FRANK ROBINSON hits it out of Memorial Stadium
They did it again. My attempt to exorcise the demons nesting in the Orioles bullpen by writing about how historically bad they are a few days ago obviously did not work.
My favorite Baltimore pitcher – 6’9″ fireballer Daniel Cabrera struck out eight Tampa Bay Devil Rays in six innings and turned over a 6-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning. I don’t even want to talk about what happened in the eighth, but it involved fifteen hitters coming to the plate before three made out, and eleven runs for the visitors on the scoreboard. Less than an hour later, the Orioles losing streak grew to seven in a row, and the relief corps’ Earned Run Average during those games was a collective -brace yourselves- 22.29!?!?!?!
But we’re not going to talk about that.
No, let’s journey instead back to May 8, 1966, one of those unforgettable days in Orioles history.
The best two teams in baseball met for a Sunday doubleheader at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Cleveland Indians came to town with a 14-1 record, split the Friday and Saturday contests with the Orioles, and needed to win the series finale to retain sole possession of first place after 21-year-old right-hander Jim Palmer won Sunday’s matinee with a three-hitter to improve Baltimore’s record to 14-4. Frankly, you had to like the Indians chances, because their pitcher -Cuban righty Luis Tiant- had pitched complete game shutouts in all three of his starts so far in 1966.
A record crowd was on hand, thanks to 11,858 youngsters admitted for free, and there were about to see something that only happened once in the 38 years that the Orioles played at Memorial Stadium.
Baltimore’s Wally Bunker made short work of the Indians in a three up, three down top of the first, and Luis Aparicio led off the Orioles half with a single up the middle. Tiant’s wild pitch allowed Little Louie to take second, and he advanced to third on Russ Snyder’s groundout.
Thirty-year-old Frank Robinson stepped into the right-handed batters’ box, playing just his nineteenth game in an Orioles uniform after coming over in a winter trade. Robinson was batting .379, good for second in the league, but none of his hits delivered the impact of the one he was about to stroke.
Robinson crushed a pitch from Tiant down the left field line, some 451 feet from home plate, clear over the bleachers and out of Memorial Stadium on the fly. By the time the ball stopped rolling, it had travelled 540 feet.
Robinson circled the bases to give Baltimore a 2-0 lead, which swelled by another run before the inning was over against the previously unblemished Tiant. The fans gave Robinson, who’d also homered in the first game, a prolonged standing ovation as he jogged to his position in right field at the start of the second inning. Nobody else would ever hit a ball completely out of Memorial Stadium. By the end of the day, Robinson had two more hits to raise his average to .406, and the Orioles won 8-3 to sweep the twinbill and moved into a tie for first place.
Cleveland played under .500 the rest of the way and finished in fifth place. On the other hand, the Orioles -led by American League Most Valuable Player & Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson- romped to their first pennant and a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series.
By MALCOLM ALLEN