SI Vault
William Leggett
October 26, 1970
All the Orioles seemed to have a hand in casting a spell over Cincinnati but there was no one to compare with Brooks Robinson, the friendly ghost, who made the Reds disappear in five games
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October 26, 1970

That Black And Orange Magic

All the Orioles seemed to have a hand in casting a spell over Cincinnati but there was no one to compare with Brooks Robinson, the friendly ghost, who made the Reds disappear in five games

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The quote is more than a statement. It is an exposition of the Earl Weaver baseball personality. A brilliant tactical manager known in the trade to "never box himself," Weaver, now 40, took over the Orioles in midseason of 1968, and since then the team has won 265 games and lost only 141. He is a man who believes in keeping every possible statistic, then studying his lists carefully before reaching a decision, and he usually has about six reasons for everything he does.

When Cincinnati did bounce back in the fourth game of the Series, there was hope on the team that it could rally and take the Orioles back to the mod sod in Cincinnati and beat them. The Reds had stopped a 17-game Baltimore winning streak, and they felt that maybe the old idea that every winning streak is usually followed by a losing streak would hold true. Not only was the thinking fallacious; Baltimore quickly reminded the Reds that here was no ordinary team, especially where losing streaks were concerned. This season its longest bad spell lasted three games. A year ago the worst was five.

Much was made of the fact that during the year the Reds, with their preponderance of right-handed hitting power, chewed left-handed pitching up and spit it into the Ohio River. Little was made of Baltimore's record of the last two seasons against right-handed pitching. Yet the Orioles were 77 games over .500 during that period and they maintained their lifetime record against the American League's best pitchers: Denny McLain (11-13). Jim Perry (14-14), Mel Stottlemyre (7-9), Dean Chance (11-16), Joe Horlen (9-10) and Luis Tiant (2-10).

Cincinnati's record against lefthanders (33-12) and the fact that the Orioles felt somewhat apprehensive about pitching McNally and Cuellar against the Big Red Machine (after the Series some of the players called it the Big Red Edsel) and its right-handed power brought a fine reaction from Frank Robinson. Presiding as judge in the kangaroo court at the Oriole victory party several hours after the last game, Robinson fined superscout Jim Russo for even suggesting that the Reds might be able to rough up McNally and Cuellar. (Frank also fined Brooks Robinson for "showboating it during the entire Series.") Before the Series began Russo suggested to Weaver that 40-year-old right-handed Reliever Dick Hall start one of the games against the Reds' righties. After thinking the matter over, Weaver decided against the plan, because if Hall started he could not be used in relief more than once and Weaver did not want to eliminate his option of using Hall more often. Hall did come into the second game, where he faced seven batters and got all of them out.

Given all of his statistics, Weaver might have known another fact. This has not been a very good year for left-handed pitching in the National League, which could explain why the Reds were death on them. The Reds" own Jim Merritt was the winningest lefthander with a 20-12 record, but his ERA was 4.08. Luke Walker of the Pirates (15-6) had only five complete games; Steve Carlton of the St. Louis Cardinals lost 19 times; and Jerry Koosman of the New York Mets had only one shutout. The San Francisco Giant staff worked 50 complete games, but only three of those were by lefties.

"There can be little doubt," said Clay Carroll, the one Cincinnati pitcher who was effective in the Series, "that we came in with a crippled staff and that the Orioles crippled what was left of it."" He was not talking about the personal shelling that they took, but he might well have been. The Orioles drove five balls back at or through Cincinnati pitchers in the last game alone. Two ricocheted off bodies while the other three flew by so quickly that the pitchers, dodging, couldn't field them.

The Orioles clinched their second world championship almost exactly one year to the day after they had lost to the Mets. Then they were totally dejected, but 5,000 people showed up at the Baltimore airport to greet them, and when 5,000 people show up in Baltimore for anything it is usually free or a Colt workout. "Our players got a tremendous lift out of that," said Harry Dalton, the man who is most responsible for assembling the Oriole club. "Some of our players had tears in their eyes and their wives were crying. There are those who would have you believe that a rah-rah spirit in professional sports doesn't mean anything, but it does. Just as the fans had helped the Mets, the fact that ours still thought so much of us made our players dedicate themselves to returning and getting another chance to win the Series.

"Even though we beat the Dodgers in four straight games in 1966," Dalton continued, "beating Cincinnati is more rewarding because the Reds are such an excellent team. Pitching through the heart of their batting order was like walking through a shooting gallery."

For all their obvious strength, it is doubtful that the Orioles will stand pat during the off season. Their pitching needs some additions because, as Dalton says, "Any department that has 10 men in it can be improved upon." Weaver, too, feels that the Orioles will change, but not much. "We are not going to open up any holes just for the sake of change," he said.

All along they have had the problem of whom to play. Merv Rettenmund, for instance, did not get a chance to start in the Series until the fifth game. Playing in only 106 games during the regular season, he batted .322, hit 18 homers and batted in 58 runs. He is a superior fielder. He responded to his one Series chance by driving in two runs, one with a single and the other with a homer hit to the opposite field. Right behind Rettenmund are six other players ready to challenge the regulars. Their averages with Triple A Rochester of the International League this season ranged from .304 to .384.

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