It wasn't anyone on the Orioles roster. It was George Scott of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Eight games out of first place on Aug. 28, the Orioles won 28 of their last 34 games, but it was Scott who delivered the knockout blow with a bases-loaded single in the 10th inning against the Yankees.
It was 11: 06 p.m. on Oct. 1 and the Orioles were still in the clubhouse in Detroit, where they had agonized through a 7-6 win over the Tigers that afternoon to clinch a tie.
"Everybody had written us off," Boog Powell said. "When Milwaukee eliminated the Yankees, we had a hell of a party. Roy Clark, the singer, was in town and we went to his show that night."
Exciting as that race was, it didn't turn on a crucial Orioles-Yankees series. Over the years, they have been rare. None has been as crucial as the one unfolding this week, where the season will end for the loser.
The first crucial series were in 1960, when a team of seven rookies and 10 front-line players in their 20s nearly won the pennant in the Orioles' seventh season.
After sweeping a three-game series from the Yankees in Baltimore in early September to take a two-game lead, the Orioles went to New York two weeks later trailing by .001 when the four-game series started. They were swept, and left town four games behind.
"Even when we had bad teams, we played the Yankees to a standstill," Brooks Robinson said.
Indeed, from 1954 through 1982, the Orioles were 271-246 against New York, the only club with a winning record against the Yankees over that period.
In 1964, when the Orioles battled the Chicago White Sox and Yankees for the pennant into late September, the most memorable Baltimore-New York series featured a game that inspired advertising executive Bobby Goodman to write a song about it. Titled "That Yankee Game," it was part of Goodman's musical score, "Pennant Fever," devoted to the entire season.
The Orioles trailed the Yankees 7-2 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but rallied for seven runs and hung on for a 9-8 victory.
"I've still got that record," Powell said. "I played it about a year ago. Pretty neat. Cute."
The Orioles were in first place through Sept. 16, but the Yankees started an 11-game winning streak the next day and Baltimore never regained the lead. Despite winning seven of their last eight games, the Orioles dropped to third place, behind New York and Chicago.
"The Yankees should have been beaten that year," said Robinson, the AL's Most Valuable Player in 1964. "The race went down to the wire. It didn't help that we lost Boog for three weeks late in the season when he ran into the outfield wall and broke his wrist."
In 1977, the Orioles hung in the race until the final weekend, finishing tied for second with the Boston Red Sox behind New York. They had two big series against the Yankees, the first in May in New York when Eddie Murray drove in the game-winner in each of the Orioles' three wins in the four-game set.
The other was in July, in Baltimore. After losing the opener, ending their seven-game winning streak -- and also losing
catcher Rick Dempsey with a broken hand -- the Orioles captured three straight.
The series attracted 154,835 and the Orioles, who had won 10 of 11, moved into first place, at least for a while.
Three years later, the Orioles became the fifth club in history to win 100 games yet not finish first. There were two big series with New York, both in August.
The Orioles swept the first, a three-game set in New York, and won three out of five at Memorial Stadium in the second. Attendance for the confrontation in Baltimore was 249,605, largest for a five-game series in baseball history.
In late August they were a half game behind New York for a week, but never got that close again, finishing three games behind the Yankees.
The Orioles-Yankees rivalry has been spiced by trades, including a 17-player whopper in 1954 and a 10-player deal in 1976 that brought Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Dempsey and two others to Baltimore.
"Several of us were in [manager Earl] Weaver's office on the phone trying to convince Reggie to come to Baltimore," Robinson said. "He said, 'But I want more money.' "
What he wanted, Peters recalled, was $3 million for four years. Since Peters had just signed Jim Palmer for $550,000 for three years, he couldn't meet Jackson's price, but Jackson eventually relented and reported for a lot less than he had demanded.
After the season -- a good one for Jackson, with 25 home runs -- he was a free agent. Peters tried to sign him, but the Yankees' offer -- $3 million for three years -- knocked the Orioles out of the running.
"Reggie wanted New York, the bright lights, the media exposure. He was a marquee player," Peters said. "A few years later, Reggie said to me, 'Did you ever stop and think how many more pennants you would have won if you'd kept me?' "
Peters smiled ruefully at the player who was becoming the Yankees' Mr. October and said, "Oh, yes, I sure have."
Orioles-Yankees by the numbers
Number of hits given up by knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm in his 1958 no-hitter. Wilhelm also had one-hit and four-hit shutouts in 1959.
4-0: Advantage for Orioles in pennants won during 1965 to 1975.
17: Number of players in a trade with the Yankees engineered by Orioles manager/general manager Paul Richards, believed to be the largest in terms of number of players in baseball history.
271-246: The Orioles' record against the Yankees through 1982, making them the only club with a winning record against New York during that period.
66-113: The Orioles' record against the Yankees since then. The Orioles have won only one season series.
337-359: The Orioles' overall record against the Yankees, the best by a considerable margin among New York's opponents.
Pub Date: 10/13/96