Baseball Digest Birthdays: John Lowenstein

21 players in Major League Baseball history have been born in the state of Montana, and none have hit more home runs than John Lowenstein. Lowenstein ranks as arguably the greatest ballplayer to come out of “The Last Best Place” behind only Dave McNally, the late pitcher who won 184 games over 14 seasons.

John Lowenstein was born on Janury 27th, 1947 in Wolf Point, Montana, the same hometown as the NFL’s Detroit Lions former tight end Casey FitSimmons. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 18th round of the 1968 amateur draft and reached the major leagues on September 2nd, 1970.

Between 1970 and 1977, Lowenstein averaged 90 games played, and topped out with 140 games during the 1974 season. A .239 hitter with the Indians, Lowenstein developed a following that was known as the John Lowenstein Apathy Club. Approached by a fan with the hopes of creating a fan club, Lowenstein suggested a fan base that neither booed nor cheered as both can negatively effect a ballplayer. Thus, a fan following emerged, neither booing nor cheering for John Lowenstein. A well known incident during a game in 1980 exemplifies his sense of humor. He was struck in the neck by an errant throw while running the bases, and required a stretcher carry off the field. As the stretcher reached the top of the dugout, Lowenstein sat up and waved to the fans.

Though he may not have embraced the idea of being a fan favorite in the traditional sense, there are plenty of Baltimore Orioles fans that remember the greatness that was John Lowenstein. After a one year stopover with the Texas Rangers, he joined the Baltimore Orioles for the start of the 1979 season. As fate would have it, the Orioles were in thick of the playoff hunt as ’79 came to a close. Facing the California Angels in the American League Championship Series, Lowenstein provided the drama in Game 1 with a 3 run walk-off home run. The home run set the tone for the series, as the Orioles took the series 3 games to 1. Though the they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, it was the not the end of the Lowenstein postseason heroics.

In his own words, John Lowenstein recalled his postseason heroics in a Baseball Digest magazine article in August of 1990. Click here to read the full article!

John Lowenstein experienced something of a career revival with the Baltimore Orioles. Over seven years he averaged a .274 average and ten home runs a year. During 1982, at the age of 35, he had a career year by slugging 24 home runs and hitting .320 on the season. A year later, the Orioles were back in the World Series, this time facing the Philadelphia Phillies. In Game 2 with the O’s trailing by a run and down one game already, Lowenstein cranked a 5th inning home run that tied the game. The Orioles promptly peeled off four straight victories to take the series and give Baltimore their first title since 1970.

The 1983 World Series proved to be the height of the career revival, as he slumped during the 1984 season and played in just 12 games at the age of 38 in 1985. He retired after 16 seasons in the major leagues, and today ranks 19th all-time in MLB for fielding percentage of left fielders. Following retirement, Lowenstein was a color commentator for the Baltimore Orioles between 1986 and 1995.

Also Celebrating A Birthday Today:

Phil Plantier, born on January 27th, 1969, was a big league outfielder for eight seasons and may be best remembered for his time with the Boston Red Sox and his career year with the San Diego Padres in 1993 when he slugged 34 home runs. With 91 career home runs, Plantier holds the major league record for most home runs for a player born in the state of New Hampshire.

Eric Wedge, born in 1968, was a teammate of Phil Plantier’s in the minor leagues of the Boston Red Sox organization. Though his career was much shorter as a player, he has become a solid big league manager. As manager of the Cleveland Indians between 2003 and 2009, he led the team to a third place finish or better four times. The Indians were one victory away from a trip to the World Series in 2007 when they were defeated by the Boston Red Sox. On October 18, 2010, the Seattle Mariners announced Wedge as the manager for the 2011 season.

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