'66 team leaped at chance for respect


Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills sat in the Los Angeles clubhouse, belittling the Orioles' pitching.

Never mind that the underdog Orioles had won the first two games, beating the Dodgers' best two pitchers, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. Never mind that the Dodgers had been shut out after the third inning of the opener by Moe Drabowsky and in the second game by Jim Palmer, who, nine days shy of his 21st birthday, had become the youngest pitcher to record a World Series shutout.

"The only time they beat us was in the first inning of the opener," Wills said, referring to back-to-back home runs by Frank and Brooks Robinson. "The elements were against us today [when center fielder Willie Davis lost two fly balls in the sun, leading to three unearned runs]."

With less than unassailable logic, Wills concluded: "So, you can't say they really beat us. They got all the breaks, but they haven't shown they're any better than we are."

Wills needed more convincing, and the Orioles gladly provided it. They won the final two games, 1-0, held the Dodgers scoreless during the final 33 1/3 innings, breaking the World Series record of 28 set 61 years before by the New York Giants, and captured their first world championship.

"The back-to-back home runs by Frank and Brooks woke up the club," Orioles manager Hank Bauer said. "We were underdogs, but we came back to Baltimore thinking we could win after all. Nobody said anything about that. Didn't need to. We could feel it."

The series turned on two events in the opener -- the Robinsons' home runs in the first inning and Drabowsky's arrival in relief of Dave McNally in the third. Contrary to Orioles scout Jim Russo's advice not to serve the Dodgers fastballs, Drabowsky did just that -- and won.

"I was as excited as if I were still GM," said Lee MacPhail, who left the club in late 1965 to become commissioner William Eckert's assistant. "I felt I had contributed to the deal for Frank just before I left. And we went to the winter meetings hoping to draft a reliever. The man we wanted was taken ahead of us, so I said, 'Let's gamble, take Drabowsky.' "

After Palmer beat Koufax in Game 2, in the final game of the great left-hander's career, Wills rationalized. Asked whether it was true, as Dodgers scouts said, that Palmer's fastball tailed up and away, Wills said, "It was straight."

Hearing that, Palmer, who had pitched a four-hitter, was aghast. "Is that why he grounded out three times and popped up once?" he said.

Player personnel director Harry Dalton recalls that scouts Russo and Ray Scarborough spent 90 minutes before the opener telling Orioles pitchers and catcher Andy Etchebarren that the Dodgers were good fastball hitters.

"All dead fastball hitters, they told us," said pitcher Dick Hall. "Show them the fastball, they said, but not where they can hit it. McNally followed the scouts' advice. Not Moe -- he gave them all fastballs.

"Based on that, Palmer and Etchebarren decided to go with fastballs. In the third and fourth games, [Wally] Bunker and McNally threw nothing but fastballs."

In Bunker's 1-0, third-game triumph, Curt Blefary, not known for his glove, contributed a key catch in left field. With left-handed-swinging Willie Davis batting, Blefary was playing toward center.

"He sliced the ball down the left-field line," Blefary said. "To this day, I don't know how I caught it. I ran from left-center and caught it on the dead run two steps inside the foul line. It would have been an inside-the-park home run if I hadn't caught it."

Although they were humiliated in the Series, the Dodgers went to spring camp in 1967 expecting owner Walter O'Malley to present them rings as National League champions. L.A.'s ace reliever with a 14-1 record in 1966 was current Orioles manager Phil Regan.

"We wondered where our rings were," Regan said. "O'Malley said there were no rings for losers."

Remembering the moment

"I was in the on-deck circle after Frank's and Brooks' back-to-back home runs and I thought sure [Don] Drysdale would knock me on my butt. He had that reputation -- nasty. But he threw a changeup and I popped it up. The World Series win was my biggest thrill up to that point -- the culmination of dreams and desires."

-- First baseman Boog Powell

"Someone tacked a newspaper headline over my locker: 'Hunter says Dodgers in 4."

-- Orioles third base coach Billy Hunter on the story by Los Angeles sportswriter Bob Hunter

"[Sandy] Koufax was their ace, but he had pitched the win over Philadelphia three days before that clinched the pennant. So, Drysdale started and Frank and I hit the back-to-backs off him that set the tone."

-- Third baseman Brooks Robinson

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