Saturday, November 9, 2013

Andy Etchebarren (#213)

Orioles’ catcher Andy Etchenbarren is also the catcher on our “Hangin’ at the bat rack” team. I was surprised to learn today how little he played for the O’s after 1967.

Andy was signed by the Orioles in 1961, and worked his way up their minor-league ladder from 1961 to 1965. His major-league debut came during the last week of September 1962, when he caught 2 games for Baltimore. He also played 5 games for the Birds in September 1965.

Etchebarren finally made the team at the start of the 1966 season. He was the starting catcher from day 1, replacing 1965’s trio of Dick Brown, Johnny Orsino, and Charlie Lau. Andy started 118 games behind the plate as a rookie, which would be his career high. Backups Vic Roznovsky and rookie Larry Haney started 25 and 15 games, respectively.

1967 was the only other season where he would play in over 100 games for the Orioles. He started 94 games that season, with Haney starting 45 games, and Roznovsky 22 times. Andy also made the all-star team in 1966 and 1967.

The arrival of rookie catcher Elrod Hendricks in 1968 put a serious crimp in Etchebarren’s playing time. Andy’s starts plummeted to 56 games (still ahead of Hendricks’ 45 starts). Also in the catching mix was outfielder Curt “Clank” Blefary. With the newly-acquired Don Buford installed in left field, Blefary started 38 games behind the plate, despite having never played the position before. (I thought defensive butchers only played catcher in school-yard pickup games!)

From 1969 to 1974, Andy played 2nd fiddle to a variety of catchers (Hendricks, Johnny Oates, Earl Williams), but started about 60 games each season.

1975 was the beginning of the end for Etchebarren’s career. He started 3 of the first 5 games, but then rode the bench until his mid-June trade to the Angels. Andy took over the starting job in late August, and in 1976 saw his playing time reach 102 games, his highest total since 1967. He and 1976's backup catcher Terry Humphrey switched places in 1977. Although Andy caught 80 games, only 44 were starting assignments.

Prior to the 1978 season, he was sold to the Brewers. He only played 4 games that season, the last on April 20th.

After his playing career, Etchebarren managed off-and-on in the Orioles’ farm system from 1984 to 2007. He also managed an independent Atlantic League team from 2009-2013.

No comments: