Orioles of the past and present reflect on the club's tenure in Baltimore
As the Orioles celebrate their 60th anniversary, Baltimore Sun reporters Mike Klingaman and Dan Connolly talk to some of the signature players in the club's history. Browse images of a key player from each decade to relive the highlights and lowlights.
For a look at the year-by-year capsules through Orioles history, click here.
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Jim Palmer and the 1970s Orioles( Baltimore Sun file photo / April 4, 1969 )
By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun
As the Orioles' last regular-season home game of the 1970s ended in triumph, the crowd of 17,205 refused to go. Fans stood, cheering wildly, until manager Earl Weaver stepped from the dugout and doffed his cap. Then players emerged, applauded the fans and led an impromptu "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" chant that rocked Memorial Stadium.
Could the team's greatest decade have climaxed any better? In 10 years, the Orioles averaged 94 victories and won a World Series, three American League pennants and five division titles. They had 17 20-game winners, captured four Cy Young Awards and won 29 Gold Gloves.
Their signature stretch runs were the talk of baseball. Twice, in 1970 and in 1971, the Orioles won their final 11 games to reach the postseason; in 1974, they won 28 of their last 34, including five straight shutouts, to clinch first place.
"It was a pretty good time to be an Orioles fan," Jim Palmer said. He helped make it so. Of the Orioles' 944 victories in that era -- second to the Cincinnati Reds' 953 -- Palmer won 186, most in the majors. Eight times in the decade, he won at least 20 games. Of his 175 complete games, 44 were shutouts. Three Cy Young Awards and four Gold Gloves went to Palmer, who said it was easy to shine on those clubs.
"What kind of team was I playing on? The Orioles," the Hall of Fame right-hander said. "I was smart enough to know that all I had to do was pitch."
One of four Orioles to stay the decade, Palmer recited the club's time-worn mantra that worked well into the 1980s: Build from within and deal shrewdly when needed.
"We'd bring up the [Bobby] Griches and [Don] Baylors and then make a key trade here and there for a Kenny Singleton or a Mike Torrez," he said. "The continuity was good. Lee May was there when Eddie Murray came up [to the majors], and Eddie was there when Cal Ripken [Jr.] came up. They passed the baton."
The 1970s began with the Orioles "on a mission," Palmer said. The year before, they'd lost the World Series to the New York Mets as Weaver bristled.
"In spring training, Earl had the whip out early, like a jockey coming down the stretch at the Preakness," Palmer said. The Orioles grabbed first place for keeps April 26, won 108 games -- including 19 of their last 22 -- and defeated the Reds in the World Series. It would be their only championship of the decade, a shortfall Palmer shrugs off.
"It was a tough division," he said. "We won 97 games in 1977 and didn't make the playoffs. Twice, we lost the [AL Championship Series] to Oakland, which won the World Series."
On a team flush with talent, envy wasn't a factor, Palmer said.
"When we had four 20-game winners in 1971, I didn't want the others to not win 20. I just wanted to pitch better than" Dave McNally, Pat Dobson and Mike Cuellar, he said.
Weaver and his staff did their part to spur the starters. On the underside of his cap brim, pitching coach George Bamberger kept a running tally of something that summer, scrawled in ink.
"McNally asked him what it was," Palmer said. "George told him that if we pitched more than 50 complete games, he would get a $5,000 raise. Well, there was no raise. He just wanted to encourage us to do it."
The foursome finished the season with 70 complete games, more than in the entire American League in 2013.
When the team hit a snag, Palmer said, the players tried to fix it themselves.
""We weren't playing well in 1974. Weaver lived by the three-run homer, but we weren't hitting many," he said. "So, on an off day in August, the players met at Paul Blair's house and decided to go back to pitching and defense. It wasn't an anti-Earl meeting; we just needed to return to the 'Oriole Way.' "
Then 63-65, the Orioles finished 91-71 with a fifth division title in six years. Along the way, they pitched 54 consecutive scoreless innings in September, an AL record.
Another time, with the club struggling in midyear, Weaver gathered the team in the clubhouse.
"Earl said, 'I made a mistake,' " Palmer recalled. "We're thinking, 'Wow -- Earl's admitting he was wrong about something?'
"We all sat on the edge of our stools, looking at him. He said: 'I picked the wrong 25 guys.'
"We laughed. That got our attention."
And started a winning streak.
"Earl was Earl. He hated to lose," Palmer said. "Does it really matter if the manager is a nice guy who puts his arm around you? Weaver said, 'I won't shake your hand when you win because what will I do if you lose?' That was his philosophy."
It was a moot point, for the most part, in the 1970s.
For year-by-year capsules from the 1970s, click here.