Calling the Pen: One fan's Top 10 Oriole memories - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Calling the Pen: One fan’s Top 10 Oriole memories

While there may not have been many memorable moments over the past few seasons for Orioles fans, there certainly have been many since they arrived in Baltimore in 1954. During the Covid-19 quarantine, this longtime Orioles fan has searched his memory bank to come up with his Top 10 memories while peering through orange-colored glasses.

10. Paul Blair. Do I need to say more? Just hearing the name brings back memories of the dozens of spectacular catches he made in his Orioles career. I can’t recall a ball ever dropping in for a hit with Blair nearby. He caught everything, as his eight Gold Gloves attest. With all due respect to Mays, DiMaggio and Griffey, Blair was the best centerfielder I ever saw. P.S. If I had a number 11 on this list, it would go to Mark Belanger for his similar superior defensive prowess playing shortstop for the Orioles for 17 seasons. He also won eight Gold Gloves. Other than Ozzie Smith, he’s the best defensive shortstop of all time.

9. Eddie Murray. Steady Eddie. He never won an MVP but finished in the top 10 seven times. He was a Gold Glove defender at first base, hit for average, hit for power and, most importantly, hit in the clutch. His 1,917 career RBIs rank 11th all time. He was also a quiet leader. When Cal thanked three people after breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak, Eddie was one of the three. Enough said.

8. Frank Robinson and his 1966 Triple Crown season. I guess it would be appropriate to list Cal here, but you will find him higher on the list. So, we’ll go with number 20’s best season. Only 15 players have won the Triple Crown and FRobby was one of them. His trade to the Orioles in 1966 turned the franchise around as he led them through their most glorious years.

From 1966-1971, the Orioles made it to the World Series four times, winning twice. His 1966 season was magical as he led the Orioles to their first World Series title. He hit .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBIs. These stats were compiled during the era of dominant pitching. Has any player ever made a more indelible imprint on a franchise while only playing there for six seasons? Thanks for the memories, Frank, especially the 1966 season.

7. Rick Dempsey in the rain. Do yourself a favor, go to YouTube and search for Rick Dempsey rain delays. He was one of a kind. A hard-nosed and defensive-oriented player with a great sense of humor. Thanks for making baseball fun, Rick.

6. The Earl of Baltimore. Since you’re already on YouTube, stay there and search for Earl Weaver baseball arguments. One of the many downsides to instant replay is you no longer get to witness managers arguing with umpires. Earl was ejected from 91 games, all of which were probably well earned. His diminutive size combined with his blood vessel-popping screaming, his dirt kicking and his turning his hat around so he could get closer to the umpires’ faces were a thing of beauty. Weaver was the best with Billy Martin and Lou Piniella running a close second and third.

5. The 1983 World Series team. The ’83 squad was the last Oriole team to win the World Series — a long 37 years ago. The Phillies, with their future Hall of Fame-laden roster — Mike Schmidt, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Steve Carlton and Pete Rose, who should be in the Hall — had some huge names. The Orioles had their own future Hall of Famers — Murray, Ripken and Jim Palmer — along with Oriole greats Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Mike Boddicker and Tippy Martinez, plus a host of role/platoon players. After losing the first game, they won four in a row with Dempsey winning the World Series MVP.

4. 1970 World Series team. This World Series is also remembered as The Brooks Robinson World Series because he was outstanding in the field, especially, and at the plate. He hit .429 with two home runs,  but saved as many runs with his glove with one highlight play after another. The Orioles defeated the favored Big Red Machine in five games. Although the 1970 team was the only one to win the World Series during a dominant three-year stretch, the 1969-1971 Oriole teams were one of the best in MLB history. Led by Frank, Brooks and Boog, and stellar starting pitching (Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar), they won 318 regular-season games during those three seasons.

3. 1966 World Series team. The Orioles were huge underdogs to win the Series because the Los Angeles Dodgers had the fabulous pitching duo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The Orioles shocked baseball by sweeping the Dodgers and shutting them out in Games 2, 3 and 4, the last two 1-0 decisions. Talk about dominant pitching! One of my favorite childhood memories was Game 1 in Los Angeles. In the first inning Frank and Brooks hit back-to-back home runs to put the O’s up, 3-0. I remember running outside to tell all of my friends, but growing up in Massachusetts I was the only Orioles nut running around the neighborhood.

2. September 6, 1995. Cal breaks Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, setting the new mark of 2,131 consecutive games (which would eventually be extended to 2,632 games). I saw the game again several weeks ago on ESPN and still got goosebumps watching him break the record (he hit a HR earlier in the game, too) and doing his lap around Camden Yards. It included a 22-minute standing ovation that included his teammates and the visiting Angels. It was a magical night for those who were there.

1. May 3, 1966. OK, this one is personal, because it was the first major league baseball game I ever attended. I still have the game program (four Hall of Famers played in the game — Frank, Brooks, Palmer and Luis Aparicio). We were on a family vacation in Washington D.C., and my dad took my brother and me to D.C. Stadium to watch the Orioles play the Senators.

Even though the Orioles lost, 3-0 (Phil Ortega threw a shutout and Frank Howard hit a home run), it was still a thrill. I am dating myself with this next comment but until that point in my life, I had never seen an MLB baseball game on color TV, so I was amazed at how green the grass was when I walked up the ramp into the stadium. It’s an image forever etched in my mind.

I’m sure many Orioles fans will have a different Top 10, but these are mine. I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

Greg Fuchs grew up in Massachusetts but has been a die-hard Orioles fan since 1966. He was also a Baltimore Colts fan (until they moved to Indy). He works as a business broker in Coral Springs, Florida, where he resides with his wife, Christine, and daughter Kelly.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

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