07

He could kneel at midfield and throw a football through the goal posts. Staying upright was another story. For five seasons, Boller stumbled about on the field, an overhyped quarterback with poor mechanics and nervous feet who couldn't seem to get out of his own way, much less dodge the pass rush.


In 53 games for the Ravens, Boller threw 44 interceptions, fumbled 36 times and was sacked 102 times. Once, against the Denver Broncos, he fumbled while running with no one around.

It wasn't what the team expected in selecting him in the first round of the NFL draft.

"He's the complete package," said coach Brian Billick, who threw his prodigy to the wolves in the Ravens' 2003 opener. Boller took his licks and never complained — or recovered. As a starter, he went 20-22 and left Baltimore with a shabby quarterback rating of 71.9. He spent three more years as a backup and quit the game at age 30.

Glenn Davis, Orioles, 1991-93

How big a bust was Davis, the ballyhooed slugger for whom the Orioles mortgaged their future? On Sept. 8, 1993, word of his release was flashed on the JumboTron message board during a game at Camden Yards — and fans cheered.

Two years earlier, many of them had done the same upon his arrival. Davis was a two-time All-Star first baseman who'd averaged 27 home runs and 85 RBIs in six full seasons with the Houston Astros. Hungry for power, the Orioles bit. To the Astros went pitchers Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch, who would win 327 career games between them, and outfielder Steve Finley, who went on to hit 304 career home runs and win five Gold Gloves.

And Davis? In three seasons with the Orioles, he averaged eight homers and 28 RBIs while batting .247. Oft-injured, Davis played just 185 games with the Orioles. Once, he was struck in the head by a foul ball while standing in the dugout; another time, he suffered a broken jaw in a nightclub brawl.

It's easily the worst trade a Baltimore team ever made.

Matt Elam, Ravens, 2013-17

"I want to be legendary," Elam said upon being selected in the first round by the defending Super Bowl champions. Instead, he'll be remembered as one of the Ravens' biggest flops.

An All-American safety at Florida, Elam started 15 games as a rookie and then, inexplicably, got worse. In 2014, he was benched midseason for sloppy tackling and poor coverage. A torn biceps sidelined Elam all of 2015, during which time he was also suspended one game for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Knee surgery last season reduced him to playing on special teams.

Club officials, who'd boasted he "played like a Raven" when drafted, had written Elam out of their 2017 plans even before his arrest in February in Miami on charges of drug possession and reckless driving. His final numbers with the Ravens: 131 tackles and one interception in 41 games.

Elvis Grbac, Ravens, 2001-02

Having won the Super Bowl to end the 2000 season, the Ravens became the first champions to ditch their quarterback and greet a new one. So long, Trent Dilfer. Elvis is in the building.

"We really feel like we have an athlete that ... has all the physical, mental and emotional tools to take over a Super Bowl-champion team," Billick said of Grbac, a free agent with gaudy numbers. "That is not a position for the faint of heart."

What Baltimore got was a $30 million quarterback prone to bawling on the sidelines. Though he passed for more than 3,000 yards and led the Ravens to one playoff victory, Grbac caved at crucial times, made 26 turnovers and, unlike Dilfer, never garnered the respect of his teammates.

Jeered often, Grbac threw three interceptions in a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and finished the season with a quarterback rating worse than that of his predecessor. Released when he refused to take a pay cut, Grbac retired abruptly at age 31.

Reggie Jackson, Orioles, 1976

Though a future Hall of Famer, the slugging outfielder won few hearts in his short stay in Baltimore. Acquired from Oakland in a trade that sent pitcher Mike Torrez, a 20-game winner, and outfielder Don Baylor, a future American League Most Valuable Player, to the A's, Jackson was expected to provide the punch the club coveted.

Alas, Jackson failed to live up to the hype. He began the season with a one-month holdout and ended it by playing out his option.

Despite credible numbers (27 home runs, 91 RBIs, .277 average), Jackson started slow, rankled fans who expected more and proved divisive in the clubhouse. He arrived in Baltimore on April 30, the same day that Oakland's Torrez pitched a two-hitter to beat the Orioles at Memorial Stadium. In early June, Jackson was booed during a horrific weekend in which he went 1-for-17, hit into four double plays and dropped a fly ball.

