It's hard to pinpoint one pivotal moment in the Orioles' 1983 postseason run, because so many players contributed. But in conversations with members of the team, one name came up over and over. Mike Boddicker, they said, put them over the top.
Boddicker had already filled in brilliantly for Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan by the time the Orioles reached their American League Championship Series showdown with the Chicago White Sox. But he had never faced a situation as pressurized as the one that greeted him in Game 2.
In the opener of that best-of-five series, La Marr Hoyt shut down the Orioles for a 2-1 victory over Scott McGregor. A loss the next day would probably have been fatal to the Orioles' championship hopes. What a spot for a rookie. And Boddicker's opponent, Floyd Bannister, was no pushover.
Boddicker had absolute confidence, however, in his changeup and curveball. He could, in Jim Palmer's words, seemingly walk the curve to the plate and place it where he wanted. That made him a rare threat to power hitters such as Harold Baines, Ron Kittle and Greg Luzinski.
Boddicker pitched a masterpiece that October evening, allowing only five hits and striking out an ALCS-record 14 batters. His shutout, backed by a two-run homer from Gary Roenicke, put the Orioles right back in the thick of the series. They would win the next two to avoid facing Hoyt again.
The Orioles regarded the White Sox as a bigger test than either potential World Series opponent, so in that sense, the pivotal game in the ALCS was the pivotal game of the postseason.
Amazingly, Boddicker pitched nearly as well in the second game of the World Series after the Orioles lost the opener to the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He was the guy that put us over the hump," Rick Dempsey said.
Given that Dempsey won the World Series Most Valuable Player award, his endorsement of Boddicker is enough for me.