1970 WS-winning O's celebrate 50 years

September 18th, 2020

It has been 50 years since Brooks Robinson fielded that Pat Corrales grounder, tossed across the diamond to Boog Powell and completed perhaps the greatest season in Orioles history. Five decades later, the image is still iconic: a fitting conclusion to the sensational 1970 season, when the O's went wire-to-wire and finished as the World Series champions for the second time in five seasons.

The Orioles would reach the Fall Classic again the following year and win another title in 1983, but the '70 title team is considered one of the most complete in baseball history. Much of the old gang had planned to travel back to Baltimore to celebrate before the coronavirus hit; as it stood, members of that legendary team gathered virtually Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their achievement.

“These guys are people I went to war with,” Powell said. “They are my dearest friends and I trust them explicitly. When you play 162 games in 175 days, you get to know a lot of things about each other. Every relationship wasn’t exactly perfect, but our one goal was to win. Period. We were out there to win.”

With Powell, Frank and Brooks Robinson anchoring the offense and three 20-game winners in the rotation, the 1970 Orioles won a lot for future Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver. They finished the year 108-54, 15 games ahead of the second-place Yankees, and having won their last 11 games. They then swept the Twins in the American League Championship Series and beat the Reds in the World Series in five games, winners of 18 of their last 19 games overall.

It was redemption for their 1969 World Series loss to the underdog miracle Mets. Powell took home '70 AL MVP Award honors. Brooks Robinson was the MVP of the World Series.

“After we lost and when we came back to the airport in Baltimore after we lost that last game [in 1969] at Shea Stadium and there were 5,000 some people standing behind the fence, and they were all standing there with their hands and their fingers sticking through the fence,” Powell said. “I touched as many hands as I could and I told him, I said: ‘Just wait ‘till next year.’”

Celebrating Friday, Powell threw out a ceremonial first pitch recorded near his Key West, Fla., home. Then during the Orioles’ game against the Rays, Jim Palmer joined the MASN and Orioles Radio Network outside his normal broadcasting capacity to reflect on the anniversary. Palmer, Powell, Brooks Robinson and Don Buford also participated in a roundtable discussion on Zoom, where they reminisced about the late Weaver, among other topics.

“From my standpoint, the personality of the manager is very important because he sets the stage for the whole ballclub,” said Buford, who hit 17 homers with a .406 on-base percentage as Baltimore’s everyday left fielder in 1970. “Earl tried to motivate the whole team by getting kicked out of ballgames. That was the fun part. Sometimes he would tick off the umpires and they would take it out on the players. Sometimes we had to tell Earl, ‘Sit back and enjoy the game and we’ll take care of the rest.’"

As with any reflection of 1970, much of the chatter focused on Brooks Robinson, who cemented his future Hall of Fame status that October. Robinson wasn’t exactly a secret -- he was already an 11-time All-Star and the '64 AL MVP Award winner. But his stature grew as he excelled across five games against the Reds on the national stage, hitting .429 with two homers and making several highlight-reel defensive plays. It's a performance that remains revered in Baltimore to this day.

“I’ve always maintained that if Brooks Robinson would have been playing in Yankee Stadium in New York, he could have run for president,” Powell said. “He was that special.”