Aberdeen's Cal Ripken Jr. never saw Jim Spencer play at Andover High School, though they both won World Series championships. Arundel's Denny Neagle never pitched to Mount St. Joseph's Mark Teixeira, though both went on to wear Yankee pinstripes. And even though Steve Johnson of St. Paul's and Steve Clevenger of Mount St. Joe are now both teammates on the Orioles' Class AAA minor league team in Norfolk, Va., they were fierce rivals in the MIAA A Conference.
Ripken, Spencer, Neagle, Teixeira, Steve Johnson and Clevenger are six of the best players in Baltimore's baseball history and now members of a select all-star team, Baltimore's All-Time Amateur Baseball team.
"The Baltimore metro area has really produced a lot of fantastic players," former baseball coach and The Baltimore Sun writer Pat O'Malley said. "Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken, Gold Glovers like Jim Spencer, great pitchers like Moose Haas, Greg Arnold, Chuck Porter. Great athletes like Brian Jordan right on through the guys of today -- Steve Johnson, Gavin Floyd -- there are tremendous athletes and baseball players in the metro area."
O'Malley has spent his entire life around amateur baseball in Baltimore. He played at Mount St. Joe for head coach Jerry Savage during the 1960s, and has coached teams at Loyola Blakefield and Loyola College (now Loyola University), as well as powerhouse amateur squads such as Mike's Auto Mart; the Little Orioles; and Brooklyn Optimist, which won national championships in 1972 and '74.
As a reporter, O'Malley makes high school sports and amateur baseball a priority. He began working at the Baltimore News American in 1969 and retired from The Baltimore Sun in 2005.
He is also an associate scout for the Orioles and has coached high school, collegiate and amateur baseball in town for nearly 30 years. He is currently writing for the Varsity Sports Network.
And now he has come up with Baltimore's All-Time Amateur Baseball team. During the last two months, O'Malley and I have discussed more than 500 players from area, high school and amateur teams and collegiate teams all across the country that featured Baltimore-area players.
We've narrowed that list down to the 350 best players from 1960 to today.
The reason we started in 1960 is that O'Malley graduated from Mount St. Joe in 1964. I graduated from Brooklyn Park High School in 1975, having played three years of varsity baseball for head coach Tim McMullen.
Among the high school and amateur teams I played for was O'Malley's 1974 Brooklyn Optimist team, which won both the Cardinal Gibbons Baltimore City championship and Hot Stove national championship, and finished the year 72-8. Five players from that team are on our all-time teams -- shortstop Frank Thomas, first baseman Joe Powell, pitcher Phil Pundt, and third basemen Mark Stumpf and Bob Oswald.
Together, O'Malley and I have seen virtually every great player in the Baltimore area for the last half century. And though this list includes neither Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who graduated from Southern in 1953, nor Phil Linz, who graduated from Calvert Hall in 1957 and whose seven-year big league career included two World Series appearances with the Yankees, O'Malley and I feel the teams we've selected feature the best Baltimore players since 1960.
"This is really a celebration of 50 years of Baltimore baseball," O'Malley said, "not just high school baseball, which has always been very good around here, but amateur baseball as well. Beginning with Walter Youse and the great Leone's and Johnny's teams, our teams have won numerous national championships and have had a lot of guys drafted. We've competed at the highest level against some of the best teams in the country."
We have separated our players into five teams representing each decade from 1960s through the 2000s. The first of the teams -- the 1960-69 all-time team -- is already on PressBoxOnline.com. Each week, we will highlight another decade.
In the July print edition of PressBox, we will pick our all-time Baltimore team -- The Fab 50 of Baltimore Amateur Baseball.
"It's been a lot of fun putting this all together," O'Malley said. "You forget how many truly great players we've had around here. And then you go back and look them up, and you just shake your head. Hall of Famers, major league All-Stars, college All-Americans, All-Metro and All-County players -- unfortunately, we couldn't name them all to the teams. The entire process has been really fun."
Nearly two dozen of the players have made the big leagues, including Dave Boswell and Ron Swoboda during the 1960s, Mike Bielecki and Haas during the 1970s, Greg Smith and Craig Wilson during the 1980s, Kenny Cloude during the 1990s, and Josh Banks and Steve Lombardozzi during the 2000s, while another 70 have played professional baseball.
Six players were major league All-Stars (Spencer, Ripken, Jordan, Jeff Nelson, Neagle and Teixeira), eight won World Series titles (Spencer, Swoboda, Ripken, Nelson, Neagle, Teixeira, John Miller and Tom Phoebus), three won Gold Gloves (Spencer, Ripken and Teixeira) and one went to the Hall of Fame (Ripken).
Ripken is also one of eight brother combinations to make the teams. Cal and Billy Ripken played at Aberdeen, Alan and Bobby Boyd at Brooklyn Park, and Joe and Wayne King at Cardinal Gibbons. Then, there are Poly's Joe and Mike O'Malley, Arundel's Mike and Chip Ziegler, McDonogh's Ryan and Ian Hendricks, Severna Park's Steve and Scott Neuberger, and Perry Hall's Mandell and Roy Marsh.
Another five were father-son duos: Jerry and Brian Bark; John and Jack Carey; Tim and Brooks Norris; Frank and Joe Vellegia; and Dave and Steve Johnson, who both went on to pitch for the hometown Orioles.
It was Oct. 23, 1996. A crowd of more than 51,000 packed Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium to watch Game 4 of the World Series between the Braves and New York Yankees. It will go down as one of the great nights in Baltimore sports history as Neagle, Nelson and Bielecki all pitched in not just the same World Series game, but the same inning of that game.
"That game really proved how good Baltimore baseball is," O'Malley said. "Three guys from Baltimore in the same World Series game -- that's pretty amazing."
Neagle graduated from Arundel High in 1991, helping coach Bernie Walter win one of his state-record 10 baseball championships. After an outstanding career at the University of Minnesota, Nealge became a third-round draft pick of the Twins' in 1989.
In 1995, he won 13 games with the Pirates and made the All-Star Game. At the end of the 1996 season, he was traded to the Braves, joining the Atlanta staff of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
With the Braves leading the World Series, 2-1, in 1996, Neagle started Game 4 for Atlanta and took a 5-0 lead and shutout into the sixth inning. Derek Jeter led off the inning with a single and took second when Neagle walked Bernie Williams. Cecil Fielder singled, scoring Jeter, and when Braves right fielder Jermaine Dye misplayed the ball, Williams also scored. Chris Hayes then singled in Fielder, and Neagle's night was finished.
He was replaced by Terrell Wade and then one batter later by Bielecki, who graduated from Dundalk High School in 1977 and then played for O'Malley at Loyola College.
"Mike was one of the best to ever come out of here," said O'Malley, who also coached Bielecki on the Mike's Auto Mart summer team. "As a freshman at Loyola, he was named our MVP. The next year, they dropped the program at Loyola, and he went on to play at Valencia Community College in Florida."
Bielecki was also drafted during the first round of the 1979 winter major league draft, known then as the secondary phase of the draft. He played for five different teams during his big league career, and during that Game 4 of the World Series, he entered the game with the Braves leading, 6-3, and the tying run at the plate.
Bielecki struck out the side and then retired three of the next four batters he faced in the seventh inning as the Braves took a 6-3 lead into the eighth.
Nelson is 6-foot-8 and one of the biggest high school players in Baltimore history. He went to Catonsville High School and then Catonsville Community College. The Los Angeles Dodgers picked him during the 22nd round of the 1984 draft. His career lasted 15 years, primarily with the Mariners and Yankees.
Nelson entered Game 4 of the 1996 World Series in the sixth inning, meaning he, Neagle and Bielecki all pitched in the same inning of the same World Series game.
"I'll never forget that, three Baltimore kids in the same World Series game," said Bielecki, who lives now in Annapolis. "That's pretty unbelievable. Looking back on that night, it was one of the great moments of my career."
Like Bielecki, Nelson pitched two innings and retired six of the seven batters he faced. The Yankees eventually went on to win both the game and the series as Nelson pitched 4.1 scoreless innings during three games.
He and Neagle also pitched during Game 1 of the series, while Bielecki pitched in two 1996 World Series games and did not allow a run.
Neagle went on to win 20 games for the Braves in 1997. In 1998, Teixeira closed out one of the great high school careers in local history. The Red Sox drafted him out of high school, though he chose to attend Georgia Tech instead. In 2000, he earned the Dick Howser Award as National Collegiate Player of the Year.
Teixeira grew up in Severna Park, a long home run from Kinder Park. So did Floyd. In fact, they lived across the street from each other. While Teixeira was finishing up his All-American career at Georgia Tech, Floyd was dazzling scouts with his wicked curveball and 92-mph fastball at Mount St. Joe.
Like Teixeira in 1998, Floyd was O'Malley's pick as The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year in 2001. On June 6, 2001, Floyd and Teixeira made baseball history and became part of another magic moment in Baltimore sports history -- when two neighbors from the same high school were selected among the top five picks of the same major league draft.
I was standing in the basement of Rodney and Elaine Floyd's home in Severna Park, and the tension was noticeable. The phone rang, and it was Ed Wade, the general manager of the Phillies, telling Floyd they were going take him with the fourth pick of the draft.
A few minutes later, the Floyds received news from their neighbors across the street that the Texas Rangers had selected Teixeira with the fifth pick. After some tears, a few long embraces and a couple of phone calls, Floyd and his parents made the short walk across the street to the Teixeira house, where Teixeira was celebrating his good news with his family.
It was one of those moments that live forever.
There have been others.
April 27, 1968 -- Mount St. Joe's Phoebus pitched a no-hitter at Memorial Stadium as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 6-0. He was 50-37 during his five seasons as an Oriole, and one of his wins came against the Cincinnati Reds during Game 2 of the 1970 World Series.
Aug. 8, 1989 -- Overlea's Dave Johnson pitched a complete game for his first major league win as the Orioles beat the Twins at Memorial Stadium. On Aug. 8, 2012, his son, Steve Johnson, got his first major league win for the hometown Orioles, against the Seattle Mariners.
September 1995 -- Ripken took a ceremonial jog around the Oriole Park warning track, shaking hands and embracing the fans after breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played streak of 2,131.
March 31, 2014 -- There were thunderous cheers at Camden Yards as the hometown fans welcomed Mount St. Joe's Clevenger, an Anne Arundel County native, back to Baltimore for his first Opening Day as an Oriole.
They are all part of a special fraternity and now a special team -- Baltimore's All-Time Amateur Baseball team.