Oates, Miller inducted into O's Hall of Fame

Oates, Miller inducted into O's Hall of Fame

BALTIMORE -- Manager Buck Showalter might be new to the Orioles dugout, but watching Saturday's pregame ceremony -- which honored O's Hall of Fame inductees Johnny Oates and Ray Miller -- was a tough moment that brought back a flood of old memories.

"He was just such a great example," Showalter said of the late Oates, whose uniform No. 26 Showalter has chosen to honor by wearing during his managerial tenure in Baltimore. Oates, who managed the Orioles for 3 1/2 seasons, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor shortly after his tenure as Rangers skipper and passed away on Dec. 24, 2004, at the age of 58.

On Saturday, Showalter reflected briefly on Oates' funeral and recalled what a celebration of his friend's life the ceremony had been.

"It was unbelievable," said Showalter, who also attended Friday's luncheon that honored Oates and Miller, a former Orioles pitching coach. Len Johnston also received the Herb Armstrong Award, given to non-uniformed personnel who have made significant contributions to the ballclub and the game of baseball.

So moved was Miller by the news that he was going to the team's Hall of Fame that he did something he never does: He cried.

"Just thinking about all the people who are in there, and to be acknowledged with those names," Miller said. "All the heroes I had growing up in the area, most of them are in there, and to be put in there with them is a tremendous feeling."

Miller served all or part of 11 seasons during three different tenures as Orioles pitching coach and he also spent the 1998 and 1999 seasons as the manager. During his tenure, Miller coached five different 20-game winners and two Cy Young Award winners.

Oates was only the third man to post a winning record while managing the Orioles for at least three full seasons. He had a 291-270 record at the helm in Baltimore, from 1991-94, and earned Manager of the Year honors from The Sporting News for an 85-77 season in '93. He went on to manage Texas for six-plus seasons, including the Rangers' first three postseason trips. A catcher, Oates began an 11-year playing career with the Orioles in 1970, later playing for four other big league clubs.

Prior to Saturday's White-Sox Orioles game, Miller was honored with roaring applause from an appreciative crowd at Camden Yards, as was the Oates family. Oates' widow, Gloria, who called Showalter's gesture a blessing, said it felt as if things had come full circle for her family in Baltimore.

"When we came back to throw out the first pitch after his diagnosis, [principal owner] Mr. Angelos invited us to sit in his suite with him, which was another thing coming full circle," Gloria said. "He gave us a big hug and he told me, 'I wish I had never let him go.' To me, that's just such a blessing from the Lord to have that happen while Johnny was still alive. It was such a reassuring thing for him.

"He would have definitely been so honored and thrilled by this [induction]," she said of her late husband. "I just know he's beaming down on us."

Showalter's debut on Tuesday night was the first Orioles game Oates' son, Andy, had watched on television in 16 years, and for a moment, he was transported back to the past.

"The game opened up and Buck was sitting in the dugout and [the television cameras] panned down to him," Andy said. "The bar on the dugout was across his face and all I could see was the Oriole hat and the Oriole uniform with No. 26. It brought back some memories. Just for a second, I was like, 'No, that's not him.'

"For [Showalter] to do that, to take the time to call us up and ask if it was OK, that says a lot about Buck, the Buck we already knew. Hopefully, everyone around here's going to get to know him real quick and the type of guy he is."

Showalter officially inducted Oates into the Hall.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.