J.J. Hardy is a lifelong Arizonan who fell in love with Baltimore. Hardy, who became a fan favorite with his outstanding play at shortstop for seven seasons with the Orioles, learned this week that he had been elected to the team’s Hall of Fame.
“Ever since I came to Baltimore in 2011, coming after two bad seasons, one with Minnesota and one with Milwaukee, I felt this instant connection with Baltimore, with the fans and everyone,” Hardy said. “I knew from the start I could finish my career there and was very fortunate that I was able to play seven years.”
Hardy re-signed with the Orioles during the 2011 season and then again just before the American League Championship Series in 2014, developing a lifelong bond.
For Mike Devereaux, who also was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame, it was a similar feeling. Devereaux also played seven seasons with the Orioles and 121 games with four other teams, but he hardly remembers that.
“Being able to be a part of that organization for seven years, what the community has shown me, to get this honor right here is very special,” Devereaux said on a joint video conference call with Hardy on Friday.
“I was speechless. I never saw it coming. The Orioles have been a part of my life since playing there. I’ve always been an Oriole at heart. I played with four other teams. People ask me, it’s always been the Orioles for me.”
Devereaux and Hardy will be honored on August 7th. They’ll be joined in the team’s Hall of Fame by longtime broadcaster Joe Angel, winner of the Herb Armstrong award for non-uniformed personnel, and superfan Mo Gaba, whose courage and passion inspired the Orioles and Ravens and who died of cancer last July at age 14.
Devereaux and Hardy came to the Orioles in lopsided trades. On March 12, 1989, Devereaux was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Orioles for pitcher Mike Morgan. Hardy came in December 2010 along with infielder Brendan Harris for pitcher Jim Hoey and reliever Brett Jacobson.
Playing a stylish center field, Devereaux was an important player from 1989-1994 and again in 1996. The Orioles, who lost a then-franchise worst 107 games in 1988, surprised baseball and nearly won the AL East in 1989.
In 1992, the first year of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Devereaux was named Most Valuable Oriole and finished seventh in the American League Most Valuable Player voting when he hit .276 with 24 home runs and 107 RBIs, both career highs.
He is widely remembered for hitting a controversial game-winning home run on July 15, 1989. The Orioles were trailing the California Angels, 9-7, entering the bottom of the ninth. Devereaux’s two-run shot to left at Memorial Stadium was ruled a fair ball, giving the Orioles an 11-9 win.
Angels manager Doug Rader was so angry about the call he was thrown out of the next day’s game during the exchange of lineup cards.
“I do get asked about that home run,” Devereaux said. “To this day, it’s still fair.”
It was years before replay was instituted and many thought the ball was foul.
“It was fair. That’s all I can say,” Devereaux said. “We’re going with the technology that we have.”
Hardy was a vital player on the Orioles’ playoff teams in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The 2012 team ended a streak of 14 straight losing seasons. Hardy won his first of three straight Gold Gloves that season. He also picked up a Silver Slugger in 2013 and was named to his only All-Star team that year.
In 2011, Hardy had talented teammates — Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters — and he suspected the team was capable of contending.
“I knew there were a bunch of really good players and saw that there was the potential to turn that team around, and that’s where I wanted to stay,” Hardy said. “I definitely saw a lot of great players. Me being here today is because of that.”
In 2017, Hardy’s final year, he spent much of the season hurt, and the team collapsed in the final month of the season. The next year, everything changed, and the team lost 115 games and began a painful rebuild.
“I feel a little bit responsible for it because I was fortunate enough to play in Baltimore for seven years when it was a win-now team,” Hardy said. “Andy MacPhail and Dan Duquette did everything they possibly could to put the best team on the field. We were trading away some prospects that turned out to be pretty good in order to get a rental player for two months in the season.”
Hardy is hoping the Orioles’ rebuild is successful because he remembers how much fun it was to be on a team that won in 2012 after years of losing.
“It was a special year for us with all the extra-inning wins and the one-run wins that we had that year,” Hardy said.
“It just seemed that the way the fans reacted in 2014 gave me an idea of what it will be like when Baltimore turns it around and is back in the postseason and competing for a World Series because that was the loudest that I’ve ever heard a stadium get. I could just tell how the fans can be in Baltimore when you have a good team.”
For Devereaux, he knows what it was like playing in front of sellout crowds. When Oriole Park opened in 1992, the Orioles consistently played in front of full houses.
“Coming in and looking at that park and seeing the fans, it seemed that they were coming in and selling that place out every single night,” Deveraux said. “Knowing that when you’re coming to the ballpark, you’re going to be playing in front of a full crowd, that’s what thrilled me the most.
“Going through batting practice, seeing the fans coming into the ballpark, and then knowing when you have the first pitch, the crowd’s there — it just thrilled me. I just enjoyed being in that situation right there … I just enjoy being there, the times that I visit, being in that stadium and watching the game. That’s incredible.”
The closest the Orioles came to reaching the World Series during Hardy’s time was in 2014 when they lost the American League Championship Series in four straight games to the Kansas City Royals.
In Devereaux’s second stint with the team, the Orioles qualified for the postseason but another controversial play came during Game 1 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium when a 12-year-old fan reached out and tried to catch Derek Jeter’s drive to right field.
“We weren’t supposed to get to the wild card then,” Devereaux said. “We end up playing Cleveland, beating them. We go up against the Yankees when that kid, Jeffrey Maier, I’m still not too happy about him … That was a very crucial game for us. That would have kept us rolling. It’s hard to win a World Series. Everything has to go right.”
Last year, Hardy served as a guest instructor during spring training. He hasn’t ruled out returning to the game.
“I absolutely loved that week I was out there,” Hardy said. “I had a lot of fun. It was great. I’m keeping my foot in the door for when that time does come. It goes through my mind.”
Hardy has two sons who are 5 and 3.
I’m just absolutely enjoying that a lot,” he said of fatherhood. “There absolutely will be a time for that, for sure, when I want to get back into baseball and be around a lot more. Right now, hanging out with the kids has been a good time.”