He can't remember the author or the name of the book, but Darrel Chase can recall a key element of the plot: A baseball fan journeys back in time with a plan to make himself some quick cash.
"The first thing he does," said Chase, a retired engineer from Bel Air, "he bets on the 1966 World Series because he gets such great odds."That savvy time traveler puts his money on the Baltimore Orioles, who swept the heavily favored, pretty-boy Los Angeles Dodgers in four games.
What jogged Chase's memory of that old book was Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys, and the 1966 World Series That Stunned America (Little, Brown) a new book by New Jersey author Tom Adelman that celebrates the 40th anniversary of the breakthrough championship season that would later be codified as the "Oriole Way."
Adelman spoke on Saturday at the central library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Chase was one of just four audience members who rattled around the room, lending credence to Adelman's belief that 1966 is something of a black hole in baseball lore.
"You don't hear people ever talk about the '66 World Series," he said. "If all the Series are a tapestry, that was a thread that got dropped."
Why? Adelman - a thin, 42-year-old Southern California emigre who keeps his hair cropped as close as stadium grass - thinks that's because it was backwater Baltimore playing the role of giant killer. It would have been quite a different media story if, for example, the New York Yankees had eviscerated those mighty Dodgers.
Also, this was a World Series perhaps only small-ball purists can love. Orioles pitching dominated to an embarrassing degree. Dodgers' bats didn't merely fall silent. They were sawdust in motion.
"We just didn't do anything. We got shut out three times," said Jeff Torborg, the Dodgers backup catcher who went on to become a big-league manager and is currently a broadcaster for Fox Sports Network. "Every year there's a team of destiny. I believe that."
The year 2005, as Torborg noted, belonged to the Chicago White Sox; 1969, as most Baltimoreans can attest, was the Year of the Mets. Likewise, for all intents and purposes, the '66 World Series was over midway through Game 1. Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning. The Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
The Dodgers scratched back for two runs off O's starter Dave McNally, who gave way in the third inning to reliever Moe Drabowsky.
Drabowsky was the court jester of the bullpen, a man with an endless supply of rubber snakes and M-80 firecrackers. But that October afternoon he was all business, racking up 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings (setting a World Series record), at one point fanning six Dodgers in a row (tying a World Series record).
The Dodgers didn't push another run across home plate. The rest of the Series. Their 33-inning stretch of futility set, yes, another World Series record.
Centerfielder Willie Davis - looking like a man trying to catch butterflies with a baseball glove - was the Dodger who made the most lasting impression, muffing three fly balls in one inning of the second game.
It was quite a comeuppance considering the Dodgers were World Champions in 1963 and 1965, thanks in large part to the looming presence of future Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.
The Orioles countered with a peach-fuzz starting rotation. McNally, at 23, was the graybeard. Jim Palmer was the youngest: He turned 21 during the Series.
"They had been in the Series all the time," Palmer said of the Dodgers. "For most of us, it was a new experience."
The feeling was so novel that Palmer can recite the exact amount of his World Series-winning paycheck: $11,363.04 - considerably more than his salary of $7,500.
"It's still pretty vivid in my mind," said Boog Powell, Orioles first baseman turned barbecue maven. "I think the celebration was as good as any town has ever had. It lasted about a week."
Adelman began his writing life in fiction, cranking out a Series of six so-called "rock 'n' roll oriented novels" under the pen name Camden Joy (which sounds more like the name of a new Cal Ripken candy bar).
A few years ago he segued into sports with The Long Ball, a recounting of the epic 1975 World Series battle between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds. "After that," he said, "I was attracted to telling the story about a very different series."
Well, it is also the story of a very different time. Before big money. Before steroids. Back when ballplayers held offseason jobs. (Palmer spent that winter working for Hamburger's clothing store downtown.) Back when baseball burrowed deep under the country's skin.
Adelman relied on newspaper clips and phone interviews to reconstruct 1966. This may explain why Black and Blue fails to soar as narrative, but it doesn't matter. Mention the year, mention the teams, and that's enough to transport some people back in time.
After his appearance at Enoch Pratt, Adelman did a book signing at Legends Museum, just outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Dan Hughes, the 58-year-old owner of a construction company in Muskogee, Okla., bought two copies of Black and Blue. He was in town with his wife to catch a few Orioles games, having followed the team since the 1966 Series, seduced by Jack Buck's broadcasts on St. Louis' KMOX radio station.
"When I was a kid listening to the radio, I thought the Robinsons were brothers," said Hughes. "That's when I became an Orioles fan."
The Robinsons are now Social Security age, rendered in bronze inside the Hall of Fame. The Orioles haven't been to the World Series since 1983. Those happily-ever-aftering days of Camelot came and went so fast.
"What's interesting is it never was that easy again," said Palmer, who would go on to appear in five more World Series, two ending victoriously.
But the stars aligned near perfectly in 1966. Destiny played favorites. After taking the first two games in Los Angeles, the Orioles flew home to Baltimore to finish off the Series. While passing over the Grand Canyon, their plane hit an air pocket, plummeting more than a thousand feet in a matter of seconds.
"That's probably the closest the Dodgers came to beating us," said Palmer.
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