The Orioles didn't have to travel far during the 1983 World Series, but they were carrying a lot of baggage when they faced the star-studded Philadelphia Phillies 20 years ago.
"We were determined - after what happened in 1979 - that this team was not
going to let up," said Mike Flanagan, an Orioles pitcher then and now a vice
president of the club, which is in the midst of a series with the Phillies
this weekend and is commemorating that Series.
"We were up three games to one against the Pirates and didn't bring it
home. In 1980, we won 100 games and went home, 1981 was the strike season and
we lost on the last day of the season in 1982. We'd had good season after good
season and had nothing to show for it."
The 1982 season, which came down to a climactic final series against the
Milwaukee Brewers, was particularly disappointing, because the Orioles wanted
to send retiring manager Earl Weaver out with another World Series
"I remember seeing everyone come into spring training [in '83], and it was
a completely different feeling," Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks said. "They
were all business. You could see that there was something. ... Nobody ever
said it, but they wanted it for Earl in '82, his last year, and they fell
short. Once the '83 season started, they never looked back."
The '83 Orioles won 98 games and finished the regular season with a
six-game cushion over the second-place Detroit Tigers. They lost the opener of
the best-of-five American League Championship Series to a Chicago White Sox
team that had won the AL West by 20 games, but won the next three games in a
row to advance to the Fall Classic against a Phillies team loaded with future
Hall of Famers.
"They had Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton," catcher
Rick Dempsey said. "Those were names that were almost invincible. How were you
ever going to overcome that winning tradition? I don't think anyone would have
been surprised if they had won in five games."
Except that most of those superstars were in the twilight of their careers.
The Phillies were so old that they were known affectionately as the "Wheeze
Kids." They limped through a difficult season before upsetting the Los Angeles
Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, then feigned offense when
a solid majority of media prognosticators picked the Orioles to win the World
"It was not our best team as far as personnel," said Flanagan, who started
Game 3 at Veterans Stadium, "but the good thing was, they were a lot older
than we were."
Falling in Game 1
That didn't seem to matter, however, when veteran right-hander John Denny
gave up just five hits over 7 2/3 innings and home runs by Morgan and Garry
Maddox carried the Phillies to a 2-1 victory in Game 1.
The Orioles could take some solace that they had lost the opener of the
ALCS by the same score and rebounded by running the table against the White
Sox, but the loss created tremendous pressure to salvage a split of the first
two games at Memorial Stadium.
Rookie pitcher Mike Boddicker stepped into the breach and delivered a
masterful three-hit performance to even the series with a 4-1 victory. The
26-year-old right-hander, who became the media darling of the postseason
because he spent offseasons working in a grain elevator near his home in Iowa,
struck out six and did not allow an earned run in his World Series debut.
In the turning-point second game, the turning point came in the fifth
inning, when outfielder John Lowenstein tied the game with a leadoff home run
and Dempsey gave the Orioles the lead with an RBI double to right field. No
one could have known it at the time, but that hit would turn the 80th World
Series into a life-changing experience for the occasionally goofy 34-year-old
"Charlie Hudson threw me a fastball up and away, and I hit it off the wall
in right field," Dempsey said. "That one at-bat was the best at-bat of my
career, and it lifted a great weight off my back. I finally had done something
offensively for the club that was really significant."
It was only the beginning. Dempsey would go on to deliver a pair of doubles
and score a big run in Game 3. He also had two hits and drove in a run in the
decisive 5-0 victory that gave the Orioles their third world championship.
Dempsey still shakes his head in disbelief when he remembers the moment
that he found out he had been named World Series Most Valuable Player.
"That was one thing that never crossed my mind the entire World Series," he
said. "I came off the field and somebody yelled, `Hey, Dempsey, you're the
MVP.' Then it hit me - boom - and I thought, `How the heck did that happen?' "
There were several strong individual performances, but no one dominated the
series. Scott McGregor gave up just two runs over 17 innings, but split his
two starts. Eddie Murray hit two home runs in Game 5 - one of them a mammoth
blast that hit his name on the scoreboard - but was not a major factor in the
first four games. Cal Ripken had won the American League MVP award during the
regular season, but had just three hits in 18 at-bats. Dempsey made an impact
on three of the four Orioles victories.
Spirit of '83
Orioles: Twenty years later, the principals still have fresh memories of the O's last world title, and the satisfaction of putting the Phillies away after letting the Pirates off the hook.
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