Matthew Taylor: As hitters, O’s pitchers weren’t too shabby

Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer. They, of course, are the Orioles starters who each won 20 games in 1971, matching the 1920 Chicago White Sox as the only teams with four 20-game winners. But how good were those pitchers when it came to hitting home runs? That’s the question that occurred to me this week as I researched a Roar from 34 post about Palmer’s All-Star outings.

The designated hitter wasn’t created until 1973, so each of the Orioles’ 20-game winners in 1971 spent plenty of time at the plate. And while 1971 was a record year for all four hurlers on the mound, the 1970 season was a precedent-setting year for two of those pitchers at the plate. That’s when Cuellar became the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in a League Championship Series and McNally became the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series.

Cuellar hit his grand slam during Game 1 of the ALCS, a 10-6 Orioles victory on Oct. 3, 1970. He did so in the top of the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins’ Jim Perry. Cuellar’s homer helped offset a subpar day on the mound, as he allowed six earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.

Ten days later, McNally, who hit a solo homer during the 1969 World Series, echoed Cuellar’s effort with a grand slam of his own in Game 3 of the World Series, a 9-3 O’s victory against the Cincinnati Reds.

“I knew it was going out as soon as I hit it,” McNally told reporters afterward. “My ears were ringing from the crowd as I was going around the bases.”

You can hear the cheering that made McNally’s ears ring by watching this YouTube clip, which includes Chuck Thompson’s home run call (2:19 mark).

McNally earned a complete-game victory after allowing nine hits and three runs, striking out five and walking two. He ended up more impressed with his efforts at the dish.

“I liked my hitting better than my pitching,” McNally said. “I wasn’t getting my slow curve over the plate, so I stuck mostly with my fast ball and slider. And the support was great. Brooks had another fabulous day.”

Cuellar finished his career with seven home runs while McNally totaled nine longballs. Palmer had three career home runs, and Dobson never went deep.

As for the aforementioned designated hitter rule, here’s another historical tidbit related to O’s hurlers hitting home runs: Roric Harrison was the last AL pitcher to homer prior to the creation of the designated hitter. It happened on Oct. 3, 1972, two years to the day after Cuellar’s historic longball.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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