The Orioles didn't have to travel far during the 1983 World Series, butthey were carrying a lot of baggage when they faced the star-studdedPhiladelphia Phillies 20 years ago.
"We were determined - after what happened in 1979 - that this team was notgoing to let up," said Mike Flanagan, an Orioles pitcher then and now a vicepresident of the club, which is in the midst of a series with the Philliesthis weekend and is commemorating that Series.
"We were up three games to one against the Pirates and didn't bring ithome. In 1980, we won 100 games and went home, 1981 was the strike season andwe lost on the last day of the season in 1982. We'd had good season after goodseason and had nothing to show for it."
The 1982 season, which came down to a climactic final series against theMilwaukee Brewers, was particularly disappointing, because the Orioles wantedto send retiring manager Earl Weaver out with another World Serieschampionship.
"I remember seeing everyone come into spring training [in '83], and it wasa completely different feeling," Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks said. "Theywere all business. You could see that there was something. ... Nobody eversaid it, but they wanted it for Earl in '82, his last year, and they fellshort. Once the '83 season started, they never looked back."
The '83 Orioles won 98 games and finished the regular season with asix-game cushion over the second-place Detroit Tigers. They lost the opener ofthe best-of-five American League Championship Series to a Chicago White Soxteam that had won the AL West by 20 games, but won the next three games in arow to advance to the Fall Classic against a Phillies team loaded with futureHall of Famers.
"They had Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton," catcherRick Dempsey said. "Those were names that were almost invincible. How were youever going to overcome that winning tradition? I don't think anyone would havebeen 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 "WheezeKids." They limped through a difficult season before upsetting the Los AngelesDodgers in the National League Championship Series, then feigned offense whena solid majority of media prognosticators picked the Orioles to win the WorldSeries.
"It was not our best team as far as personnel," said Flanagan, who startedGame 3 at Veterans Stadium, "but the good thing was, they were a lot olderthan we were."
Falling in Game 1
That didn't seem to matter, however, when veteran right-hander John Dennygave up just five hits over 7 2/3 innings and home runs by Morgan and GarryMaddox carried the Phillies to a 2-1 victory in Game 1.
The Orioles could take some solace that they had lost the opener of theALCS by the same score and rebounded by running the table against the WhiteSox, but the loss created tremendous pressure to salvage a split of the firsttwo games at Memorial Stadium.
Rookie pitcher Mike Boddicker stepped into the breach and delivered amasterful three-hit performance to even the series with a 4-1 victory. The26-year-old right-hander, who became the media darling of the postseasonbecause 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 fifthinning, when outfielder John Lowenstein tied the game with a leadoff home runand Dempsey gave the Orioles the lead with an RBI double to right field. Noone could have known it at the time, but that hit would turn the 80th WorldSeries into a life-changing experience for the occasionally goofy 34-year-oldcatcher.
"Charlie Hudson threw me a fastball up and away, and I hit it off the wallin right field," Dempsey said. "That one at-bat was the best at-bat of mycareer, and it lifted a great weight off my back. I finally had done somethingoffensively for the club that was really significant."
It was only the beginning. Dempsey would go on to deliver a pair of doublesand score a big run in Game 3. He also had two hits and drove in a run in thedecisive 5-0 victory that gave the Orioles their third world championship.
Dempsey still shakes his head in disbelief when he remembers the momentthat 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," hesaid. "I came off the field and somebody yelled, `Hey, Dempsey, you're theMVP.' Then it hit me - boom - and I thought, `How the heck did that happen?' "
There were several strong individual performances, but no one dominated theseries. Scott McGregor gave up just two runs over 17 innings, but split histwo starts. Eddie Murray hit two home runs in Game 5 - one of them a mammothblast that hit his name on the scoreboard - but was not a major factor in thefirst four games. Cal Ripken had won the American League MVP award during theregular season, but had just three hits in 18 at-bats. Dempsey made an impacton three of the four Orioles victories.
"I think I was the first MVP [position player] to ever get pinch hit for,and not once but twice," Dempsey said. "I had five hits in the series. ScottMcGregor pitched two great games and could easily have been voted MVP. Eddiedidn't have a lot of hits up to the last game, but he hit two home runs. Ifthe series had gone seven games, I'm sure that Eddie or Cal would have beenthe MVP.
