This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Baltimore Orioles winning the 1983 World Series, the last time the Orioles won it all.
For me, 1983 was the most special season imaginable. It was the first season I had my own Saturday and Sunday postgame radio show on WFBR, which held the rights to Orioles games. To be in that spot and tap into the amazing current of electricity that existed in our community back then was almost magical.
In fact, during the early seasons of my show, I was downright cocky at times. A short anecdote might help explain just how “baseball-entitled” some of us felt back in the real era of Orioles magic.
One day during the 1984 season, I distinctly remember doing a score update and I got to the Cleveland Indians score. It must have been late May or early June, and the Indians were losing a game and already well out of first place.
Knowing the Indians were a perennial losing team — one which hadn’t been to a World Series since 1954 — I went on a riff about what it must be like to live in Cleveland. “How would you feel if you lived in Cleveland right now? And knew by June 15 every year that you had no chance at being a contender to get into the postseason?”
Remember, this was 1984. The Orioles had just won their third World Series championship the previous season while appearing in their fifth World Series since 1966, a period of just 17 seasons. And even when the Earl Weaver-led Orioles teams didn’t get to the postseason, they were almost always competitive and put the fear of God in the teams ahead of them in the standings.
The irony is that now the losing shoe is clearly on the other foot. Despite the “Why Not” season of 1989, the decent teams under former manager Johnny Oates in the early 1990s, the near misses of 1996 and 1997 and playing for an American League crown in 2014, it has now been 35 long summers since the Orioles last hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy and Orioles fans could hoist a cold one in celebration.
I was 31 years old when the Orioles won in 1983. If you had told me the Orioles wouldn’t hold the World Series trophy again until after I turned 66, I’d have called you loco.
I probably attended easily 75 games in 1983, and I sweated out all of the incredible wins.
Right-hander Mike Boddicker started his first Orioles game ever during the nightcap of a doubleheader May 17, and I watched him shut out the Chicago White Sox, allowing just five hits. The next night, outfielder Dan Ford hit a solo home run — the only hit of the night by the Orioles — off of White Sox starter Richard Dotson as part of a 1-0 win.
There was also the unforgettable 7-4 win against the Toronto Blue Jays Aug. 24, when shortstop Cal Ripken hit a game-tying home run on his birthday, infielder Lenn Sakata came in to catch and left-hander Tippy Martinez picked off all three base runners in the top of the 10th inning after right-hander Tim Stoddard had allowed the go-ahead run.
The memories are flooding back as my fingers hit the keys. But what was equally as memorable is how — after all the hard work the entire season — the five-game series win against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series was almost anticlimactic. When the Phillies’ Garry Maddox hit that soft liner to Ripken, who snagged it and jiggled his glove in triumph, the Orioles were the champions of the world.
In some ways, the Orioles’ current situation, with a total reorganization of baseball operations in full effect, is simply the club’s latest attempt to end a 35-year drought of playing in a World Series. Explain to kids and young adults in Birdland that it wasn’t always this way in Baltimore and you’ll get more than a few raised eyebrows.
But the news that the Babe Ruth Museum and Sports Boosters of Maryland have combined forces to put together a 35th reunion of the 1983 World Series victory — set to be held Nov. 14 — might serve as some salve on the wounds of Orioles fans after the worst season of the club’s 65-year history in Baltimore.
Long-suffering Orioles fans can return to the team’s glory days by buying a ticket to the anniversary gala at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Not only will you be supporting two great and important entities — the Babe Ruth Museum and the Sports Boosters of Maryland — but this has a chance of being a remarkable remembrance of the 1983 season and an era of truly great baseball. Perhaps it’ll be a rededication by the Orioles and their fans to bonds that are especially necessary for a small-to-mid-market team to succeed. Tickets are available at baberuthmuseum.org and sportsboosters.com.
So far, “An Evening With the ‘83 Orioles” has booked the following players from the championship team: Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry, Jim Palmer, Gary Roenicke, Tippy Martinez, Storm Davis, “Disco” Dan Ford, Rich Dauer, Scott McGregor, Benny Ayala, John Stefero, Bill Swaggerty, John “T-Bone” Shelby and Tito Landrum, the man who sent the team to the World Series with his American League Championship Series-clinching home run against the White Sox. Others scheduled to attend are Charles Steinberg, Julie Wagner, Richie Bancells and Fred Manfra.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
Issue 248: October 2018