Matthew Taylor: After excruciating loss, remembering better times

The Orioles won't win the division this year, but on this day in 1969, they clinched the first American League East title.

After a loss to Washington by the defending World Series champion Detroit Tigers gave them the division, the O's went out and beat Cleveland 10-5 for good measure, their seventh win in what would become a season-best eight-game winning streak.

The win extended the O's division lead to 18 1/2 with 17 games remaining. Baseball had no divisions - only a 10-team AL and a 10-team National League - when the Orioles first qualified for postseason play in 1966.

The 1969 Orioles won a franchise-best 109 games, one better than the 108 games they would win the following season. It is the most dominating two-year stretch in baseball history in terms of regular-season wins. Only 11 teams have won 108 or more games, and the Orioles did so in consecutive years.

That 1969 team featured four of the six Orioles legends whose bronze statues now stand in the center field picnic area at Camden Yards, Hall of Famers all: Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and manager Earl Weaver. It was Weaver's first full season as the O's skipper.

Six Orioles were All-Stars that season: Paul Blair, Dave Johnson, Dave McNally, Boog Powell and both Robinsons.

Two pitchers won more than 20 games - Mike Cuellar with 23 and Dave McNally with 20 - and Jim Palmer's 16-4 record left him with baseball's best win percentage.

McNally posted 15 consecutive wins from April 12 to Aug. 3. Add in the two consecutive wins he won at the end of the 1968 season and you have the club record for most consecutive wins.

The division-clinching victory featured 15 hits, including Mark Belanger's two-run triple and RBI single. Meanwhile, catcher Clay Dalrymple had one of the five home runs he would hit during his three-year stay in Baltimore. Overall, Dalrymple had 55 career home runs in 12 major league seasons.

Rookie Terry Crowley made his first major league start in the clincher. Crowley previously served as the O's hitting coach.

The Orioles won the first three AL East titles and five of the first six. Their eight division championships are second only to the Yankees' 18.

After a game, and a series, like the one the Orioles just experienced, it feels better to think about the good ol' days. And boy were they good.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com'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 MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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