The 95th Greatest Royal of All-Time was one of the most important in the team history - Jorge Orta
Still looks safe to me!
Jorge is the #95th Greatest Royal of All-Time, but he may be remembered as one of the most important Royals of all-time with his ninth inning infield single in Game Six of the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
For those that have never heard the name "Don Denkinger" before, the Cardinals led the Royals three games to two in the 1985 World Series and took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth of Game Six. In the ninth, Daryl Motley came in to pinch hit for Pat Sheridan. When the Cardinals brought in closer Todd Worrell, the Royals summoned the left handed Orta to pinch hit for the right handed Motley. Orta tapped a weak ground ball to first baseman Jack Clark who flipped it to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first base. It was a bang-bang play, but it appeared as if Worrell had beaten Orta to the bag. First base umpire Don Denkinger shocked Cardinals fans by calling Orta safe, despite replays showing Worrell had in fact beaten Orta to the bag.
What happened next will live on in Royals history forever. After Jack Clark missed a foul pop up, Steve Balboni followed with a base hit, moving Orta to second. Jim Sundberg failed with a sacrifice bunt, forcing Orta out at third. Manager Dick Howser tabbed Hal McRae to pinch hit for the light-hitting Buddy Biancalana. With McRae up, Darrell Porter allowed a passed ball allowing pinch runner Onix Concepcion to third and Sundberg to second. With first base now open, Worrell would intentionally walk McRae to bring up Dane Iorg, hitting for pitcher Dan Quisenberry.
Iorg would etch his name into Royals history with a single to right to score Concepcion and Sundberg, winning the game for the Royals 2-1 and tying up the series. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was irate after the game, and his team refused to let the Denkinger call go. The next night, with the Cardinals still fuming, the Royals would clobber the Cardinals 11-0 to win the first Championship in franchise history.
Now that the Cardinals have finally won a championship, perhaps we can get past the controversial call as an excuse for why St. Louis couldn't win it in 1985. After all, Don Denkinger did not cause Jack Clark to drop Balboni's pop up, nor did he cause Darrell Porter's passed ball, nor did he cause Worrell to give up a base hit to light-hitting Dane Iorg, nor did he cause the Cardinals to implode the next night 11-0. For the Series, the Royals outscored the Cardinals 28-13, outhit them .288 to .185 and beat them in almost every statistical category. Most importantly, they won more games. The Commissioner's Trophy belongs in Kauffman Stadium, fair and square.
Jorge Orta has become the answer to a trivia question, a footnote in the history of the Royals and Cardinals. Who was Jorge Orta?
Jorge Orta was a product of Mazatlan, Mexico and is a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame. He has the second most home runs hit by a Mexican born player behind Vinny Castilla. His father Pedro, was a famous slugger in Cuba. Jorge was a tremendous athlete and actually turned down a scholarship to play basketball at UCLA to play baseball in the Mexican League, where White Sox scouts noticed him.
Orta began his career as a middle infielder with a good bat for the White Sox. He had decent power for a middle infielder, reaching double digits in home runs and hitting 25-30 doubles a year. He could also draw a fair amount of walks, hit .300 a couple of times and was named to the 1975 All-Star team. In 1980 he signed a five year $1.5 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, moved to the outfield and was named to his second All-Star team. He tied a MLB record with six hits in one game on June 15, 1980.
After three years in Cleveland, he was dealt to the Dodgers with catcher Jack Fimple and pitcher Larry White for pitcher Rick Sutcliffe and second baseman Jack Perconte. He began to decline offensively and due to his defensive limitations was used primarily as a bat off the bench. He was dealt to the Mets the next winter, who dealt him to the Blue Jays before the season even began. After one unspectacular season in Toronto, they traded him to Kansas City for a washed up Willie Aikens.
Due to defensive limitations, Orta was used almost exclusively as either a designated or pinch hitter. Orta and Hal McRae created an effective platoon at DH for the Royals from 1984-1986. Orta, the lefty, was quite productive in the role in 1984, hitting .298/.343/.457 with 9 HR 50 RBI in 122 games. He was less productive in 1985, hitting .267/.317/.383 with 4 HR 45 BI in 116 games. By the end of July, Hal's production and Orta's lack of production led to an end of the platoon that season. Even off the bench, Orta was still a valuable player, going 12-40 (.300) with 1 HR 8 RBI as a pinch hitter from 1984-1985.
In the 1985 ALCS, Orta started Game One at DH against the right hander Dave Stieb and went 0-4. Left hander Jimmy Key began Game Two, giving McRae the start. Despite a strained rib cage, he rose to the challenge by going 2-5. This relegated Orta to the bench for the rest of the ALCS, where his only other plate appearance led to a warning track fly out.
At the time of the 1985 World Series, baseball alternated years in which the designated hitter rule would be used in the World Series. For the 1985 World Series, no designated hitter would be used, leaving both Orta and McRae on the bench. Orta got tabbed in Games One and Two to pinch hit but was retired each time.
'One thing I knew about my team going into the ninth," Howser said. 'I've got a solid bench, guys like Hal McRae and Jorge Orta and Lynn Jones and John Wathan and Onix Concepcion and Dane Iorg. These guys are old pros. So when I was down one, I wasn't worried. I was feeling pretty good, really."
After the excitement of the 1985 season, Orta would improve his performance in 1986, hitting .277/.321/.411 with 9 HR 46 BI, splitting time at DH with McRae once again. In 1987, Orta hit just .180 in his first 50 at bats. The club wanted to promote another left handed outfield bat named Jim Eisenreich who was tearing up the Southern League. In June, they released Orta, ending his sixteen year career. That winter, he took a minor league coaching job with the Houston Astros.
Jorge is now a roving minor league hitting instructor for the Reds. At age 56, he still looks great (see for yourself on page 223 of the Reds Media Guide). I have little doubt he could still beat Todd Worrell to first base.