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
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."
COLOR PHOTO: JAMES DRAKE
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO
He recommended the Angels draft another third baseman--his
daughter's boyfriend, Troy Glaus.