These last few winters, the story has been pretty much the same. The Baltimore Orioles need an outfielder. Preferably two, but at the very least one.
And, every January, Orioles management scoops up a still-available outfielder at a bargain price. The Orioles get the guy for a year, he has a great season – greater than anyone could have imagined – and then “poof” he’s gone the next season, to a far richer, more generous team.
This brings me, in the most meandering way, to the brief career and life of Len Sowders.
Sowders played just one season in the majors — 1886. He was a Baltimore Oriole.
He was an outfielder (who moonlighted some at first). A so-so fielder. A left-handed batter with a .263 average from his handful of at-bats in Baltimore. Not a lot of power, but still, .263 isn’t the worst you can do.
That puts him right around current O’s centerfielder Adam Jones’s .265 last season and Mark Trumbo’s .256, the Orioles’s one-season outfielder whose 47 home runs led all of baseball last year and who is now a free agent looking for much more money than the Orioles will offer.
This Trumbo homer last August was a grand slam.
Back in 1886, Sowders was picked up by Baltimore late in the season from a minor league club in Nashville. Before Nashville, he’d played in Evansville, where he was also known for running a local fish business and for making loans with interest (fitting, I guess, that a man in the fish business was also a loan shark). He was, one newspaper assured readers, a good player and a strict church-goer.