I have the craziest admission to make about the 1970 World Series. When I think back on it, I was pretty much missing in action. That fall was my first at UMBC after having spent my freshman year in College Park, Md., in 1969-70.
At Maryland, I lived in the dorms and it was easy for me to get in front of a TV whenever those games against the New York Mets were played in 1969. I also clearly remember sitting with my cousin, Stuart, in the upper deck behind home plate at Memorial Stadium for Game 1 — the Orioles’ lone victory of the series, as they bested Tom Seaver by a score of 4-1.
As a student at UMBC, I lived in a downtown apartment near Mount Vernon. As a commuter, I’d attend classes, hang out at the student union, go to more classes and then hang out more at the student union before the short trip home. Remember, this was before MLB had ever played a World Series game at night. That would come a year later in Pittsburgh. (The Orioles lost to rookie Bruce Kison in Game 4 at Three Rivers Stadium.)
But I do remember each time I tuned into a game in 1970 feeling as though the Cincinnati Reds were in way over their heads, and that the Orioles would use “choking” against the Mets in 1969 as the fuel they needed to prove that they were easily the best team on the planet.
Clearly, that was Job One of the 1970 World Series — prove that the team that had won 217 regular-season games from 1969-1970 was the best team in baseball. For the record, the Orioles won 109 in 1969; the Mets, a surprising 100. The O’s came back to win 108 contests in 1970, compared to the 102 won by the young, up-and-coming Reds.
But as for the specifics of 1970, I remember wanting the Orioles to sweep that series — and they nearly pulled it off. They won the first three games of the series and led, 5-3, going into the top of the eighth inning of Game 4 with Jim Palmer on the mound. After Palmer allowed the first two runners to reach base, Earl Weaver went to Eddie Watt, his closer du jour. Watt gave up a three-run home run to Lee May, who became an Oriole a few years later. I do remember being furious at Weaver for that move because Watt was a less-than-stellar closer.
And then what else could anyone remember from that World Series other than Brooks Robinson finally getting a chance, and now that I think of it — a chance, another chance and then another chance — to demonstrate his greatness to the baseball world? And did he ever.
If you are too young to have seen it, spend some time watching Brooks Robinson highlights from the 1970 World Series on YouTube. I promise you, it’s worth the trip down memory lane.
So, what is left to say about the 1970 World Series from someone who was a self-admitted no-show?
Well, when you look for the teams in MLB history that have put together three-year runs totaling 318 regular-season wins (as the Orioles did from 1969-1971), you won’t find an awful lot of them. And the nagging sadness I have for Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Dick Hall, Boog Powell, Don Buford, Paul Blair, Frank Robinson and so many others is the fact that the 1970 World Series crown is all they have to show for it.
In 1969, they were beaten by a more mystical than upstart Mets team, which in ensuing seasons would show far less than the Orioles. It was then compounded by the loss to the 1971 Pirates, who won just 89 regular-season games. My sadness is about how the 1969-1971 Orioles may be overlooked as one of the greatest teams in modern history.
The Oakland Athletics were the next big thing, winning three straight World Series from 1972-1974 to have their spot etched in stone as an all-time team. Even the Reds, who appeared in the 1972, 1975 and 1976 World Series as the Big Red Machine, were able to pull in two crowns. Then there was the second great run by the A’s from 1988-1990, which was almost a duplication of the great three-year run by the Orioles from 1969-1971. But with what we know now about Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, is anyone really saddened by the cheaters being deprived?
Of course, the New York Yankees winning four World Series from 1996-2000 and nearly winning two more in 2001 and 2003 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, respectively, stamps that Yankees group the best of the past 50 years.
As the years get wiped away like raindrops on your car’s front window and memories are slowly removed by the windshield wipers of time, it just doesn’t sit well with me. Yeah, I admit it, I didn’t see much of the 1970 World Series, but I saw enough of those teams from 1966-1974 to know those Orioles were one of the best teams of my era or any other era.
We know Weaver is in the Hall of Fame for the totality of his accomplishments, but it doesn’t square with me that 1970 was his only World Series title. Those of us close by know he and his players accomplished much, much more.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles