On this date in 1970, the Orioles were a day removed from clinching their second World Series title. The champagne had barely dried. But a year later, they faced a must-win situation against the Pirates at Memorial Stadium.
Down 3-2 in games, the Orioles won 3-2 in 10 innings on Brooks Robinson’s sacrifice fly off Bob Miller that scored Frank Robinson, who drew a one-out walk and hustled to third base on Merv Rettenmund’s single.
Brooks always will be remembered for his defensive wizardry in ‘70 and receiving the Most Valuable Player award, but he was 7-for-22 (.318) with five RBIs in the 1971 World Series.
Game 6 began with Jim Palmer on the mound - he held the Pirates to two runs in nine innings - and ended with starters Pat Dobson and Dave McNally working the 10th. McNally retired Al Oliver on a fly ball to leave the bases loaded after walking Willie Stargell. Dobson issued an intentional walk to Roberto Clemente, who tripled and homered off Palmer, before McNally replaced him.
Earlier drama came when the Orioles rallied from a 2-0 deficit, beginning with Don Buford’s leadoff home run in the sixth off Bob Moose. Davey Johnson tied the game in the seventh with a two-out single off Dave Giusti that scored Mark Belanger, who singled and stole second base with Bob Johnson pitching.
(I still remember hearing the news that Moose died in an automobile accident in Ohio in 1976 on his 29th birthday. He was driving to Bill Mazeroski’s golf course.)
The sixth game of the Series is one of the most exciting in franchise history given the circumstances, but the Orioles lost Game 7 2-1 in only 2 hours and 10 minutes. They fell behind again by two runs, scored once in the bottom of the eighth on Buford’s RBI grounder and were retired in order by Steve Blass in the ninth.
The disappointment almost crushed me as a kid. I was inconsolable.
I’ll never forget sitting on the floor and staring at the television screen while the Pirates celebrated, much too young to fire profanities at Blass - at least with my parents in the room.
Manager Earl Weaver loved the three-run homer, but he ordered pinch-hitter Tom Shopay to bunt in the eighth after back-to-back singles by Elrod Hendricks and Belanger to start the inning. Shopay did his job, but Blass induced grounders from Buford and Johnson.
Shopay produced three home runs in 341 career plate appearances, so the bunt was probably a better idea after he hit for Mike Cuellar. Strangely, two of those homers came in his first six major league starts in 1967 with the Yankees.
Game 6 of the 1979 World Series also was played on this date, again between the Orioles and Pirates at Memorial Stadium and again with Palmer starting. But the Pirates won 4-0 to force Game 7 and, yeah, more heartache.
Neither team scored until Dave Parker’s RBI single in the seventh, followed by Stargell’s sacrifice fly.
The Orioles scored two runs in the last three games. The mother of Pirates manager Chuck Tanner passed away on the morning of Game 5.
Can you believe that Game 5 of the 1969 World Series also was played on this date?
The Orioles beat the Mets in the opener and dropped four in a row, capped by a 5-3 loss at Shea Stadium exactly 51 years ago today.
The Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit by scoring twice in the sixth, once in the seventh and twice in the eighth.
McNally and Frank Robinson homered off Jerry Koosman in the third. Donn Clendenon hit a two-run homer off McNally in the sixth and Al Weiss tied the game with a solo shot in the seventh.
Doubles by Cleon Jones and Ron Swoboda off Eddie Watt broke the tie in the eighth and the Mets added an insurance run after Boog Powell and Watt committed errors on the same play.
Frank Robinson’s leadoff walk in the ninth was wasted. So were a lot of Orioles fans who wanted to forget what happened.
There’s one more on-this-date recollection, which I’m saving for last because you could probably use a lift.
The Orioles clinched the 1983 World Series title with a 5-0 victory in Philadelphia.
Eddie Murray homered twice off Charles Hudson, Rick Dempsey had a double and home run and was named Most Valuable Player, and Scott McGregor went the distance to erase some of the sting from the two-run homer he surrendered to Stargell in Game 7 in ‘79.