"I didn't fit in socially in Baltimore," Jackson said in November after signing with the New York Yankees. His year with the Orioles was the only one between 1971 and 1984 in which he failed to make the All-Star team.

George Johnson, Bullets, 1970-71

"This was the big center we wanted," Bullets coach Gene Shue gushed after selecting Johnson, a 6-foot-11 star at Stephen F. Austin, in the first round of the 1970 NBA draft. Baltimore scout Bob Ferry extolled Johnson's virtues, calling him "a right-handed Willis Reed."

Not to be. Two knee surgeries in college hampered Johnson's mobility in the pros. He spent most of his first year playing in the Eastern League and scored his first basket for the Bullets in their 43rd game. As a rookie, Johnson averaged 3.9 points and 4.8 rebounds — hardly worthy of the NBA's ninth overall draft pick. By his second season, the Bullets gave up. They waived Johnson in October 1971. He landed in the American Basketball Association as a reserve for the Dallas Chaparrals.

Gene Melchiorre, Bullets, 1951


A short, pigeon-toed guard with a high-pitched voice and Globetrotter-like acumen, Melchiorre was supposed to lead lowly Baltimore to the fore in the NBA. That's what the Bullets thought when they made the Bradley All-American the league's No. 1 selection in the 1951 draft.


Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp called the 5-foot-8 Melchiorre, who'd led Bradley to the finals of both the NCAA and National Invitation Tournament, "the greatest little man in basketball."

Just before Bullets training camp, however, Melchiorre was arrested and indicted for his part in a college point-shaving scandal. The man whose nickname was "Squeaky" pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence. But the NBA banned him for life. Melchiorre remains the only overall No. 1 draft pick never to play in the pros.

The Bullets, meanwhile, muddled through two hapless seasons (36-100) and disbanded in 1954. Nine years later, they returned to the NBA.

Art Schlichter, Colts, 1982

He was the fourth player taken in the 1982 NFL draft, a celebrated quarterback from Ohio State whose off-the-field doings would long haunt the Colts. After a disappointing year (0-8-1) in which he failed to beat out a less heralded rookie (Mike Pagel) for the starting job, Schlichter revealed that he was a compulsive gambler in debt to bookmakers for more than $160,000.

As his passes fluttered, his life spiraled down.

"I'm relieved that this is all out in the open," Schlichter said then. "Thank God. ... I can stop being a living lie."

Suspended by the NFL, he sought counseling and returned to football in 1984 after the Colts moved to Indianapolis. But he failed to impress and, amid reports of continued gambling, was waived in 1985, having played in 13 games with a quarterback rating of 42.6. Schlichter is currently serving time in prison for his part in a sports ticket scam.

Sammy Sosa, Orioles, 2005

The celebrated outfielder graced the cover of the Oioles' media guide and received a standing ovation on Opening Day at Camden Yards. So much for the highlights of Sosa's season in Baltimore.

Acquired in February from the Chicago Cubs, Sosa, 36, arrived with Hall of Fame numbers (574 home runs) but a sullied past (steroid allegations and a corked bat). Fingers crossed, the Orioles gave him around $9 million. It was money ill spent.

In March, Sosa was subpoenaed by Congress to testify on steroid use in baseball. In May, a foot abscess sidelined him for weeks. In June, a 1-for-36 slump dropped him to No. 6 in the lineup. Finally, fed up, the home crowd let him have it in early July, raining boos on the seven-time All Star.

In August, a lesion on his toe benched Sosa again. He left the team for good on Sept. 7 with 14 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .221 average, the second lowest in his 18-year career.

Earl Williams, Orioles, 1973-74

Williams was lackadaisical and overweight. He missed the team bus and was late for games. He feuded with Weaver and cussed Orioles fans. He balked at warming up pitchers and ignored their game plans.

He cost the Orioles a solid starting pitcher (Pat Dobson), second baseman (Davey Johnson) and catcher (Johnny Oates). Two years later, exasperated, the team dealt Williams back to Atlanta for a sore-armed minor league pitcher.

"I'd take anything — even Mickey Mouse — if they offered him." Weaver told the media.

The 1971 National League Rookie of the Year, Williams, 24, had arrived in Baltimore with stellar stats (61 home runs in two years). In Baltimore, he managed 36 homers in two seasons while batting .245. When sent packing, Williams was the Orioles' No. 4 catcher.


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