By Mike Gibbons, Babe Ruth Museum
It's not like the 1966 Orioles' success came out of nowhere. In the 1960-'65 seasons the O's forged a very respectable 538-426 mark, averaging 90 wins a season. But the team never had enough wins to make the World Series.
Over that six year span, Baltimore revised and refined its roster to championship caliber. Boog Powell and Russ Snyder joined ranks with Brooks Robinson in 1961. Dave McNally and Andy Etchebarren arrived in 1962. Luis Aparicio and Wally Bunker came a year later, followed by rookies Paul Blair in 1964, and Davey Johnson and Curt Blefary in 1965.
Frank Robinson homered in the first inning of Game 1 of the 1966 Series. (Courtesy of Sports Legends)
Robinson's presence in the Orioles' lineup had immediate and positive results. Homering in his first three games, No. 20 made it known that he was in Baltimore to bring home a championship. From those early games all the way through the World Series, Robinson never let up.
On May 8 Robinson became the only player to hit a home run ball out of Memorial Stadium. The next month, at Yankee Stadium, he caught a line drive with two outs in the ninth inning to save a game, tumbling into the right field stands in the process. By season's end, Robinson had posted a .316 batting average with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs, good enough to take home baseball's coveted Triple Crown and American League MVP honors.
It was a season when heroes were made and legends were born.
Brooks Robinson finished second in the MVP voting that year and Powell finished third. At third base, Robinson was declared MVP of the 1966 All-Star game. Baltimore's eight position players and three starting pitchers during that year's postseason classic sported an average age of 24. At 20, rookie Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to ever win a World Series game.
Baltimore led the league in batting and pitching, but still headed into the World Series as underdogs against the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the first inning of Game 1, with Snyder on first base, pitcher Don Drysdale stared down Frank Robinson. Robinson took him deep into the left field stands for a 2-0 lead. Next, Brooks Robinson repeated the feat, shocking the crowd at Dodger Stadium and sending out notice that this Baltimore club was for real.
McNally gave up a couple of early runs, forcing Bauer to bring in veteran reliever Moe Drabowski, who completely shut down the Dodgers, striking out a World Series record six consecutive batters and a total of 11 for the game. Baltimore won Game 1, 5-2, and did not give up another run in the series.
At 20, rookie Jim Palmer became the youngest pitcher to ever win a World Series game.
(Courtesy of Sports Legends)
In October, the series shifted to Charm City, and for Baltimore residents the excitement was like homecoming, senior prom and graduation day all rolled into one.
Years away from developing the Inner Harbor, the city relied on its sports teams for any semblance of an identity. Eight years earlier, Johnny Unitas and his Baltimore Colts drew the nation's attention, winning the 1958 NFL title game, often called the "greatest game ever played." Now, it was the Orioles' turn.
Bunker, 21, strode to the hill that sunny Saturday afternoon and threw a complete game shutout, the first by an Oriole at home all year. The next day, with McNally and Drysdale repeating their Game 1 match-up, the Orioles finished off the Dodgers on Frank Robinson's fourth-inning home run, and another complete game shutout. The young O's had held Los Angeles scoreless for 33 consecutive innings, a World Series record which has yet to be broken.
That first championship, unlike anything before or since, started a six-year stretch during which the Orioles appeared in four World Series, winning two. It was the golden age of Orioles baseball, when Frank, Brooks, Jim, Boog and friends came together to become one of the greatest teams in the history of the nation's pastime.
The Babe Ruth Museum will present a special reunion of the Baltimore Orioles' 1966 World Championship team on Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Murphy Fine Arts Center on the campus of Morgan State University.
Approximately 20 members of the championship team will join manager Hank Bauer in the celebration, including Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer, as well as Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Paul Blair, Dick Hall, Eddie Watt and Stu Miller. For more information visit www.baberuthmuseum.com.