Reliving glory


Celebration of 1983 team brings memories of magic

July 23, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

The one-line bio on Wikipedia reads as such: "Terry Lee Landrum is a former professional baseball player who played in the major leagues primarily as an outfielder from 1980-1988."

Another line should be added: He never had to buy a drink or dinner in Baltimore after Oct. 8, 1983.

Or maybe this: No Baltimore sports fan over the age of 30 can hear the name "Tito Landrum" without smiling.

Tonight the Orioles are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their 1983 world championship team - their last drink of title-sweet champagne.

It's a chance to remember the good times, to honor the old heroes who were immersed in the original Orioles Magic. A chance to cheer for a career .249 hitter named Tito who did what those Orioles always seemed to do: deliver in the clutch.

It's a bittersweet celebration, of course. Rekindling the old passion also serves as a reminder that this once-proud franchise has the third-longest World Series drought of any American League team (behind the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, who both have never made the World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays don't count).

These current Orioles are trying. They play hard, make inspired comebacks and listen to the old "Orioles Magic" tune.

But that team from 25 years ago was special. Because it was resilient and talented. It featured three Hall of Famers, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr. and Jim Palmer, and a group of scrappy lieutenants, such as World Series Most Valuable Player Rick Dempsey, second baseman Rich Dauer and pitchers Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Mike Boddicker.

"Just coming back, that Oriole Magic," said John Shelby, the club's current first base coach and 1983 outfielder. "That was the biggest thing for me. Just coming back a lot and the guys never panicking. We could be losing by three and you'd hear Eddie saying, 'We got them right where we want them.' Somebody else would say, 'Let's walk them off the field.' Next thing you know, they are walking off the field, and we are shaking hands."

Perhaps nothing encapsulated that season, that era, like Landrum's big moment.

A reserve outfielder who came from St. Louis on Aug. 31 as a player to be named later in a deal for Floyd Rayford, Landrum crushed a pitch by Britt Burns over the left-field wall in the fourth and final game of the American League Championship Series against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

It broke a scoreless tie in the 10th inning and, in essence, put the Orioles in their sixth and last World Series. Landrum had just 42 regular season at-bats for the Orioles that year, and only one homer. He hit 13 regular season home runs in his career, but his one in the 1983 postseason lasted a lifetime.

"I can still visualize it, the pitch coming in and him hitting it," Shelby said. "It was smoked, and our whole dugout just erupted. Chicago had a real good team, and that just seemed like the blow we needed. After that, we were able to roll."

Landrum, who was traded back to St. Louis the next spring, was to Baltimore what Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone are to New York and what Francisco Cabrera is to Atlanta.

"I can't remember anything else he did, and I don't say that in a negative way," Shelby said. "His home run was just phenomenal and it just gave us a tremendous lift."

The Orioles went to the World Series, beat the Phillies in five games and won their first title since 1970.

No one at the time knew the Orioles' impressive run would soon come to a screeching halt, that five seasons later they would have the indignity of starting a season 0-21. No one knew they wouldn't get back to the World Series in a quarter of a century and counting.

And, perhaps more deflating, no one realized that the city's other pro team, the Colts, would leave five months later.

That was the halcyon days of sports around here - at least for those too young to remember the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Tonight is a chance to relive those memories, however briefly. A time to watch the old heroes, Murray and Ripken, Dempsey and Singleton, Boddicker, Flanagan and McGregor, take the field once again.

Overall, 22 former Orioles are expected today.

And that includes Terry Lee "Tito" Landrum.

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