Boog and boys were quite a '70 hit

July 27, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

When it comes to sports, none celebrates its past as voluminously as baseball does, although golf gives it a pretty good run.

What this tells us is, there's either not enough going on in the present or what went on in the pluperfect was indeed fulfilling and well worth remembering.

Which somehow brings us to the subject of today's essay.

Think how sentimental, not to mention how crowded, it could get around here on summer weekends if the old fifth-anniversary rule was adhered to. Remember, the O's made World Series appearances in 1966, 1969-70-71, 1979 and 1983 while taking division titles in 1973-74. Then there's those close-but-no-cigar runner-up efforts in 1976-77, 1980 and 1982 (last day).

Say, it's been a while, hasn't it?

Anyway, together with the squeeze bottle, floppy hat, poster-this and poster-that and Cal Ripken paraphernalia giveaways, this could mean in time every Camden Yards game could end up as a triple promotion.

It's already been four years since the Orioles threw the party to end all parties, the "Farewell to Memorial Stadium Weekend."

Prior to that, there was an election that produced a bigger voter turnout than most city elections, which produced an Orioles all-time squad and the fans had a ball harkening back to the days when taking two out of three from the Yankees was akin to an all-expenses paid trip to "The Boards" in O.C.

There was one season in the dimly-lit past that should never be confined to dusty history books, however, and what better time for a quick call on its 25th anniversary.

The year 1970 was not only the year of the "Brooks Robinson World Series," but it was a time that forecasted what sports would be like in the future, although we didn't know it at the time.

Do you realize it was on this very day a quarter century ago when local newspapers were heralding the day Boog Powell had had swinging the bat against Minnesota. After a slow start, the first baseman ended up with six runs batted in, four of them coming on a grand slam as the Birds were prevailing, 11-1.

"Remember it well," says Boog, "Jim Perry left a slider out over the plate." It was Powell's 26th dinger, four behind Harmon Killebrew's total, but the Oriole had the lead in RBIs (86). And it was still July.

Dave McNally, who hadn't won in a month, got the victory and went to 13-7. Jim Palmer was 14-6 at the time, Mike Cuellar 13-4. Hopefully, manager Phil Regan won't gaze upon these numbers; no one likes to see a grown man cry.

Even though the team was on the way to a 108-win season, a sweep of the Twins in the league playoff and a five-game dismantling of the original "Big Red Machine" in the Series, what made 1970 so special is the O's never really drew clear of the American League East for months. Every game seemed more interesting than the last.

Near the end of July, they were 62-37, but Detroit was only a short way back. Meanwhile, the Twins had a better record in the AL West (60-33) and folks were beginning to wonder if Cincinnati could possibly be as good as its 70-30 record.

Similar to what has happened here since Big Jake's Place opened downtown, in Texas, Cleveland and Colorado, fans were literally over-running new ballparks, the Cincy and Pittsburgh faithful marching a dozen abreast to state-of-the-art stadia dubbed Riverfront and Three Rivers.

This was before the word strike took on a whole new meaning in the game, players weren't jumping hither and yon and recent expansion from 10 to 12 teams per league didn't appear to be that much of a drag on the quality of play.

At the same time, there was finally some joy here in Mudville as the infamous "New York Syndrome" was halted. After the O's had lost the 1969 World Series to the Mets, the Jets, a 62-point underdog to the Colts, won Super Bowl III and it took the Knicks about two hours to eliminate the Bullets from the NBA playoffs.

A quick hand for the 1970 champions and their ample first baseman who ended up being the league MVP before his previous life fades completely and he becomes known only as the guy who sells sandwiches at the ballpark. "Lighten up on the sauce, big guy."

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