Orioles pitcher Don Stanhouse was a 'flake,' but 'pretty on the inside'

Former O's pitcher "Stan The Man Unusual" is No. 8 on the @BaltSunSports list of The Daffy Dozen.

Call them flakes, misfits or screwballs. They are athletes whose offbeat antics mystify teammates and fascinate fans and, over three centuries, Baltimore has been blessed with its share. The Baltimore Sun is counting down The Daffy Dozen, the 12 most memorable characters in the city’s sports lore. Today’s oddball, No. 8, is former Orioles pitcher Don Stanhouse, who pitched for the team from 1978-1979 and in 1982.

He had Harpo Marx hair, kept a stuffed gorilla atop his locker and uncorked a harrowing scream before each game. "Stan The Man Unusual," teammate Mike Flanagan called him, so Don Stanhouse had T-shirts made with that moniker and a likeness of himself sticking out his tongue.

"If I'm going to be a flake, I might as well be the best there is," he said.

The closer for the 1979 American League champs, he saved 21 games while routinely allowing base hits, and sometimes runs, before getting the final nail-biting out.

"The Orioles will be all right as long as Stanhouse gets the bases loaded," coach Elrod Hendricks said then.

Sometimes Stanhouse took 20 minutes to finish one inning. Earl Weaver called him "Full Pack" because that was how many Raleighs the manager would chain-smoke while waiting for game's end. And woe be the Orioles if Stanhouse, a free-spirited bachelor, spotted an attractive woman in the box seats.

When acquired from the Montreal Expos in 1977, he mused, "I wonder how I'll look in orange and black? I don't know much about Baltimore yet, but I know Washington is only about 40 miles away and they've got more women than any place in the country."

He dressed in black, drove a black Cadillac and painted his apartment walls a midnight hue. None of this detracted from his social life; his poofy hair turned many a head.

"I'm not the prettiest guy in the world, but I'm no Igor either," Stanhouse said. "I'm pretty on the inside. When they took X-rays of my head, they found flowers."

In 1979 he made the All-Star team, went 7-3 and compiled a 2.85 ERA for the Orioles, who grudgingly accepted his eccentricities on the hill.

"I'd go into the stretch and drop my head, like I'd fallen asleep," Stanhouse told The Baltimore Sun in 2009. "Eventually the hitter would step out of the box and the umpire would come out and say, 'Wake up!'"

His goal, he said, was to fatigue the on-deck hitter. But who knows if Stanhouse himself dozed off between pitches?

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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