Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1971 Topps #1

Tomorrow, many of the men pictured on this card will reunite at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1970 World Championship season. Gates open at 2:30 PM for an alumni press conference featuring Brooks and Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Paul Blair, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, and Earl Weaver. Concurrent with the press conference will be autograph sessions on the lower concourse. Scheduled to sign are Fred Beene, Don Buford, Andy Etchebarren, Bobby Floyd, Bobby Grich, Dick Hall, Dave Leonhard, Tom Phoebus, Merv Rettenmund, Pete Richert, and Eddie Watt. There will be a memorabilia sale before and during the game and a pregame ceremony on the field at 3:30. The current O’s will wear 1970 throwback uniforms, as will their opponents, the Nationals (they’ll be dressing up as the old Senators, not the Expos). By my count, that’s 16 former players and the manager, and that doesn’t even include current hitting coach Terry Crowley. Unfortunately, 11 of the 32 men who suited up for the Birds that year have passed away. The organization has done well to gather the bulk of those who remain, though.

I fear that we may never see a team like this one again. To put it another way, those of us born in the 1970s and later just plain may not see it. Not to belabor the point, but at the 72-game mark the 1970 O’s were 46-26. The current team has twice as many losses and would be trailing them by a full 26 games. From 1969 through 1971, the Birds put together the most dominant three-year regular season run by any baseball team, winning 318 games and losing only 164 (a winning percentage of 67%). They never trailed in the standings after June 4 in any of those three seasons, and finished each year with at least a 12-game cushion on the runner-up. They swept all three American League Championship Series. Of course, the black mark on their record is the fact that they won “only” one World Series in that stretch, getting shocked by the Mets in 1969 and being outlasted by Roberto Clemente, Steve Blass, and the Pirates in 1971.

But that makes the 1970 club all the more memorable. There were seven All-Stars (Frank, Brooks, Palmer, Boog, Cuellar, Davey Johnson, and McNally). Boog Powell (.297/.412/.549, 35 HR, 114 RBI) was the AL MVP, finally nabbing the award after two previous top-three finishes in balloting. In a sign of things to come, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Mike Cuellar were all 20-game winners, with the latter pair tying Minnesota’s Jim Perry with a league-leading 24. Brooks, Paul Blair, and Davey were Gold Glove winners. And of course the World Series became the Brooks Robinson Show, as #5 robbed the Cincinnati Reds time and time again with jaw-dropping plays at third base and hit .429 (9-for-21) with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI in the five-game set.

So if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, drop on in at Eutaw Street and toast one of the greatest teams in the history of our fine city.


jacobmrley said...

SNY shows replays of the 1969 World Series all the time and I marvel how a rag-tag bunch of platoon players beat that O's team. Except for perhaps Jerry Grote, not one player on the Mets would start over his counterpart on the Orioles. OK, the '69 Mets pitching staff was outrageous, but the only game the O's won in the series: they beat Tom Seaver. Since I have never seen the '71 Series, the other thing I marvel at is how the same nucleus finished second in 1968 and 1972. This team was a killer collection and 1970 was the apex.

Commish said...

Wow, I would just love to be there for that reunion game.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Jacobmrley, Pitching, pitching, and more pitching! (and some miracles in the outfield)

FreeTheBirds said...

I'll be there today, capping off a three-game week for me. I also went on Tuesday and Thursday. Thursday we got to see something rarely seen in the night sky over Camden Yards, an Oriole three run home run. Oh yeah, and a meteor too.

Ryan said...

I was there yesterday. They had a nice tribute to the team playing on the jumbotron while introducing the players on the field. It didn't hurt that the O's won their third game in a row in comeback fashion!

Kevin said...

Max - Too true. Gee, I wonder why MASN never replays the '69 Series? ;)

Bob - Me too, but I had other plans.

Jim - Yep. Not that the O's were slouches on the mound, but Koosman, Seaver, et. al. will win you a few best-of-7s.

FTB - Sounds like you brought some good luck last week!

Ryan - I miss the Nats already.