'79 pennant was pure Oriole Magic

ORIOLES GREATEST MOMENTS

June 15, 1995|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Halfway through the 1979 season, a special feeling came over the sages of the Orioles' clubhouse, Lee May and Terry Crowley.

"We've got it," they shouted one day.

"Got what?" Scott McGregor said.

"Oriole Magic," they said. "The way we're pulling games out of the fire, it's magic."

As he looks back on that year, McGregor recalls that after a typically slow start, the Orioles caught fire. They often won in the eighth inning or later, and they won with different people starring. They kept winning and winning, frequently in dramatic fashion, and wound up in the World Series.

"It reminded me of high school when you knew you were going to win every game," McGregor said. "Everything we needed to make something happen, happened. With 'Wild' Bill Hagy leading the cheers, it was like the whole city won it."

A home game against the Detroit Tigers on June 22 seemed to convince any remaining skeptics. Trailing by two going into the ninth, the Orioles got a bases-empty home run by Ken Singleton, then, with Eddie Murray on first base, Doug DeCinces hit a game-winning homer.

"By then, fans were staying in anticipation of us winning with a last-minute home run," DeCinces said. "We had the support of the entire city. When teams came to play us, it wasn't like a normal road stop. They knew we were inspired by the fans and the rest of the city to win."

June, when the Orioles were 23-6, was the best month, percentage-wise, in club history, with 11 victories in the eighth inning or later. Attendance that month was 380,000, also a club record.

It was that season that Dick Hall, eight years after retiring as an Orioles pitcher, became a true fan. A longtime resident of Baltimore, he was a member of the Oriole Advocates, the booster group.

"I started rooting like any other fan," he said. "It was so different from when I played, the way the fans hollered. That converted me into a fan from a dispassionate professional player."

Weaver referred to his solid, versatile bench as "deep depth." He meant role players, such as John Lowenstein, Gary Roenicke, Pat Kelly, Crowley, Benny Ayala and Kiko Garcia.

Pitcher Tippy Martinez remembers the curtain calls "making you feel like you wanted to try even harder." Do something great and the fans summoned the hero from the dugout. "We all wanted to be part of that."

After the final home game of the season, with 17,000 fans still in the stands, a memorable scene unfolded in front of the Orioles' dugout. Weaver and the players, some in uniform, some half out of uniform and others in civilian clothes, led the O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheers. Memorial Stadium was bedlam. "It seemed like all 25 guys contributed," said bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks. "Every day, a new hero."

None bigger, perhaps, than Lowenstein. His crowning moment was in the opener of the American League Championship Series against the California Angels. His pinch three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Orioles a 6-3 win.

"I thought the ball hit the left-field wall," Weaver said. "When the first run crossed the plate, which was all we needed, I ran out to congratulate Lowenstein. I was between third and home and nTC was surprised when he kept on going."

Said Lowenstein: "An excited little guy came out of the dugout wearing a jacket and with a cigarette in his mouth. He met me at third base. That's the most excited I ever saw Earl get."

As pitcher Steve Stone said, "This is a WE team, not an I team." It won together and, ultimately, lost together. Up three games to one over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, the Orioles dropped the next three.

A parade usually reserved for world champions was held to honor the Orioles, but the players didn't want to attend. Outfielder Al Bumbry recalls that Weaver said, "You have to."

"The fans' sentiment was overwhelming," Bumbry said. "To this day I get goose bumps when I think about it. After the parade I had the feeling it was my most memorable moment as an Oriole."

Remembering the moment

"It was a rebirth of sorts for Baltimore sports. The Colts were in decline under [Robert] Irsay, who had turned people off, but the interest in the Orioles was tremendous. It wasn't only good baseball, it was winning baseball in dramatic fashion."

-- Pitcher Jim Palmer

"It was a fantastic year. Whatever was needed, someone provided it -- a big pitch, a big hit, a big play or a reliever picking up a starter."

+ -- Coach Frank Robinson

"I attended a lot of games that year and got involved in the 'Ed-die' chant for Eddie Murray. It was a great experience."

/ -- Minor-leaguer Cal Ripken

"After such a great season, we were up 3-1 on Pittsburgh in the World Series and blew it. Were we too content? Our hitting stopped abruptly, giving them new life. Once they got rolling, we couldn't turn it around."

& -- Slugger Lee May

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