'83 Orioles bring hope to fans 40 years later - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

’83 Orioles bring hope to fans 40 years later

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

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It’s inevitable that this weekend the returning members of the Orioles’ last World Series championship team will be asked to compare their team with the current one.

Forty years after the 1983 group beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games, the 2023 team, which won three of four games in Toronto this week, is starting to draw comparisons with that storied bunch.

Other than both teams having excellent players, there really aren’t many comparisons to be made.

This year’s Orioles are much younger. At 27.3 years, they’re nearly 2 ½ years younger than the 1983 team, which averaged 29.7 years.

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Many of those players had been together for several years and had lost the 1979 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Many of these players were on a team that lost 110 games two years ago.

The youngest position player on both teams was a shortstop. Gunnar Henderson just turned 22, and Cal Ripken Jr. was 23.

Ripken, Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer, and most of the living members from 1983 will return this weekend. There will be a few missing.

John Lowenstein, the quirky leftfielder, hasn’t been heard from in years, and second baseman Rich Dauer has been in ill health. Mike Flanagan tragically took his own life in 2011, and third baseman Todd Cruz and reliever Sammy Stewart also have died.

The MVP of that World Series team Rick Dempsey, will be back, and so will fan favorite Scott McGregor, who shut out the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth and final game in ’83.

Familiar names Mike Boddicker, Al Bumbry, Storm Davis, Tippy Martinez, Gary Roenicke, John Shelby and Ken Singleton will be on hand.

Some names familiar only to the hardcore will return, too: “Disco” Dan Ford, Glenn Gulliver, Tito Landrum, whose home run in Chicago won the American League pennant for the Orioles, and Lenn Sakata, who caught for only one inning in his major league career on the night Martinez picked off three Toronto Blue Jays.

Even some bit players on the team are coming this weekend. Pitchers Dan Morogiello, Allan Ramierz and Bill Swaggerty, who lives in Carroll County. Catcher John Stefero from Odenton is coming, too.

For years, any talk of the 1983 team was accompanied by some sighs, knowing that the current Orioles had no chance to play in the postseason, but this time it’s different.

Many members of that team remained in Baltimore after their careers ended and were happy to reminisce about the happy times with fans.

Many of this year’s Orioles are new to Baltimore and were born a generation after 1983.

The manager of that 1983 team, Joe Altobelli, has died. He wasn’t given the credit he deserved for managing what was incorrectly perceived as Earl Weaver’s team. Weaver retired at the end of the 1982 season, the day the Orioles lost the American League East to Milwaukee.

To fans who weren’t alive 40 years ago, Weaver is characterized by the kind of dirt-kicking arguments made largely obsolete by replay, and they wrongly sum up his managing style as waiting for the three-run homer.

In fact, Weaver was years ahead of his time. He moved Ripken, his best player, to shortstop, a move that was revolutionary at the time, and he understood the principles of analytics before there was such a thing.

He would ask his public relations director, the late Bob Brown, to give him the averages of individual hitters versus pitchers on index cards when that sort of thinking was unique and while he loved home runs, Weaver loved excellent pitching even more.

By 1983, Weaver was in the ABC Television booth, analyzing his old team’s play before returning for an ill-fated final stint in 1985 and 1986.

Most of those Orioles were nearing the end of their career, though Murray and Ripken played for many more years.

Most of these Orioles are just getting started.

This weekend’s opponent is the New York Mets, featuring Buck Showalter, who’ll manage at Oriole Park for the first time since 2018. Showalter adored Weaver and stories about the great Orioles teams, and he managed the Orioles longer than anyone but Weaver.

The 1983 World Series began at Memorial Stadium, and it’s a shame that the wonderful 31-year-old ballpark the Orioles now play in hasn’t hosted a World Series.

This could be the year that the World Series returns to Baltimore, and then years from now, Henderson, Adley Rutschman, Félix Bautista, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and heroes still to be discovered can talk about those fun times they had back in 2023.

Notes: Anthony Santander was named the Orioles’ winner of the Heart and Hustle award. … Mychal Givens pitched two scoreless innings for Triple-A Norfolk in his rehab assignment. Keegan Akin pitched a scoreless inning in his rehab assignment.

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