Always a winner

Former top draft pick B.J. Surhoff debuts on BBWAA ballot

January 01, 2011
B.J. Surhoff amassed 2,326 hits in 19 big league seasons. (NBHOF/Cordes)

View a photo gallery of the 2011 BBWAA ballot

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – B.J. Surhoff began his career as the most highly thought-of amateur player in the United States.

He ended it as one of the most respected players in baseball.

Surhoff, who played 19 big league seasons for the Brewers, Orioles and Braves, is one of 33 players on the 2011 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Surhoff is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 5. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 24 in Cooperstown.

Born William James Surhoff on Aug. 4, 1964 in the Bronx, Surhoff played college baseball at the University of North Carolina and was a member of the United States Olympic Baseball Team in 1984. The following summer, Surhoff was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers with the first pick in the MLB Draft.

Surhoff debuted in the big leagues in 1987, and within two years had played every position on the field except pitcher, second base, center field and right field. His versatility would remain a hallmark throughout his career, as Surhoff appeared defensively at every position on the diamond except pitcher.

"He's a player other guys try to emulate," said former teammate Mike Bordick. "He's a great professional, the kind of guy you win pennants with."

Surhoff spent his first nine big league seasons with the Brewers, then blossomed after signing a free agent deal with the Orioles before the 1996 season. Over the next four seasons, Surhoff averaged 22 homers and 92 RBI per season – mostly as an outfielder – earning his first All-Star Game selection and helping lead the Orioles to two appearances in the American League Championship Series.

At the trade deadline in 2000, however, Surhoff was dealt to the Braves – a deal that left Surhoff shaken.

"It's my career," said Surhoff in an emotional press conference after the trade. "But it gets much more complicated by things that are important to me.

"I made the decision to come here, and it was the right decision for me and my family. I loved playing (in Baltimore)."

Surhoff helped the Braves advance to the postseason in both 2000 and 2001, then returned to the Orioles for the final three seasons of his career from 2003-05.

Surhoff finished his career with a .282 batting average, 2,326 hits, 1,062 runs scored and 1,153 RBI.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum