SI Vault
Jack Mann
October 17, 1966
Underdogs, a team supposedly without solid pitching, the astounding Orioles used their big bats effectively if sparingly, ran out a retread reliever and three youthful starters and smothered the Dodgers four straight
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October 17, 1966

Those Happy Birds!

Underdogs, a team supposedly without solid pitching, the astounding Orioles used their big bats effectively if sparingly, ran out a retread reliever and three youthful starters and smothered the Dodgers four straight

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Willie thought so, too, and asked the assembled sportswriters to understand that he could have chickened, covered his face with his hands and let the ball drop. Then the Series audience would have felt sorry for him and there wouldn't have been mass sarcasm in the seventh, when he finally caught a fly ball.

Perhaps, though, the man to feel sorriest for was Koufax. He put the Dodgers in the Series, and if they were still to win it, he would have to win it for them. When, after a night flight from Los Angeles, the Dodgers arrived at their hotel in Baltimore a few hours before dawn on the morning after the disaster, a dutiful eight-piece band waiting in the lobby struck up a welcoming California, Here I Come. Koufax, the realist, suggested they try Melancholy Baby.


Oriole Center Fielder Paul Blair felt sorry for Willie Davis, but he said he would have felt sorrier for Paul Blair, "because I'm supposed to be a gloveman." The glove isn't the only thing Blair has to sell, but it's the main thing. It is the reason his trip down to the minors was round-trip and not one-way last year—he could have won the center-field job in Baltimore if he had been able to hit more than .234. This year Blair hit .277, but he had only six home runs and 33 RBIs. That kind of player has to bring a glove because nobody thinks of him as a hitter. Nobody but Shortstop Luis Aparicio. "Would you believe a home run?" Aparicio asked in the Orioles' dugout as the third game droned scorelessly into the bottom of the fifth and Blair came to bat against left-hander Claude Osteen. Before anybody could say, "I find that hard to believe," the ball was soaring over the auxiliary scoreboard in left field.

"I made a good pitch, low and away," said Osteen. The photo shows he did: Catcher John Roseboro was listing slightly to starboard to catch the low, away fast ball. "It may have seemed inside to Blair," Osteen added, "because he leaned in. The next time I face Blair I'll probably start him off the same—fast ball, low and away. It was the first pitch to him, and I think he was guessing."

"I guessed fast ball," said Blair with a shrug. He knows Palmer's Law: show me a bad hitter and I'll show him my fast ball. So does Wally Bunker, who ran the Dodgers' schneid to 24 innings with his 1-0 victory. He was asked if he had gotten giddy with success and had challenged Wes Parker with a high fast ball on a 1-2 count with the tying run at second in the eighth.

"Hell, no," the 21-year-old Bunker said. "You don't challenge hitters with my kind of fast ball. I don't overpower anybody. In fact, I'm not even a fastball pitcher. But the way these guys are going out on fast balls, I'd be crazy to throw them anything else."

The moving fingers have written that this World Series was a classic of pitching excellence, nor will all Dodger Pitching Coach Lefty Phillips' tears lure it back to cancel half a line, and that's too bad because people who care about baseball ought to understand what was going on. It was a classic, but one of hitting incompetence. It was evident by the middle of the third game that cocky young Palmer was right—the Dodgers are a fraud, they stand naked when the ball stops bouncing the right way for them. They are the delightful mountebanks of baseball, and you must have intellectual admiration for their larcenous capers. But they are exposed when an almost-was like Moe Drabowsky exceeds himself, reaches back into his past and shows his teammates which shell the pea is under.

Howard (Buddy) Jacobson, who leads the league in training winning race horses, and with a frequency that is maddening to his pompous contemporaries, has said this of his trade: "You don't have to be very bright in this game; you just have to pay attention." The same applies to beating the Dodgers. Dave McNally wasn't paying attention in the first game and he was throwing his pitches over everything. So Drabowsky came in and showed how to get the job done: pay attention, and don't let them shake you up. The Dodgers can't beat you unless they scare you, and after Drabowsky the Orioles weren't afraid anymore.

With two outs and an 0-2 count on Lou Johnson in the ninth inning of the third game, the Orioles demonstrated both principles. Catcher Andy Etchebarren always wants to know his pitchers are paying attention, and he started to the mound to discuss the coup de grace—a fast ball, of course—with Bunker. "I wanted to be sure he'd make it low," Andy said. But before Etchebarren got to the mound Aparicio ran in from shortstop, holding his palms out in a cease-and-desist gesture. "Andy likes to go to the mound a lot," Luis said, "and that's good. But I didn't want him to shake the kid up. He was O.K."

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