Forty years ago, the Orioles were everything that the current team is not. Poised. Stylish. Champions.
In 1970, the Orioles won 108 games, more than twice what this year's club is projected to win. This afternoon, fans will have a chance to relive that memorable summer as the Birds trot out 19 members of the world championship team before a game against the Washington Nationals at Camden Yards.
"Seeing us out there might be good for the current players," said Dick Hall, 79, a former long reliever. "They'll see us and think, 'These guys look like normal people. If they could do it, why can't we?'"
The '70 Orioles were a legendary lot. They reeled off five victories to start the regular season and ended it with 11 straight wins. In between, they played stellar baseball, leading the American League in runs scored and fewest runs allowed.
They played with a collective chip on their shoulders, determined to avenge their upset loss to the New York Mets in the 1969 World Series after having won 109 games that season.
"From Opening Day, we were all on the same page as far as not letting what the Mets did to us the year before happen again," said first baseman Boog Powell, 68. "We didn't make a big deal out of it, but every game we went out there, saying, 'Whose butt are we gonna kick tonight?'"
Powell had a banner season (.297 batting average, 35 home runs, 114 RBIs) and was named the AL Most Valuable Player. Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer all won 20 games or more. Orioles pitchers threw 60 complete games — this year's staff has one — and spun 12 shutouts, including three during a five-day span in July. The team ERA (3.15) was the best in baseball.
Those Orioles refused to lose. Forty-two times, they rallied to win. Forty times, they won by one run, including a 3-2 victory over the Washington Senators in the regular-season finale. Davey Johnson's RBI single in the ninth inning clinched it before a crowd of 4,845 at Memorial Stadium.
Not that it mattered. The Orioles won the AL East by 15 games over the New York Yankees.
"They were some kind of players in their day," said manager Earl Weaver, 79, one of those planning to take part in today's reunion. "Everyone contributed. Every piece fit."
This time, there was no postseason collapse. The Orioles swept the Minnesota Twins, the AL West champs, and readied for the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
"We had a good time" preparing for the Big Red Machine, Weaver remembered. The day before the start of the Series, the manager held an intrasquad game in which he batted as a pinch-hitter. Against McNally, a 24-game winner, Weaver ran the count to 3-2 before fanning on a slider from the cagey left-hander.
Razzed by his players, Weaver just shrugged.
"If Mac can get me out, he won't have any trouble with [the Reds' Johnny] Bench and [ Tony] Perez and them guys," he said.
Sure enough, McNally won Game 3 and the Orioles took the World Series, four games to one.
But October really belonged to third baseman Brooks Robinson, whose diving grabs and backhand stabs — plus a .429 batting average — earned him acclaim and the Series Most Valuable Player award.
Afterward, team owner Jerry Hoffberger praised the players, calling them "150 percent men who did 150 percent of their job."
Those expected to attend today's festivities include Weaver, Powell, Robinson, Palmer, Johnson, Hall, Frank Robinson, Don Buford, Paul Blair, Merv Rettenmund, Andy Etchebarren, Tom Phoebus, Terry Crowley, Eddie Watt, Pete Richert, Dave Leonhard, Bobby Grich, Bobby Floyd and Fred Beene.
Unable to attend for health reasons are Dave May and Clay Dalrymple. Don Baylor is a coach for the Colorado Rockies. Coaches Jim Frey and Billy Hunter have previous commitments.
Eleven players have died: Cuellar, McNally, Mark Belanger, Moe Drabowsky, Roger Freed, Jim Hardin, Elrod Hendricks, Marcelino Lopez, Curt Motton, Johnny Oates and Chico Salmon. Also deceased are coaches George Bamberger and George Staller.
Fans' guide to 40th Anniversary Celebration of Orioles' 1970 World Series Champs
11 a.m. - 2 p.m. — Luncheon with team members at B&O Warehouse (sold out)
2:30 - 3:15 — Autograph session with about a dozen players at three sites on Camden Yards lower concourse.
2:30 - 3:15 — News conference with select team members, including Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver, and simulcast on stadium scoreboard.
2:30 - 6 — Memorabilia sale, including autographed baseballs and photos, on lower concourse near Gate D
3:30 — Pre-game ceremony with video tribute to championship team and introduction of 1970 players on the field.
Sign up for Baltimore Sun local sports text alerts