Birds Sweep Series
BALTIMORE – From the outset of the 1966 World Series, it was fair to say that not too many people gave the Baltimore Orioles much of a fighting chance. Though they carried the American League MVP and Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson, they had a very young pitching staff inexperienced in October baseball. Additionally, facing the premiere National League dynasty of the 1960s in the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baltimore underdogs had quite the mountain range to surmount – stalwart hurlers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax being the most daunting of those peaks. Having swept the Yankees in an improbable performance in 1963 and winning a hard-fought battle against the Twins in 1965, The Dodgers proved that their two great pitchers and stellar staff could silence any line-up, as both opposing American League teams were held to an anemic total of 14 runs in eleven World Series games.
For the first two games at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, the Orioles took this ideal to heart, winning both contests with spirited performances from 23-year old Dave McNally in the former and 20-year old Jim Palmer in the latter. After a day off, coming home to Baltimore for the third game provided the blueprint from which they would hope to emerge victorious in the series, with the young Wally Bunker shutting out the Dodgers on a six hit performance.
Returning to the mound in Game 4 was opening game winner McNally. With only one run scored by a solo home run from World Series MVP Frank Robinson, the contest was a pitcher’s duel from start to finish. In the hopes of redeeming himself for a poor Game 1 start, Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale gave up only one run; though unfortunately for Los Angeles fans, it was the only one that mattered in the 1-0 Oriole victory. Pitching brilliant ball, McNally allowed a measly four hits and no runs against the boys in blue. The lefty’s performance was indicative of that of the entire Baltimore pitching staff during the postseason, as the Dodgers were held without a run for the last 33 innings of the World Series.
Pictured is the precise moment after the last out of the series – a catch by Oriole centerfielder Paul Blair – which spread jubilation across the field in Memorial Stadium, as well as all of Baltimore. With the ecstatic crowd beginning to rush their heroes to join in the celebration, Brooks Robinson is shown emphatically jumping into the arms of winning pitcher McNally, and the Bird’s rookie catcher, Andy Etchebarren.
Baltimore would see their team reach the top of the American League standings every year from 1969 to 1971, capturing the title again in 1970. The Orioles talented pitching staff and smooth defense would come to define their era, the likes of which had not been seen in the American League since the New York Yankees. Certainly, this dynasty was a far cry from the woeful performances of the hapless St. Louis Browns, the team which in 1954, was embraced by Maryland when they became the Baltimore Orioles.