BALTIMORE—It’s been 50 years since the Orioles won their first World Series, and on Friday night, the 1966 champions were honored at Oriole Park.
Many of the key players from the team were honored. There were big names: Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Boog Powell, and some lesser known ones, too. Twelve players and a coach were introduced.
“It was a special time for all of us,” Palmer said on Friday.
“In ’66 we had the best team, that’s all,” Robinson said. “It was big. It was the dream come true for me, and for these guys, too.”
Frank Robinson, who was not present, was considered the missing piece of a potential World Series team. The Orioles beat the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers in four straight games.
“As soon as you saw Frank, you knew this was a team that could win,” pitcher John Miller said.
Miller, who was a native Baltimorean, is truly a lifelong Orioles fan. He was 12 years old when the Orioles moved from St. Louis to Baltimore, and still lives in the area.
“I was lucky to be on that team,” Miller said.
An injury to Miller, who played parts of five seasons with the Orioles, opened the way for Palmer to make the starting rotation.
Palmer won the second game of the 1966 World Series, becoming the youngest pitcher to throw a shutout in the World Series.
He beat the great Sandy Koufax in his final game.
Koufax started the second game of the World Series instead of the first game because he was observing Yom Kippur, longtime third base coach Billy Hunter remembered.
The 87-year-old Hunter said if the Orioles had faced Koufax in the first game instead of Don Drysdale, the Series might have turned out differently.
In the four game sweep, the Orioles used just 13 of their 25 players and got three complete games.
Some key members of the team have died: Paul Blair, Curt Blefary, Moe Drabowsky and Dave McNally. Catcher Andy Etchebarren recently had back surgery and couldn't attend. Pitcher Wally Bunker, who pitched a complete game six-hit shutout in Game 3, has health issues, too and couldn’t be there, either.
Infielder Bob Johnson was in a nursing home recently for neurological issues, and he used the reunion as an incentive.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to come out of the home,” Johnson said.
Davey Johnson was back, too. Johnson, who played six seasons for the Orioles, and later managed them for two, thinks of himself as an Oriole even though he managed four other teams, including the Nationals.
“I thought I might stay a little longer, but it didn’t pan out,” Johnson said of his time in Baltimore.
Palmer, Powell and Robinson have all stayed in the area. Powell gets to interact with fans each game when he sells his “Boog’s Barbecue” on Eutaw Street.
Of course, they received the biggest ovations when they were introduced to the crowd and threw out first balls to Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman.
Palmer, Powell and Robinson all played in four World Series—winning in 1966 and 1970, but losing in 1969 and 1971.
“You’ve got to win in this game. You can’t second best. We won a lot of games,” Robinson said.
It’s been a long time for Robinson.
“Sometimes, honest to God, I don’t remember playing,” Robinson said.
“When I see Machado make a great play, I say, ‘man did I ever do that?’ I know I did, but I just don’t think about it. It just goes by like that.”
As an Orioles broadcaster, Palmer knows that comparisons between his time and today are part of the fun.
“I watch Manny, and he makes all the plays. What did Brooks do? He made all the plays,” Palmer said.
For Powell, the memories are vivid.
“It’s like snapping your fingers. It seemed like it happened right now. It’s all still real,” Powell said. “It was like living in fantasy land. After it went so fast, what do we do now?”
It was a great time. The Baltimore Colts were one of the best teams in the NFL, and people here loved winners.
“You could go to any restaurant, any bar. You could go anywhere in town. You go to sit down, somebody will buy you dinner. This is a great town for that,” Powell said.
At 79, Robinson knows this reunion is special.
“This will be the last time I’ll see a lot of these guys,” Robinson said.
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