The Orioles’ 10 Most Memorable Games
September 6, 1995: The New Iron King
Before Cal Ripken Jr. first stepped onto a major league ballfield, there seemed to be no question that Lou Gehrig’s all-time record for playing in 2,130 straight games would last forever. But Ripken defied all the modern risks of playing every day and, 13 years after missing his last game, surpassed Gehrig’s fabled mark on a magical night in Baltimore that attracted numerous dignitaries (including President Clinton) and a national TV audience; the event gave baseball a desperate feel-good moment in the immediate wake of the brutal 1994-95 players’ strike. On the field, Ripken rose to the occasion; in the fourth inning—just a half-frame before the game became official, guaranteeing Ripken’s record—he launched a solo home run off California Angels starter Shawn Boskie to extend the Orioles’ lead to 3-1. When the game became official halfway through the fifth, Ripken broke into an impromptu lap around the field, slapping the hands of all teammates, opponents and fans within his reach. The Orioles won, 4-2, and Ripken’s streak would continue for another 501 games.
October 5, 1966: Moe Better Relief
In the first game of the World Series at Los Angeles, the Orioles took an early lead on the Dodgers, but starter Dave McNally was shaky—allowing two runs in the first two innings and then walking the bases loaded in the bottom of the third. In came Moe Drabowsky, who proceeded to provide the Orioles with, arguably, the best relief performance in postseason history. In 6.2 scoreless innings, Drabowsky gave up one hit, walked two and struck out 11 Dodgers—including six in a row over the fourth and fifth innings. The Dodgers never recovered from Drabowsky’s performance; they failed to score even a single run over the next three games and the Orioles finished the sweep for the first championship in franchise history.
October 1, 1944: The Browns Finally Celebrate
The St. Louis Browns, loaded up with 4F military rejects and taking advantage of a change in the majors’ balance of power as World War II pillaged other major league rosters, performed against type and clinched their only American League pennant before moving onto Baltimore with a memorable contest on the regular season’s final day.
Playing home at Sportsman’s Park before a sellout crowd—one of, literally, only a handful in the history of the Browns—St. Louis fell behind early to the New York Yankees (whose wartime roster bore little relation to the star-studded editions before and after the war), but Chet Laabs tied the game with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and hit another an inning later to give the Browns a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish. Vern Stephens added a late solo shot to cap the scoring, and starting pitcher Sid Jakucki—a veteran drinker who reportedly was locked away in his hotel room the night before out of fear he might escape to the bar—went the distance to wrap up the AL flag. The Browns would go on to lose to their Sportsman’s Park co-tenants, the St. Louis Cardinals, in a six-game World Series.
October 10, 1970: Hoover is Plugged In
In the first game of the 1970 World Series, Brooks Robinson set the tone for what the opposing Cincinnati Reds would be in store for in with his brilliant defense at third base and clutch pop in his bat. Though he made one inconsequential error early on, Robinson denied the Reds repeatedly throughout the game, most critically in the sixth when he somehow snared at a smash grounder hit down the line by Lee May; the Reds rallied afterward but failed to score. A half-inning later, Robinson tortured the Reds anew from the plate, launching a solo homer that proved to be the winning run in the Orioles’ 4-3 victory—setting the pace for a five-game Baltimore triumph.
April 29, 1988: Finally, a Win
The Orioles infamously began the season with a 21-game losing streak that’s the longest in AL history and would have made the worst St. Louis Brown teams cringe. For Baltimore fans, the pain gave way to therapeutic sarcasm as the team continued to lose, with one local radio disc jockey vowing, after loss number 11, not to leave the air until they won. He finally got his rest nearly two weeks later, as the Orioles came to Chicago and finally chalked up their first win of the year with a 9-0 rout before 40,000 Comiskey Park patrons hoping to see just how bad this team was.
Baltimore star hitters Ripken and Eddie Murray, embarrassed and desperate to end the slump, both homered and combined for five hits to lead the way offensively; starting pitcher Scott Williamson threw six shutout innings and the bullpen finished the job. The relief of finally winning was muted in the seventh when Ripken’s younger brother Billy was hit in the head from a pitch by John Davis and had to be carted off the field; he would return a few days later. The Orioles still waxed bemusement of the streak after the game, as Williamson laughed, “Maybe we won’t be a household name anymore.”
