1970 Orioles Stopped the Big Red Machine, Proving They Were a Great Team

Harold FriendChief Writer IOctober 20, 2011

Jim Palmer
Jim PalmerJim McIsaac/Getty Images

The 1970 Baltimore Orioles were one of the greatest teams of all time.

They won 108 games, finished 15 games ahead of the runner-up New York Yankees, swept the Minnesota Twins in the playoffs and beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

Manager Earl Weaver and pitching coach George Bamberger used starters Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar the way top starters should be used.

Palmer started 39 games while McNally and Cuellar each started 40 games.

How do you think that would go over today?

Palmer pitched 305 innings, was 20-10 and had a 2.71 ERA. McNally and Cuellar each won 24 games. The Orioles' pitching staff faced a total of 6,099 batters. The big three faced 3,688, or 68 percent of all batters the Birds faced.

Frank Robinson was the Orioles' only .300 hitter. Boog Powell led the offense with 35 home runs and 114 RBIs.

The Orioles were favored to beat the Reds in the World Series, but no one thought that it would be easy. Almost nothing was written proposing that Palmer, McNally or Cuellar might suffer because they had already pitched so many innings.

Johnny Bench led a potent Reds offense that also included Tony Perez, Lee May, Bobby Tolan and Pete Rose. Palmer and Weaver were quite familiar with Bench, who batted .293 with 45 home runs and 148 RBIs.

The year was 1967. Palmer was on the mound for the International League's Rochester Red Wings. The bases were loaded and the batter was a 19-year-old Palmer knew nothing about.

Earl Weaver, Rochester's manager, trotted out to give Palmer advice.

"Don't worry about this guy," Weaver told Palmer. "He's a ping-pong hitter. Just throw it down the middle."

Which is exactly what Palmer did, much to his chagrin. Johnny Bench hit a grand slam home run.

The Orioles had scored more runs during the season than the Reds (792 to 775), but the Reds hit more home runs (179 to 191) and had a higher team batting average (.270 to .257).

The Birds' Robinsons figured to be key players. The Reds had traded Frank to the Orioles because they considered him to be "an old 30." In 1970 he was considered to be "a young 35."

Brooks was the greatest defensive third baseman in baseball history. He confirmed that fact against the Reds in the Series.

Orioles' scout Jim Russo warned the pitching staff that they had to keep leadoff hitter Pete Rose and No. 2 batter Bobby Tolan off the bases in order to minimize the damage that Perez, Bench and company could inflict on them.

Championships are usually won by pitching. The Orioles had a big edge with their Big Three.

In 1970, Tony LaRussa was a .198-hitting shortstop for the Oakland A's. The emphasis was on starting pitching, not on having eight relief pitchers ready to enter the game as early as the fifth inning.

Palmer opened the Series against Reds' ace Gary Nolan. He worked eight and two-thirds innings in the Orioles' 4-3 win.

The Reds got rid of Cuellar after two and one-third innings in the second game, but the Birds' bullpen minimized the damage and the Orioles won, 6-5.

The teams moved to Memorial Stadium for the third game, in which McNally went the distance in a relatively tension-free 9-3 win.

Home runs from Pete Rose and Lee May blasted Palmer in the fourth game, but Cuellar restored order with a complete game victory to bring Baltimore the World Championship.



Palmer recalls one bench clout. (1970, Oct 09). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 61-61. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/117867938?accountid=46260