We can only hope the 2012 Orioles stay hot and bring us hungry fans some post-season fun.
On May 30, 1979 the Orioles were in first place by 2.5 games over the Red Sox. The record was solid enough at 30-18.
And then June clicked in on the baseball calendar. The Orioles would lose two of three games to Texas. And then the Birds became roasting hot. They would win 14 of the next 15 games. One home doubleheader stood out on June 23. The Tigers were in town. And Detroit showed lefty Scott McGregor little respect as the Tigers took a 6-1 lead to the fifth inning at old Memorial Stadium.
A rare Billy Smith homer got Baltimore started but the Orioles were still a run down heading to the ninth. John Hiller came in for the save. Al Bumbry and Ken Singleton earned walks with one out. And Eddie Murray won the game with a three-run homer.
Jim Palmer started the nightcap. Again Detroit surged ahead and took a 3-1 lead to the middle innings. Kiko Garcia homered and Bumbry doubled to knot this game up at 3-3. The Tigers stretched the lead to 5-3 in the seventh. Again Baltimore answered. Ken Singleton’s two-run single tied it up and Terry Crowley’s RBI hit in the eighth won it.
Winning 23 of 29 games in June was certainly impressive. The month’s winning streaks included runs of six games and nine games. The Birds were home on June 29. The guests were the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays trailed Baltimore by 29.5 games. Baltimore had the best record in baseball and would be greeted by the pitching debut of Dave Stieb. It was not a winning performance from Stieb as O’s second baseman Rich Dauer delivered a two-run single in the second.
Back to back homers from Doug DeCinces and Lee May chased Stieb after six innings. McGregor won his second game of the season, 6-1. In game two, the O’s had a very strong pitching performance from future Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone. The right-hander allowed three singles and one Rico Carty double in eight innings of work. He was rewarded with his fifth win of the year, 4-0. Pat Kelly and John Lowenstein homered in the win.
The last game of June finished the three-game series with Toronto. Mike Flanagan, who would win the Cy Young Award that season, stopped the Jays 2-0. Singleton homered in the win.
At the end of this terrific month, Singleton was top five in the league in walks, homers and on-base percentage. The pitching was leading the way. Both Flanagan and Dennis Martinez had 10 wins each. Don Stanhouse was in the top five in saves.
Yes, we can count this 1979 club as one of the best teams the O’s have ever fielded. It’s a club that fell one game short of being a World Series champion. And it clearly was one of the most exciting clubs ever to come out of Baltimore.