It’s the golden anniversary of a year that Baltimore sports fans would just as soon forget. Fifty years ago, the city’s three major league teams — the Colts, Bullets and Orioles — all strode into the postseason with title aspirations. Yet that trio, favorites all, fell flat on their collective keisters to teams from — dare we say it? — New York.
On Jan. 12, 1969, the Colts, who’d won 15 of 16 games, played brash Joe Namath and the Jets in Super Bowl III. Though three-touchdown favorites, the Colts lost, 16-7, in a debacle that haunted the players long afterward.
“It took me nearly 40 years to get rid of those nightmares," cornerback Bobby Boyd told The Baltimore Sun in 2010.
Three months later, the Bullets followed suit. Baltimore’s NBA team went 57-25, won its division and marched into the playoffs to meet the third-place Knicks. Never mind that the Bullets had two future Hall of Famers (Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld). New York won four straight to sweep the best-of-seven series.
“We just got beat,” guard Kevin Loughery said afterward. “There are other things in life to worry about.”
Perhaps. But imagine the anguish of local fans that October when the Orioles, who’d won a whopping 109 games, blundered through the World Series and fell, in five games, to the Mets, once the laughingstock of baseball.
Better times neared. In 1970, the Orioles won the World Series. Three months after that, the Colts won Super Bowl V. And though the Bullets lost again to the Knicks in 1970, they dispatched hated New York in 1971. All three Baltimore teams were spurred, assuredly, by their earlier failings.