Former pitcher Moe Drabowsky, a fun-loving prankster who became an Orioles World Series hero, died yesterday at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock of complications from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
Drabowsky, 70, had been living in Sarasota, Fla., and until a few weeks ago continued to work with the Orioles' young pitchers in Florida.
Over a 17-year career, Drabowsky - whose real name was Myron - pitched for eight teams, including the Orioles twice, from 1966 to 1968, and again in 1970.
His career highlight came in the the 1966 World Series opener against the Dodgers when he relieved Dave McNally and one-hit Los Angeles for 6 2/3 innings, striking out 11, a Series record for a relief pitcher, including six in a row.
Drabowsky's performance in the 5-2 victory set the tone for the Series as the Orioles' pitchers silenced the heavily favored Dodgers lineup and Baltimore won the series in a stunning sweep.
The World Series heroics capped a 6-0 season in 1966 for Drabowsky, whose career record was a less-gaudy 88-105. But that he was able to pitch for 17 seasons despite suffering serious arm difficulties that had him back in the minors after first breaking in with the Chicago Cubs in 1956 was representative of a determination that he carried through a recent six-year battle with cancer that included several stem cell transplants.
"It's been up and down for him, but he's been such a fighter," his daughter, Myra Beth Morris, said yesterday.
As a player, Drabowsky also was known for his practical jokes, especially the old standard - the hot foot.
He once told a reporter that his most memorable victim was then-baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
For that one, Drabowsky used a trail of lighter fluid as a fuse from the trainer's room to the clubhouse. "You never saw a shoe come off so fast in your life," Drabowsky said later.
Drabowsky's pranks were a fact of clubhouse life wherever he played. Whether it was frightening Orioles teammates Paul Blair and Luis Aparicio with live snakes, setting off fireworks in the bathroom or making phony phone calls to the opposing bullpen with fake orders to get pitchers warmed up.
With a faculty for imitating voices, Drabowsky once called the Kansas City bullpen and impersonated manager Alvin Dark to get pitcher Lew Krausse ready, even though the A's starter was doing fine.
"Their dugout never looked down there. Our bullpen was just howling," former Oriole Dick Hall once said, recalling the incident. "Moe got worried, [Krausse] may be needed ... and called [to get him] to sit down."
When he was with the Kansas City Royals and the Orioles made it to the World Series in 1969, Drabowsky hired an airplane to fly over Memorial Stadium with a banner that read, "Beware of Moe."
Drabowsky was born in Ozanna, Poland, and escaped the Nazis with his family coming to the United States when he was 3 years old.
He was scouted at Trinity College in Connecticut by the Cubs and was part of a young pitching staff in Chicago that failed to live up to expectations. After stops in Milwaukee, Cincinnati and with the Kansas City A's, he arrived in Baltimore for a three-year stay compiling a 17-9 record and 26 saves.
He was selected by the Royals in the 1968 expansion draft, reacquired by the Orioles in 1970 when he was 4-2, and then went to St. Louis before finishing his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1972.
Most recently, he was in his 13th season with the Orioles as a coach at the club's spring and rehabilitation camps in Sarasota.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Rita; mother, Frances; another daughter, Laura Anne Nevell; two stepsons, Bob and David DeJonge; a stepdaughter, Lisa Kelley; sister, Marion Freidhoff; former wife Elizabeth; a niece and step-grandchildren.