BALTIMORE -- The players are older now, moving slower than they did during their glory days of the mid-1960s. That did not matter to the crowd at Oriole Park before the Orioles' series opener with the Angels on Friday night. They wanted to once more see their heroes who pulled
BALTIMORE -- The players are older now, moving slower than they did during their glory days of the mid-1960s. That did not matter to the crowd at Oriole Park before the Orioles' series opener with the Angels on Friday night. They wanted to once more see their heroes who pulled off one of the greatest surprises in baseball history 50 years ago.
In 1966, the Orioles stunned the Dodgers and the baseball world by sweeping Los Angeles in four games when they met in the World Series. That shocker put Baltimore on the map for baseball and started a stretch where the Orioles made it to the World Series four times in six years -- winning twice -- and became one of the sport's top franchises.
But even though the Orioles won at least 100 games in three straight years (1969-71) plus a World Series title ('70), that first team holds a special meaning for the players and fans. Thirteen players and coaches from the '66 squad returned to Baltimore on Friday to mark the special 50-year anniversary.
There were events earlier in the day, and then more before the game. The Orioles showed an approximately 40-minute video about the '66 World Series on the video board, with fans in the stands often cheering at the big plays. They gave the entire group a standing ovation after a pregame ceremony to recognize them.
"In '66, we just had the best team -- that's all," said Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson. "So that was big. That was a dream come true for me. It's hard to win. It's not easy. It's so many players who never get a chance to experience that. To me, that's what it was all about."
Former coach Billy Hunter and some of the other players talked about how the original scouting report on the Dodgers said to be careful about throwing them fastballs. But manager Hank Bauer found out giving them fastballs actually might be the right way to go.
Moe Drabowsky backed up that theory when he came on in relief of Game 1 starter Dave McNally in the third inning and struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief en route to a 5-2 victory. The Orioles pitchers stuck with feeding the Dodgers a steady diet of fastballs after that, a big reason 20-year-old Jim Palmer pitched well the next day en route to a 6-0 victory over Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
"That was a big-boy moment," said Palmer, also a Hall of Famer. "It was the big stage. It's pretty surreal to go into a World Series for the first time. I don't care if you're young or old."
Boog Powell, the Orioles' first baseman, said Koufax didn't intimidate the team. They just tried to battle him, and Powell had a plan -- which worked as he posted two hits and drove in a run.
"The rule of thumb when you were facing Koufax was make him start the ball at your knees," Powell said. "If the ball started at your knees, it was probably going to be chest-high when it got to you. If he started at your waist ... it was going to be eye-high. So just make it be down when he started it, and then you've got to go."
The Orioles then went back to Baltimore and won the final two games by the same 1-0 score. Wally Bunker took Game 3, and McNally finished it off in Game 4. The Orioles used just four pitchers in the whole Series, a fact that made current manager Buck Showalter shake his head.
"Come on, man, we used four in the third inning," Showalter said with a smile. "That's amazing."
Even 50 years later.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com.