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Orioles celebrate 50th anniversary of 1970 World Series title: ‘Our one goal was to win, period’

In the days after the Orioles' 1969 World Series loss to the Miracle Mets, the team flew back into Baltimore, where a crowd of what first baseman Boog Powell estimated was 5,000 fans greeted them. They wedged up against the fence, sticking their fingers through the openings to welcome back their defeated hometown team.

“I went over there and I touched as many hands as I could,” Powell recalled on a Zoom call Friday, “and I told them, ‘Just wait until next year.’”

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Powell and the Orioles delivered on that forecast, winning the 1970 World Series in five games over the Cincinnati Reds. The Orioles celebrated the 50th anniversary of that title during Friday’s game, with Powell delivering a prerecorded first pitch from his hometown of Key West, Florida, while the current team wore sleeve patches honoring one of Baltimore’s three World Series-winning teams.

The 1969 season, in which the New York Mets won the World Series over the Orioles in five games, marked the first of three straight American League pennants for Baltimore. Only 1970 produced a championship.

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“When I got to spring training the next year [in 1970], there weren’t any meetings where anybody came out and said, 'Hey, we got our butt kicked last year. Let’s go get ‘em, guys,’ and all that kind of stuff,” Powell said. “It was just an inner knowledge that all of us had and a feeling that we were going to make it right. There wasn’t a thing where we went public with it or anything else. We just knew what we were going to do.”

The 1970 Orioles had eight players appear on AL MVP ballots, with Powell winning the award, and third baseman Brooks Robinson, right fielder Frank Robinson and left-hander Mike Cuellar all finishing in the top 11 of voting. Cuellar, Jim Palmer and Dave McNally each won 20 games and ranked in the top five of AL Cy Young voting. Hall of Famer Earl Weaver managed the club.

Brooks Robinson won World Series MVP honors, hitting .429 in the series and continuing the sterling defense that earned him 16 Gold Gloves in his career. Both Powell, who played in left field behind Robinson early in his career, and Don Buford, who manned the position in 1970, noted how often Robinson’s defensive abilities left them with wasted efforts.

“I was like a fan sitting in the stands watching,” Buford said. “Balls hit down the line, I’d break to make sure I’d get there in time, and I knew I was running hard for no reason.”

Added Powell: “I’ve always maintained that if Brooks Robinson would’ve been playing in Yankee Stadium in New York, I think he could’ve run for president. He was that special. When I played behind him in left field, I can’t tell you how many times I broke to my right, thinking that I’ve got to really hustle, and don’t worry, he had it.”

For winning World Series MVP, Robinson received a Corvette. Powell joked the balls he picked out of the dirt at first base to save Robinson an error should’ve been worth half the car.

“He took 100 ground balls everyday, rain or shine,” Powell said. "No wonder he caught everything. If you saw that many ground balls, one of them is going to be like that one that I took before the game today or yesterday.

“I was privileged and it was an honor to be over there at first. I don’t really care who you were. He got you by one step. You were out, and that’s all there was to it.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Orioles intended to gather the 1970 team at Camden Yards to fully celebrate the semicentennial anniversary. Instead, such celebrations will have to wait.

In addition to Powell’s first pitch, the Orioles shared a video roundtable with Powell, Robinson, Palmer and Buford on the team’s YouTube page. Palmer also appeared on the game’s television and radio broadcasts.

But both Buford and Powell are looking forward to when the 1970 Orioles can reunite again, laughing at the end of the Zoom call about getting together for a fishing trip.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to communicate and get together again as a group,” Buford said. "We’re like family. We’d go on road trips. We’d go out to dinner together. It was never one guy by himself. It was usually a group of four or five or six guys and we’d go out to dinner, and on a day off, if we flew in the night before a ballgame, we ended up probably having hamburgers and playing poker in the room for half the night. It’s always nice to see the guys and know their families are well.

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Added Powell: “I always look forward to seeing my teammates. These guys are people that I went to war with. I went to battle with them. They’re my dearest friends, and I trust them explicitly. And I think we all feel the same way. When you play 162 games in 175 days, you get to know a lot of things about your teammates, and your teammates get to know a lot of things about you. Every relationship wasn’t exactly perfect, but our one goal regardless was to win, period.”

RAYS@ORIOLES

Tonight, 7:35

TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM

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