Orioles turn back clock to daylight 1966 champions, season to be saluted

June 19, 1991|By Kent Baker

The clock has been turning back more regularly at major-league ballparks during the last two seasons. Today it is the Baltimore Orioles' turn to move the hands.

"I think it's a tremendous idea to bring back a little of the past," said assistant general manager Frank Robinson. "Sometimes, these guys are forgotten. This is a nice venture. It gives them a chance to be together and take a bow."

The Orioles' version will feature a tribute to the 1966 world championship team, thefirst in the history of the franchise, and was a byproduct of the "Season To Remember" theme that marks the final year at Memorial Stadium.

"It's not a new idea," said Bob Aylward, vice president of business affairs. "We're just modifying it to meet our needs and the fans' wants."

The Chicago White Sox began the journey into yesteryear last July 11, the day after the 1990 All-Star Game, when they honored their 1917 world title team by wearing period uniforms and reducing ticket prices for the day.

The response was excellent and other teams have borrowed the idea. As recently as Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies staged a throwback game.

"We're doing as many things as we can to create some nostalgia," said Rick Vaughn, the Orioles' director of public relations. "One is commemorating the anniversary of Frank's home run off Luis Tiant that year. The 'here' flag showing where the ball went out will be presented to him."

The date was May 8, 1966 when Robinson's shot off Luis Tiant became the only home run ever to completely leave Memorial Stadium, coming to rest in the parking lot 540 feet from home plate.

But there is plenty more to re-live-- like a 75-cent price for bleacher seats, 25-cent popcorn, a special score card for 50 cents and clips on the DiamondVision scoreboard from 1966 television shows and commercials.

The Orioles will wear the uniform of the year and the old-style batting helmets; the grounds crew will sport orange bow ties; the ushers will wear straw hats and the top 10 songs from 1966 will be showcased on the scoreboard.

Batboys Bob Scherr (home) and Jay Mazzone (visiting) will return as will Linda Warehime, the original ballgirl and base sweeper after 4 1/2 innings.

"There isn't much difference in the uniforms except the lettering is a little taller and thinner," said manager John Oates. "Of course, the names on the back are different. They used to say Robinson and Palmer. Now they say Oates and Milacki."

The fans will receive replica hats and pre-game ceremonies will honor six members of the '66 team, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Palmer, Paul Blair, John Miller and Dick Hall, plus coach Billy Hunter and trainer Eddie Weidner.

"To do this was an organization decision," said Vaughn. "It was a natural thing for us to do."

On June 19, 1966, the Orioles, in first place by 2 1/2 games over Cleveland, were at Fenway Park in Boston where they split a doubleheader with the Red Sox.

It was an era when doubleheaders -- almost extinct now -- and day games were common.

The Orioles felt "this would be a good time to experiment" with a day game, something they have tried occasionally in the last three years, according to Vaughn.

"A game like this in the middle of the week is good once in a while," said Robinson. "Milwaukee does it and draws tremendously. The businessman's special is a good idea. It gives a team the chance to get to the next city early and rest up or go out to a regular dinner and it gives the fans a chance to get out of the office."

The Orioles have drawn very well for regularly scheduled weekday day games and more than 35,000 tickets have been sold for today. Weather permitting, the trip into the past should be a big hit.

And they didn't have to turn on the lights

Recent weekday games at Memorial Stadium:

Date. . . . .... Opponent. . .. .. Result. . .. . Att

May 11, 1989. ... Oakland. . .... . W, 6-2. . .... 1,201*

July 19, 1989. .. Seattle. . . .....L, 7-0. . .. ..35,691

June 28,1990. ... Cleveland. . .... L, 7-4. ... .. 33,449

* -- Makeup of rained-out game from the previous night. It was third-smallest crowd in stadium history.

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