The expansion Kansas City Royals of 1969 had a few familiar names on the team. Future Orioles outfielder Pat Kelly was the leadoff hitter on the night of May 9, 1969. The O’s were at home that evening. And of all things, the great Dick Hall was bombed out in the ninth inning as the Orioles dropped a 4-2 decision to the Royals.
No big deal. Oh we did waste a two-run double from Boog Powell and strong pitching effort from starter Tom Phoebus.
The next night we scored a run in the bottom of ninth to even the series at 1-1.
And the winning didn’t stop there. The Baltimore Orioles would play the Royals 22 more times in the next two years and complete play during the 1970 season. Baltimore did not lose a single game to Kansas City in that stretch.
A 23-game winning streak? Yes, it’s true. And it’s not like the O’s ran up the score on the young Royals. There were plenty of tight games. Like on August 6th of year one. That’s when KC left-hander Jim Rooker battled Mike Cuellar in a contest where runs were scarce.
Lou Pinella led off the fourth inning for the Royals with a triple off of Cuellar. One balk later, he was home with the game’s first run. And the threat wasn’t over. Two runners were on for catcher Ellie Rodriguez. And he hit the ball to the wrong man. Brooks Robinson turned the bouncer into a triple play.
That slim lead lasted until the eighth. That’s when pinch-hitter Curt Motton slammed a two-run homer to win this game 2-1.
So after the disappointment of the 1969 World Series, the Birds took a 12-game winning streak to Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium on April 24. The Royals, evidently embarrassed by all the losing, chased Cuellar with back to back homers by Amos Otis and Bob Oliver. The Royals took a 5-4 lead to the seventh.
And then the O’s answered back with their rendition of consecutive dingers. Those homers came off the bats of Frank Robinson and Boog Powell. The O’s added an insurance run in the ninth on a Powell double. Baltimore won its 13th game in a row over KC, 7-5.
Two days later, Baltimore looked to complete another three-game sweep. And it sure looked good after the first inning when Baltimore batted around and scored five times. And wouldn’t you know it, veteran Dave McNally didn’t survive the first inning.
It was a game in which Frank Robinson was thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes. Kansas City looked in good shape. The Royals led 9-7 heading to the eighth inning. That’s when Don Buford cracked a three-run homer that won this game, 10-9.
The winning streak was now 15 games.
The two teams met again in early May. Looking to complete another three-game run, Cuellar took the mound on May 7 at home.
The lefty didn’t report back in the fifth inning. This game went to the ninth inning with KC leading, 6-4.
The Royals handed the ball to our old World Series hero from 1966. Moe Drabowsky had to get three outs to break the streak.
He got one out. He walked a pair of batters. And Frank Robinson slammed a game-winning three-run blast for the 7-6 win.
In the next meeting of these clubs in late July, all three games were of the one-run variety. Terry Crowley’s ninth-inning single won game one, 2-1. The game on July 22 went a full 13 innings. Chico Salmon’s bunt single won it, 4-3. In the series finale, the Birds prevailed 5-4.
The 23rd victory in a row came on Aug. 2nd. And Baltimore again batted around and put a five-spot on the board in the first inning. KC fought back but fell again, 10-8.
The next season, 1971, the O’s won 6 of 11 meetings with KC and this magic streak had soon been forgotten.