"That didn't matter. The only thing I was thinking about was vindicatingourselves after what happened in the '79 Series."
Ripken ends it
Ripken, then 23, would catch the final out of the season, squeezing a softline drive off the bat of Maddox and then leaping for joy to begin a worldtitle celebration that would have to last him his entire career. The Orioleswould come close again in 1996 and '97, but Ripken would retire in 2001 withonly that first World Series ring.
"I loved the ending with Eddie Murray," Ripken said. "He was criticized[after the '79 Series], maybe unfairly, because in a series like that, there'sa strategy that's for Eddie Murray, it's not for the rest of the players inthe lineup. Sometimes you pitch around him and make the strategy saying you'lllet somebody else beat you. Eddie was living with that burden, and he verymuch wanted to contribute."
The two had gone out to dinner after Game 4, Ripken said. "And we laughedand we talked and we had a good time in anticipation of the next game and whatcould happen, and sure enough, Eddie hits two home runs in the game. Me beingaround him and understanding what his thoughts were at that particular time,having him go out and basically carry the offensive load for the next day andclinch the World Series, that was the moment I'll always remember."
Everyone who was on that team still remembers the ride home. The Oriolesheaded toward Baltimore in a four-bus caravan and found clusters of cheeringfans lining Interstate 95. The crowd that greeted the buses at MemorialStadium was estimated at 30,000.
The number of celebrating fans swelled to 100,000 for the downtown paradethe next afternoon.
"It's a hell of a good feeling," Dempsey said at the time.
He wouldn't know how good until he saw his face on the cover of SportsIllustrated a few days later.
"Never in a million years would I have expected that," he said last week."I was the most surprised person in the whole world. I still sign hundreds ofthose books every year. My kids and grandkids are so proud of that, whichmakes it even better.
"That [the World Series] was absolutely the biggest highlight of my career.Those are the things you dream about since my dad took me to the drive-inmovies when I was a kid and they showed World Series highlights between themovies. You wanted to be in the World Series, and you wanted to be the MVP."
Maybe it was appropriate that someone from the lower third of the battingorder ended up with the hardware. The last three hitters in manager JoeAltobelli's everyday lineup - Dempsey, Rich Dauer and Todd Cruz - had beendubbed "The Three Stooges" by designated hitter Ken Singleton during theregular season, which gained them some national acclaim when the club reachedbaseball's biggest stage.
Singleton, meanwhile, would see his role greatly diminished in the WorldSeries because the DH rule was only in effect in the first two games.
"There were a whole lot of guys who could have been the MVP," saidHendricks. "Eddie could have won it. Richie Dauer could have won it. KikoGarcia could have won it. That's the type of series it was."
Dempsey would play nine more seasons, but nothing would happen again tocompare with that wonderful week in October 1983. Future Hall of Famer JimPalmer was wrapping up his great career, but he would have one more magicmoment - getting the win in relief in Game 3.
"My initial recollection was how far away from home plate I was, lookingthrough Plexiglas [in the Veterans Stadium bullpen]," Palmer said in jest,"but it was rewarding to see a lot of guys I had been around and had mentoredget the chance to do the job.
"Obviously, I was disappointed that I could not have contributed more, butto go from 15 wins [in 1982] to five shows how well-rounded that club had tobe to still get there. That's what the Orioles were about ... continuity. Ifsomeone struggled, somebody was there to take his place. The whole crux ofthat year was, it didn't matter if I had only five wins. We won."
Sun staff researcher Paul McCardell and Sun staff writer Roch Kubatkocontributed to this article.
The Orioles will commemorate the 20th anniversary of their 1983 WorldSeries title during this weekend's series with the Phillies. Events:
Today: Home Run Derby between Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt, 6:40 p.m.Orioles season-ticket holders who use their early entrance privileges willhave the opportunity to get autographs from the 1983 players who are on thefield and throughout the concourse during pre-game batting practice.
Tomorrow: Old-timers game between 1983 Orioles and Phillies, 12:30 p.m.Gates will open at 11 a.m. for batting practice. Among the Orioles scheduledto play are Mike Boddicker, Rich Dauer, Storm Davis, Rick Dempsey, MikeFlanagan, Dan Ford, Elrod Hendricks, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor, EddieMurray, Jim Palmer and Ken Singleton.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun