OCTOBER 22, 1979
Even now, 25 years later, Doug DeCinces can still hear the booing. In 1976 he replaced Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson at third base for the Baltimore Orioles, and no matter how deftly DeCinces fielded or how solidly he hit over the next six seasons—he batted .286 with 28 home runs in his best year in Baltimore, 78—all that mattered to many Orioles fans was that he wasn't the Vacuum Cleaner. "I mostly got one kind of mail during my first seasons as a third baseman," says DeCinces. "Hate mail."
Replacing a legend did teach DeCinces a few things about perseverance. He lasted in the majors for 15 seasons—nine with the Orioles (including three as a utility infielder before he took over at third base) and six with the California Angels—plus one in Japan before retiring in 1988. DeCinces then launched several new careers, including one as a baseball players' agent. In that capacity he helped the Angels land a slugging third baseman by recommending to Bill Bavasi, the team's general manager at the time, that they select Troy Glaus, a DeCinces client, with the third pick in the '97 draft. DeCinces had been watching Glaus closely for some time: Doug's son, Tim, had played with Glaus at UCLA, and his daughter, Amy, was dating him. (Tim, 27, is now a catcher in Double A ball in the San Diego Padres organization; Amy will be a senior at UCLA.) "The Angels were going to pass on Troy, but I knew he was special," says DeCinces, 50. "I'm glad Bavasi listened to me. Otherwise, Troy probably would have been picked by the Mets."
No longer an agent, Doug, who lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., with his wife of 30 years, Kristi, is focusing on his real-estate development business and his investments. He has his hands in an array of projects—including a stake in seven Ruby's nostalgia-themed family restaurants in California—but is proudest of Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine, Calif., a public course he developed and serves as managing owner. DeCinces was once a five handicapper, but that was before his life as a big league infielder took its toll. "Spending all those years bending and diving for ground balls has a way of beating up your body," he says. "I had a hip replacement in 1999 and I dropped to a seven handicap. I have no regrets, though. I loved every minute of my baseball career."
Even, it turns out, those minutes when the boo-birds were cawing in Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium. "The experience made me a stronger player and probably helped me stay in the game as long as I did," he says. "I grew from it."