I brag about this stat for anyone who will listen in Illinois. Forget the troubles of the last 15 years and think back to the time when the Orioles were the envy of all baseball.
Here’s the brief look at the American League playoff series that began in the Major Leagues in 1969. The Orioles played in the first three series.
1969: Three game sweep of the Twins
1970: Three game sweep of the Twins
1971: Three game sweep of the A’s
1973: Took game one of the series over Oakland.
Now that’s domination. That doesn’t mean the O’s won every game by the 10-run rule. There were a number of tense games.
Like that first game in which they out-hit the Twins 10-4 but had to go 12 innings to top the Twins on a Paul Blair bunt. The O’s won the first game in AL playoff history 4-3. Game two was a 1-0 nail biter that had winner Dave McNally pitch 11 shutout innings. A pinch-hit single by Curt Motton won this game over Dave Boswell.
The following season a pair of seven-run innings made things a little easier. That seven-run frame in game one came in the fourth inning. That’s when pitcher Mike Cuellar hammered a grand slam homer. Every Orioles batter had at least one hit in the 10-6 win.
In the next game, Baltimore waited until the ninth before scoring seven times. The O’s held on to a 4-3 lead entering the ninth. There was a two-run double from Boog Powell and a two-run homer from Dave Johnson.
The three-game sweep of Vida Blue and Oakland did not start well in 1971. Oakland led 3-0 into the middle innings. Powell’s single drove in a run but it was still 3-1 entering the seventh. The bottom of the order helped out here. Mark Belanger’s hit scored a run and then Motton checked in with another pinch-hit. This time it was a double and this game was knotted at 3-3. Blair’s two-run double put McNally and the O’s up front to stay. It was a 5-3 final.
In game two, the Orioles nursed a 2-1 lead behind Cuellar to the seventh. That’s when Ellie Hendricks reached Catfish Hunter for a solo homer. Boog Powell would add another homer in the 5-1 win.
In game three, Jim Palmer allowed three solo homers, two to Reggie Jackson. The patient Orioles took advantage of seven walks and completed the sweep in Oakland, 5-3.
That’s the first three American League playoff series and the Orioles held a 9-0 mark. Now that’s impressive.
Baltimore returned to playoff action in 1973. By this time, the A’s were ready to begin their World Series runs. But first Oakland had to get by the Birds. Game one was the battle between Blue and Palmer. Blue did not get out of the first inning. Merv Rettenmund batted twice in the frame. It was 4-0 Baltimore after one. Palmer breezed 6-0. He walked five and struck out 12 A’s. After the O’s struck for four runs, he walked the speedy Bert Campaneris and watched him steal second base. And then Palmer struck out Sal Bando, Jackson and Deron Johnson in order.
Ten straight American League playoff wins. Now that’s the Orioles I remember.