Orioles Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson talks about how special the 1966 World Series champion Orioles team was. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
They walk slower, squint more and often don't hear too well. But there's nothing wrong with the recollections of those 1966 Orioles who gathered at Camden Yards on Friday night in tribute to the team's first championship season.
Pitcher Dick Hall, 85, spoke of "the lesson we learned while celebrating having won the pennant: Drink the champagne and use the beer to squirt guys with, not the other way around." Jim Palmer, 70, recapped his 6-0 victory in Game 2 of the World Series over Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers, calling it "a big-boy moment" for a 20-year-old pitcher. And second baseman Dave Johnson, 73, remembered the monstrous check he received after the Orioles swept the Dodgers in four games.
"With that $11,700, I bought half of Florida," Johnson said.
Before their game Friday against the Los Angeles Angels, the Orioles honored their golden-anniversary team as 13 members of the 1966 club stepped onto the field to the cheers of the announced 44,317, who stood for the duration of the ceremony.
"It's making me feel like a kid again," Ted Rukowicz, 71, said. "Walking in and hearing that announcer's voice, you feel like you're at the game."
Rukowicz and Barry Fitzpatrick, 66, sat together on the third base side Friday. They reminisced about the 1966 World Series, how the Orioles beat Don Drysdale and Koufax in Los Angeles, then came home and finished the sweep. Rukowicz and Fitzpatrick met years ago as teachers at Mount Saint Joseph, after Fitzpatrick grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., rooting for the hometown Dodgers.
Rukowicz was a student at then-Loyola College in 1966 and listened to the games on the radio. Fitzpatrick was studying theology at a school in southern Maryland, and a teacher pulled the students out of class to watch the afternoon World Series games. In the ninth inning of Game 4, when the Orioles' Paul Blair caught Lou Johnson's fly ball to end the game and series, Fitzpatrick turned around to see his teacher grinning from ear to ear.
"I never saw that guy that happy in my life," Fitzpatrick said. "He was beside himself."
Memories of Memorial Stadium were deep in the minds of many fans Friday night. Growing up in Pikesville, Stuart Moffett went to seven or eight games with his father in 1966. One was on a Saturday, Oct. 8, when Wally Bunker shut out the Dodgers to win Game 3 of the World Series. Moffett, then 11, saved his scorecard and ticket and remembers everything about that day — the pitcher, the weather, his seats in the upper deck. He once saw Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle play, but even that doesn't resonate as much as the World Series game. Moffett watched on TV as the Orioles clinched a championship the next day.
"Going back to school that Monday, I don't think anybody wanted to go back," he recalled.
That win gave Baltimore its first World Series title, a landmark in the history of baseball in the city.
Orioles legend Davey Johnson talks about being the last batter to get a hit off of Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
"All day I've been hearing, 'Thanks for the memories,' " first baseman Boog Powell said. "I told fans: 'Thanks for remembering, because if you didn't remember, it wouldn't count.' "
The players cling to their own reminiscences. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in spring training, catcher Vic Roznovsky sidled up to Johnson in the Orioles clubhouse. "I told him, 'I'm new here and haven't been following this team. What kind of club do we have?' " said Roznovsky, 77. "Davey looked at me kind of funny and said, 'We're going to win it all.' I was so amazed, I couldn't speak."
Eddie Watt, 74, flashed back to that year's Opening Day. A rookie pitcher, Watt never had set foot in a big league stadium before that day in Fenway Park.
Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer talks about how special Orioles fans are and how he consider himself "the Donald Trump of broadcast, as long as you don't fact-check me." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Watt and Eddie Fisher, whom the Orioles pried midseason from the Chicago White Sox, manned the bullpen, along with Hall, prankster Moe Drabowsky and Stu Miller. They met the challenge, Fisher said, because the club's 23 complete games ranked ninth in the 10-team American League.
"Bauer could hardly make a mistake as to who he brought in, and Miller was the closer," said Fisher, 79. "Stu stayed in the clubhouse and worked crossword puzzles until the seventh inning, when he'd come out to the 'pen."
All, it seemed, had a Frank Robinson story to tell. In his first year in Baltimore, Robinson won the Triple Crown and was named Most Valuable Player of both the AL and World Series.
"Frank arrived in training camp during an intrasquad game," Johnson said. "Hank asked, 'Do you want to bat?' Frank said, 'Sure,' put on a uniform and, without any batting practice, hit a home run off Dick Hall."
Did those Orioles realize how good they were?
"I think so," Brooks Robinson said. "Remember, this was a football town. The Colts had won world championships in 1958 and '59. But in 1966, I think we made inroads."
Now 79, Robinson concedes that the past gets fuzzy at times. When watching Orioles games, the Hall of Fame third baseman said, he'll see Manny Machado make a great play and think: 'Did I ever make plays like that?' "