September 28, 1996: The Spit Felt ‘Round the World
The Orioles clinched a wild card spot on the regular season’s penultimate day at Toronto with a thrilling 10-inning, 3-2 affair, won with a solo home run from venerable All-Star shortstop Roberto Alomar—who, to umpires, was the problem. One night earlier, in the heat of arguing over a called strike three, Alomar spit in the face of home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. The umpiring crew received a double whammy of frustration the next day; a five-day suspension levied upon Alomar had itself been suspended indefinitely upon appeal, and an understandably irate Hirschbeck himself had to be physically restrained from entering the Baltimore locker room when he heard public comments from Alomar (in the midst of destroying his nice-guy persona) that Hirschbeck had grown “bitter” since the recent death of his son. But Alomar stayed in and helped put the Orioles over the top with his extra-innings solo shot; when he was allowed to continue play in the postseason without penalty, major league umpires threatened a boycott up to the 11th hour before being ordered back on the field by a Federal court.
October 16, 1983: A Breeze Over the Wheeze
The Orioles had lost their previous two World Series despite holding two-game leads at one point in each. Going into Game Five of the 1983 Fall Classic, the third time would prove to be the charm as the Orioles took a 3-1 game lead into Philadelphia against the aging “Wheeze Kids” Phillies and clinched their second world title with a 5-0 victory. On offense, Eddie Murray and catcher Rick Dempsey combined for all five hits (including three home runs, two by Murray) and four of the five runs; on the mound, Scott McGregor pitched a five-hit shutout and improved his career postseason ERA to 1.63 in six starts.
September 18, 1922: So Close, And Yet…
The Browns, who were unarguably at their mightiest in the 1922 season, hosted a critical three-game series late in September against New York, trailing the Yankees by a half-game in the AL race. After trading victories in the first two games, the all-important rubber affair before a rare large gathering at Sportsman’s Park looked to be headed to the Browns’ satisfaction, taking a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. But the Yankees scratched for a run off St. Louis starter Dixie Davis in the eighth, and they rallied to take the lead in the ninth on a two-run single from Whitey Witt—providing big-time payback for being struck by a bottle thrown from the stands in the series’ first game. New York starter Bullet Joe Bush nailed down the win by retiring the heart of the Browns’ order—including George Sisler, whose hitless day ended a then-AL record of hitting safely in 41 straight games.
August 19, 1951: The Legend of Eddie Gaedel
In the dying days of the St. Louis Browns before the move to Baltimore, maverick owner Bill Veeck—fresh from his short but successful stint running the Cleveland Indians—decided to give it a shot and apply his marketing genius to the moribund Browns. Veeck’s most memorable publicity stunt came in the second day of a doubleheader against Detroit when, leading off the bottom of the first inning, the Browns sent up 3’7”, 65-pound Eddie Gaedel. Umpire Ed Hurley immediately smelled a rat and wouldn’t allow the 26-year-old Gaedel to proceed, but the Browns promptly produced an official contract to prove his place on the team; Hurley grudgingly gave the okay and let Gaedel stand in.
Wearing number 1/8, Gaedel took four straight pitches from Tiger pitcher Bob Cain that missed the strike zone—which, because of Gaedel’s tiny frame, was microscopic—and took first base with the walk, being replaced by a pinch-runner. The Browns went on to lose both the game, 6-2, and the doubleheader; two days later, an incensed AL president Will Harridge tore up Gaedel’s contract and later tightened the rules on player transactions to avoid similar circus fare from occurring in the future.
May 6, 1953: A No-No for Bobo From the Get-Go
Bobo Holloman was a swaggering veteran of the minor leagues who finally got his chance to pitch in the majors in 1953 at age 30, and despite providing poor relief over the first three weeks of the season, he got a start on a wet night in St. Louis against the Philadelphia A’s because the team could no longer tolerate his endless complaining about not being in the rotation. To say Holloman made the most of his effort was the understatement of the year; he became the first (and still, only) major leaguer to fire a no-hitter in his first start, blanking the A’s 6-0 before 2,473 fans at St. Louis. Holloman, who walked five, was also a hit at the plate—wrapping out two singles and driving in three for his only hits and RBIs of his one-year big league career, which ended in mid-July when he couldn’t repeat the magic and was released with a 3-7 record and 5.23 earned run average.
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