WASHINGTON -- The Orioles had clinched the American League East title that afternoon before they even took the field at RFK Stadium.
A young catcher was fidgeting in the Orioles bullpen when he got the call to run in and pinch hit against Washington Senators starter Dick Bosman in the ninth inning.
It was John Oates.
"I was sprinting to the dugout, and my heart was beating so fast I didn't have any time to think," said Oates. "Bosman was going for his 16th or 17th win, and they were leading by a run."
Oates lined a single over the shortstop's head for his first major-league hit on what he said "was a spitter on a 2-1 count." The Orioles went on to load the bases in the inning, but didn't score and Washington won. As Oates came off the field from third base, someone flipped him the ball for a souvenir of his historic hit. He flipped it back into the ball bag.
"I was halfway up the runway into the clubhouse and then I thought to go back and get the ball," said Oates. "By the time I got back upstairs and into the clubhouse, the celebration had started.
"I didn't even think what it was about [winning the division]. I don't know if anybody's first hit in the majors ever got a celebration like that."
That was Sept. 17, 1970. Yesterday, Oates and Bosman were making their first visit to RFK as members of the same team -- Orioles manager and pitching coach, respectively.
"There might have been something on the ball," Bosman said with a wink. "But I got the win, the last one of that big season."
Bosman had a 16-12 record for the Senators in 1970, the year after he won the American League ERA title (2.19). The Senators moved to Texas after the 1971 season.
"Not a lot has changed about this park," he said. "The ball still sounds nice coming off the bat here. And, of course, the left-field wall wasn't there then."
How far is it to the wall?
RF "Can't be more than 260 feet," he said. "Not a pitcher's delight."