The Baltimore Orioles had an off day on June 4, so manager John Oates drove to Virginia to watch his 16-year-old son, Andy, play baseball. "Parents I didn't even know came up to me with their two teenagers," says Oates. "The mother says to me, 'Look at these kids. Look at their sideburns. Do you know where they came from? They've been watching the Orioles on cable, and now they want to look like Brady Anderson.' This is in Hopewell, Virginia, three hours from Baltimore. And they want to look like Brady Anderson. Amazing."
They want to touch Brady Anderson. On June 6, after a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in which he singled, homered and made a terrific leaping catch in left, Anderson stood outside the Baja Beach Club, a bar in downtown Baltimore. He was dressed in his usual way: T-shirt, running shorts, hightop sneakers.
"Hey, Brady, you're going to win the MVP, I'm telling you," said a guy in his early 20's as he shook Anderson's hand.
Two young women approached. "Are you really Brady Anderson?" one cooed. "My brother is growing sideburns just like yours. But you're a lot better looking than my brother."
Three young men walked up. "Keep it up, Brady," said one, patting Anderson on the back. The young man then turned to his companions and said, "Now, if I could meet [Oriole first baseman] Randy Milligan, my life would be complete—because I just met Brady Anderson."
They want to race Brady Anderson. On June 9, after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, Anderson and Keith Boeck of the Orioles' public-relations staff stood outside Hooters restaurant in Baltimore. One of Boeck's friends challenged Anderson to a race in the parking lot. Says Anderson, "I asked him, 'You think you can beat me?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Let's go. I'll kick your ass.' The guy said he was the fourth-best sprinter in Pennsylvania. I smoked him. He kept wanting to race. I smoked him four times. He was a stiff. After 30 yards I turned and laughed at him. But I don't want people wanting to race me. So I'm retiring from racing in parking lots."
The legend of Brady Anderson is growing fast in Baltimore. He's a sideburned sex symbol, the city's parking lot sprint champion, and suddenly one of the best players in the American League. Through Sunday, Anderson, the Orioles' leadoff man, was hitting .286 and had already established career highs in homers (10), triples (six), doubles (15), RBIs (42) and stolen bases (19). He was among the league's top 10 in eight categories. Moreover, the 28-year-old Anderson, with his wall-climbing acrobatics in leftfield, has helped make the Orioles the league's best defensive team. He's the No. 1 reason why Baltimore, which lost 95 games in 1991, was on a 98-win pace at week's end.
"He's added a dimension that you don't see in a leadoff man other than Rickey [Henderson]," says Oriole coach Davey Lopes. "He's an impact player in the field, on the bases, at the plate. Right now, he's as good as any player in the league other than maybe [the Minnesota Twins' Kirby] Puckett. He's definitely had as much impact as any player."
Part of his impact has been the sheer surprise of it all. Anderson's 10th home run came in his 210th at bat this year, matching his career total in 1,081 at bats before this season. This is the same Brady Anderson whose lifetime batting average was .219 before this year. This is the same Brady Anderson who has never spent a full season in the major leagues, who was in Triple A as recently as Aug. 31, 1991, his baseball future in jeopardy.
That was the low point in a once promising career. Though he was not drafted until the 10th round by Boston in 1985, Anderson was soon touted as a future Red Sox star. The hype began in '86 when he hit .319 with 87 RBIs and 44 steals for Class A Winter Haven. He opened the '88 season with Boston and went 3 for 5 on Opening Day off Jack Morris. But in June of that year, after a 3-for-36 slump, he was sent down to Triple A Pawtucket. On July 30 the Red Sox, needing a veteran pitcher for the stretch run, traded Anderson and pitcher Curt Schilling to the Orioles for Mike Boddicker. The hype followed Anderson to Baltimore, but except for a big April in '89, he never lived up to that billing.