Remembering Curt Motton

Curt Motton was hardly a household name; if you’re a baseball fan under the age of 40, it’s probable you never heard of him. Yet, he was a good enough player to become an important backup on those great Baltimore Orioles teams of 1969-1971. Motton, who died last Thursday at 69 after a yearlong battle with stomach cancer, became one of Earl Weaver’s talented understudies. He batted .303 as a part-timer in 1969 and delivered several key postseason pinch-hits during the team’s long playoff and World Series run from ‘69 to 1974.

Unfortunately for Motton (pronounced MOAT-in), he arrived on the major league scene about ten years too early. If only he had come up in the mid-1970s, he might have been drafted by the expansion Seattle Mariners or Toronto Blue Jays. With his right-handed power and solid defensive skills in left field, Motton would have looked attractive to an expansion club. During his major league career, he hit a home run every 22 at-bats, making one wonder what might have been with more playing time.

As it was, Motton came up with the Orioles in the mid-1960s, at a time when the franchise was stacked with talent at both the minor and major league levels. Though he put up big offensive numbers in Baltimore’s system, Motton did not make his big league debut until 1967, when he was already 26 years old. He found his outfield path blocked immediately, from left to right, by Curt Blefary, Paul Blair, and Frank Robinson. Even after Blefary was traded, Don Buford and Merv Rettenmund provided Motton with even more outfield competition. There was simply no room for Motton to play as anything more than a pinch-hitter and spot starter. That’s why he never came to bat more than 217 times, and usually settled for fewer than 100 at-bats per season.

By all accounts, Motton was one of the game’s nicest men. Nicknamed “Cuz” because of his friendly manner, Motton became especially popular with teammates (and Weaver). Outgoing with a strong sense of humor, Motton was active in the team’s famed Kangaroo Kourt, headed up by “Judge” Frank Robinson, which lightheartedly fined players for acts of embarrassment and general stupidity. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, upon learning of Motton’s death, praised his teammate for his engaging personality and ability to “light up a room.” Orioles fans, who came to know him through promotional appearances and life-after-baseball, universally regarded him as a caring and kind gentleman.

Quite clearly, there are lots of people in baseball who will miss the good guy named Cuz.

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Comments

  1. Jerry Aldrich said...

    I was a teammate of Curt’s at Encinal High School in Alameda, CA in 1957. Curt was an outstanding player on a team that also had Willie Stargell
    and Tommy Harper .  Of the three I felt that Curt would be the most successful .  He was a very good
    hitter and a great teammate .  His attitude was a great part of his personality and he kept the team
    loose with his infectious smile and laughter . He
    will be missed by all who knew him !!

  2. Bruce Markusen said...

    Jerry, thanks for your comment.

    I’ve read a little bit about that Encinal team and how good it was. Did Motton, Harper, and Stargell all play in the outfield together?

    What a team…

  3. GTWMA said...

    The other thing about Motton, is that his patience would be much appreciated in today’s game.  An OBP 100 points above his BA (when that BA is .213) is pretty darn impressive.

  4. Joe King said...

    Curtell Motton, Tommy Harper,Willie Stargell and Jerry Aldrich all played for our Alameda Boys’ Club baseball teams in the early 1950s when I was the Director there. Besides their superb athletic talents (Harper excelled at all sports), they were really great kids. By the way, Stargell (known to us as Wilver in those days) played 1st base for us and at Encinal High. And Motton lived in Webster Housing Project along with Harper, not Estuary Project where Stargell lived.
    Don’t misunderstand this; I’m sure all of them would have become great ball players and the true gentlemen they were even if they had never belonged to the Boys’ Club. But I am very proud to have known them and followed their outstanding careers.

    Joe King

  5. L. Bordon said...

    Curt was the most gracious human being that I have every had the pleasure to meet.  He was very thoughtful and generous man.  He went out of his way for his family and his numerous friends, which included his spiritual family. Curt was a devoted Jehovah’s Witness.

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