SI Vault
William Leggett
October 03, 1966
Next week, in one National League city or another, the 63rd World Series begins and, contrary to what you might have heard lately, the Baltimore Orioles are going to show up for it. Las Vegas says that if you like the Orioles you deserve to win $8 for every $5 you put up. The experts are saying, "Baltimore just doesn't have the pitching to win a World Series," and when managers and players of nonparticipating teams are interviewed you can bet most of them will revert to form and say, "No way Baltimore can win it—no way."
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October 03, 1966

The Orioles: A Good Team Gone On Relief

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If Barber is able to pitch effectively that would give the Orioles three good starters: Barber, Dave McNally (13-5) and Jim Palmer (15-9). If Barber is unable to pitch, Bauer will have to start Eddie Watt, a 24-year-old rookie with a 9-6 record, or Wally Bunker, the young sensation of two years back who is 10-6 but who has an earned run average of 4.43. Those won-lost records are good, but it is the bullpen that has made them good. Obviously, there is not a Sandy Koufax in the group.

For most of the season the Orioles won attention by their hitting: they lead the American League in team batting average, have the most home runs and have scored the most runs. Their hitting comes in explosive clumps and is able to destroy a game in the time it takes to wind your watch. The Orioles have won a lot of games in the very first inning; over the season they have scored 116 runs in their first time at bat as against 65 for their opposition. Repeatedly, they have won games in their last or next-to-last times at bat, too. That is genuine hitting.

In general, the Orioles are an impressive team. Third Baseman Brooks Robinson makes plays that other third basemen only dream about, and for years has been pulling pitchers out of trouble by gliding into the hole and stuffing a base hit into his glove. In recent weeks Brooks has shown signs of returning to his early-season hitting form. If the Orioles are to win the Series, Brooks will have to come through. His clutch hits score Frank Robinson, who has done everything possible for Baltimore this season. Frank has a chance to win the rare triple crown—batting average, home runs and runs batted in—and his constant needling has kept the Baltimore bench alive. When the two Robinsons, Boog Powell, Curt Blefary and Andy Etchebarren are hitting, they present an awesome striking force. Only the Atlanta Braves of the National League have produced more home runs this season (200 to 175), and homers are a lot easier to come by in Atlanta than they are in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

Many fans hoped that the Orioles would ultimately meet the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Series and possibly bring about a repetition of the 1960 Series, in which the Pirates and Yankees hit baseballs all over creation. Something similar would happen if the Orioles met the San Francisco Giants. But against the Los Angeles Dodgers Baltimore would have a harder time of it. Good pitching, says a baseball axiom, beats good hitting, and the Dodgers have good pitching. Too, the Orioles never played well in Dodger Stadium against the Angels. In their last 26 games in Chavez Ravine the Orioles were held to two runs no less than 13 times, and while Angel pitching is good it is certainly not as good as Dodger pitching. The Baltimore bullpen, loaded with slow-ball pitchers, would also have difficulty containing Dodger stealing speed (though if the Orioles scored early they would take much of the speed and bunting away from Los Angeles). The Dodgers, of course, have a remarkable record at home (53-28) but have had their troubles on the road (38-36). Baltimore has played roughly the same at home and on the road.

The American League has lost six of the last nine World Series as well as eight of 10 All-Star games. Because of the way the Orioles dominated the pennant race, the American League's prestige is now really on the line. Whoever the Orioles meet, they can win if they play the way they did the first half of the season. Certainly, if you bet your five on Baltimore hoping for eight back, you're riding very decent odds.

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