Nonetheless, 2,000 shivering fans stood in 19-degree cold at wind-whipped Friendship Airport to greeted the handful of Colts who returned to Baltimore on their Eastern Airlines charter after the game. Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro was there, as was comptroller Hyman Pressman, who recited this verse:

"You'll have to forgive us for bubbling over,

We're floating on air, and soaring in clover,

We're charged with a hundred-million volts,

From two world champions — Orioles and Colts!"

Despite their success, players on one team seldom hobnobbed with those on the others.

"We'd have a few beers with the hockey players and go see them play," said Miller. "Never understood the game, though.

"But when you're young and raising a family, there's little time for much else. Plus, we all had off-season jobs," said Miller, who worked for a local forklift company. "At the workplace, we were just regular Joes, no different from the guys who sold cars or worked at Bethlehem Steel. We just happened to play football for part of the year. And the fans appreciated that."

Dick Hall, an Orioles pitcher, was also an accountant and did the taxes for Colts linebacker Mike Curtis. Slugger Boog Powell attended the Super Bowl, cheering the Colts from his seat on the 10-yard line. Vogel became friends with several Orioles and approached McNally (21-5 that year) with a proposition.

"I always thought I'd like to stand up to the plate against a major league pitcher," the Colts' 250-pound lineman said.

McNally's response?

"I'd stick in in your ear," the left-hander said.

The Orioles finished with an 11-game winning streak and 101 victories, despite four rain-outs that were never made up. Yet despite having won the World Series in 1970, they averaged less than 14,000 in attendance and only topped 1 million in their next-to-last home game.

"People assumed we were going to win it all. It was almost a matter of fact," Powell said. "There was talk of, 'Why should we buy tickets for the regular season when we can hold out and go to a playoff game?'

"An awful lot of good baseball fans believed nobody had a chance against us. We kind of felt that way, too. Maybe we shouldn't have."

The Orioles played Oakland for the American League pennant. The A's arrived and were greeted at the airport by several high school bands and a group of Playboy bunnies. Banners strewn around town trumpeted "Baltimore — City of Champions, Flagtown U.S.A."

The Orioles took that flag in three straight games, the last one on the road. Again, 2,000 fans armed with signs and banners stood at the airport in a drenching rain to welcome the AL champs home from Oakland at 1 a.m. Three Pikesville housewives engulfed Powell, showering him with bouquets of flowers while squealing, "Boog, you're beautiful."

Though tame by today's standards, an Orioles "pep rally" in Hopkins Plaza kicked off the World Series. More than 8,000 people gathered to eat crab cakes, meet the players, hear the U.S. Post Office Dixieland Jazz Band and watch a performance by The Great Kreskin, a magician who wowed the crowd by finding a baseball that had been hidden in the plaza. City Council President William Donald Schaefer led all in Orioles cheers and declared it "Sink The Pirates Weekend" in Baltimore.

Other politicians joined the act. Governor Marvin Mandel (Maryland) wagered a bushel of Chesapeake Bay crabs on the Series, while Gov. Milton Shapp (Pennsylvania) put up a bushel of mushrooms.

The crabs scuttled north. Pittsburgh took the Series, 4 games to 3.

In hindsight, said Powell, the revelry then paled beside the excitement stirred up by this year's Ravens and, now, the Orioles.

"I've never seen anything like the crazy fantacism that's here now," he said. "In 1971, people took [the Orioles' success] for granted. This is different. It's like the Mardi Gras at Camden Yards, maybe because it's been so long since we had a winner."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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