When J.J. Hardy learned he would be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame, he pulled up YouTube. He wanted an idea of what he was in for.
Hardy, the Orioles’ shortstop for most of the previous decade, and outfielder Mike Devereaux were elected to the organization’s hall of fame, the club announced Friday, with longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster Joe Angel joining them as the recipient of Herb Armstrong Award, which recognizes nonuniformed team personnel. The trio will join Mo Gaba, the 14-year-old superfan who the team honored with the Wild Bill Hagy Award shortly before he died of cancer in July, in being honored in a pregame ceremony Aug. 7 at Camden Yards.
During his time in Baltimore from 2011 to 2017, Hardy watched several such on-field ceremonies from the dugout, listening to the crowd’s excitement build as the honorees gave their speeches. On YouTube, he found the one his former double play partner, Brian Roberts, gave in 2018. It made Hardy glad he had time to prepare.
“I’m going to start working on my speech right now,” Hardy quipped on a videoconference Friday. “Give myself five months to practice.”
Hardy 38, served as a guest instructor for the Orioles at spring training a year ago, and while he acknowledged an eventual desire to return to baseball, he said he’s enjoying his time at home with his two young sons too much to make such a change now.
He was traded to the Orioles after what he called “two bad seasons,” one that concluded his five years with the Milwaukee Brewers and the other serving as his lone campaign with the Minnesota Twins. With Baltimore, he was a fixture of three playoff teams, and in 2013, he was the American League’s All-Star starter at shortstop and also earned a Silver Slugger award and the second of three straight Gold Gloves.
He said he treasured running down the orange carpet each Opening Day at Camden Yards, but that his favorite moment as an Oriole came in Baltimore’s 2014 postseason run, when he scored the go-ahead run against the Detroit Tigers on Delmon Young’s bases-clearing double. Even though he’s not on social media, Hardy said he gets sent clips from Twitter or Instagram whenever that highlight circulates.
“That was by far the loudest I’ve ever heard any stadium get,” Hardy said.
Devereaux, 57, saw that potential at Oriole Park when he first saw the ballpark once the club returned from spring training in 1992. He looks forward to going back in August.
“What the community has shown me and to get this honor right here, it’s very special,” he said. “I was speechless. I never saw it coming. The Orioles have always been a part of my life since playing there, and I’ve always been an Oriole at heart. I played with four other teams, [but] it’s always been the Orioles for me.”
Devereaux earned Most Value Oriole honors that first year in Camden Yards, becoming the only player in club history to have multiple seasons with double-digit doubles, triples and home runs after also doing so in 1991.
He began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but after a trade, he played regularly for the Orioles’ 1989 “Why Not?” team, a group expected to perform poorly that finished just outside of the playoffs.
“Baltimore threw us a parade after that,” Devereaux said. “I loved the city, loved the parade, but I was like, ‘Wow, we didn’t even win. Just imagine what would’ve happened if we would’ve won.’”
Angel, 72, was in his first stint with the Orioles in that 1989 season. He retired after 2018, spending 19 years over three stints as an Orioles broadcaster. In all, he called baseball games for 42 years, with his final 15 in Baltimore, where his signature calls included “Hasta la vista pelota!,” “Wave that baby bye-bye!,” and “Put it in the WIN column!”
Like Angel, Devereaux bounced around a bit, but his heart remained with the Orioles. He left in free agency after the 1994 season, then returned in 1996 after winning National League Championship Most Valuable Players honors with the World Series champion Atlanta Braves. His hopes of a repeat came up short, partly thanks to a controversial play in the opening game of a playoff series against the New York Yankees.
“That one kid, Jeffrey Maier,” Devereaux said, begrudgingly acknowledging he knew the name of the 12-year-old Yankees fan who snatched a ball into the stands for what was ruled a game-tying home run. “I’m still not too happy about him.”
Despite their bonds to the city, both former players look back on their time in Baltimore with disappointment they weren’t able to deliver a championship. The Orioles were the AL’s winningest team from 2012 to 2016, with playoff berths every other year, but the Kansas City Royals’ sweep of them in the 2014 American League Championship Series accounted for Baltimore’s deepest run in Hardy’s tenure.
Hardy said in some ways, the Orioles’ current rebuild, in which the team has finished with one of the five worst records in the league each year since he left, falls on the shoulders of him and the teammates he enjoyed so much success with.
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“I guess I feel a little bit responsible for it,” Hardy said, “because I was fortunate enough to play in Baltimore for seven years where it was a win-now team and [former president] Andy MacPhail and [former general manager] Dan Duquette doing everything they possibly could to get the best team on the field to try and win right there, so we were trading away some prospects that have turned out to be pretty good in order to get maybe a rental player for two months of the season. Too bad we weren’t able to take it all the way and win a World Series.”
Between the 1989 parade and Young’s double, Devereaux and Hardy know how the city will respond if the Orioles return to contention and capture a World Series title. Both spoke of how much the fans meant to them during their time in Baltimore.
Gaba embodied that spirit. Despite spending his life battling cancer, Gaba never seemed to let it affect his attitude, being a consistent source of joy and enthusiasm for those around him. He grew close with several members of both the Orioles and Ravens, including Orioles star Trey Mancini and Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
A month before his death, Gaba predicted the Orioles would win 45 games in the 60-game 2020 season.
“I hope so,” he said when asked if the Orioles would win the World Series.
Devereaux and Hardy hope so, too.
“I think once Baltimore finally gets there — hopefully it’s soon — the city’s just going to go wild,” Devereaux said. “They are a great city for baseball, and they just can’t wait for that to happen.”