SI Vault
 
THOSE HAPPY BIRDS!
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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Don't be scared, but pay attention. "I got the message through anyway," Etchebarren said. "We have a sign for it." Johnson bounced the low fast ball to short and the third game was over.

Not much later Bunker, the winning pitcher, sat in front of his locker, alone. Where were the truth-seekers? "I don't know," he said. "I guess shutting out the Dodgers isn't news anymore."

GAME 4

"They told me," said Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Dave McNally, "that if I gave one run I'd be the goat of the Series." The winners were telling jokes, even before victory was official. Dave McNally gave no runs, the Orioles scored one, and about the weirdest World Series in history was over.

The Cubs of 1938, the Reds of 1939 and the Phillies of 1950, just to name a few, lay down and died in the crucible of World Series play, but nothing had ever happened like what happened to the Dodgers. They didn't quit; they never got started. Lou Johnson, the fey, blithe spirit, tried to start them in the fifth inning when he took a big turn around first on a routine single, but he slipped and fell and had to scramble back to the base, head-first. Lou first denied he had tried, consciously, to do a Dodgerlike thing, to rekindle the spark that hadn't even flickered since Maury Wills stole second in the first inning of the first game, a dynasty ago.

Then Johnson admitted he had been trying to lead the charge. "Somebody had to do somethin', man," he said. But nobody did nothin'. Nobody but Willie Davis, who had suffered in the sun in the second game and had two reasons to do somethin': one was to redeem the errors of his ways (which he didn't think were as much in error as some of the stories that didn't really tell the people what had happened to him). The other was that somebody had to do somethin', or the party was over.

Willie did it, but the party was over, anyway. In the fourth inning Frank Robinson won the World Series with another home run off Don Drysdale, a tee shot into the left-field stands that would be the only run of the day and the last of a Series in which the Dodgers were out-scored 13 2. It didn't shake the Dodgers as much as the one he had hit in the first inning of the first game, but it shook them. And it gave Willie Davis his chance. Some chance Boog Powell got the medium-thin part of his bat under Drysdale's fast ball and hit what would have been a pop-up to short center for a normal man. But the 240-pound Powell is not a normal man, and Willie Davis turned tail and headed for the fence. Willie knew that pop-up was going out of there, and he was preparing for it. He was more prepared, perhaps, than he had ever been for a quasi-impossible play. Earlier this season Manager Walter Alston had said, "I wish Willie would do what Ron Fairly does on a ball like that. You go to the fence first and feel for it. You can keep your eye on the ball, but once you touch the wall, it's yours. You don't have to worry about it anymore."

Davis ran to the center-field fence, turned and reached behind him for the wire mesh. The ball was coming now, and it was another home run. Willie bent his knees to coil for the spring, the one that carried him to a U.S. national high school broad-jump record not very many years ago. The fence is seven feet high, and Willie's glove was three feet higher than that when he grasped the ball.

More dramatic catches have been made, but none more beautiful. It was the third out, and Willie carried the ball in his hand, like a trophy, until he passed second base, where he flipped it vehemently toward the mound with a gesture that seemed to say, "The hell with you people. I can catch a ball—any ball."

"If I tossed it hard," Davis said, "I didn't know it. I'll tell you what I did think, though. I thought I had done something that would get us started. We were feeling for the ball, instead of swinging at it. That's the same as being a defensive hitter. That's what we were."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5