- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tonight, at the Murphy Fine Arts Center on the campus of Morgan State University, Baltimore baseball fans will embrace a team that may be more important and cherished now than it was 40 years ago, when it gave the city its first World Series championship.

The 1966 World Series team will be honored with an anniversary celebration, presented by the Babe Ruth Museum, of that team’s stunning four-game sweep over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was the start of the golden years of baseball in Baltimore. From 1966 to 1983, the Orioles won six American League pennants and three World Series titles and only finished worse than third in the league or the division once.

As Baltimore baseball suffers through its ice age — nine straight losing seasons and counting — the proud history of the franchise is all Orioles fans have to care about, all there is left to cherish.

The names still are more recognizable to fans today than the ones on the 2006 Orioles roster. Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair, Andy Etchebarren, Jim Palmer and Luis Aparicio are among those scheduled to be in attendance to remind baseball fans in Baltimore of when they cheered their team and didn’t walk out of the ballpark in protest of it.

“It was a wonderful celebration in Baltimore when we won the 1966 Series,” Powell said. “The town partied, and it was something different, because it was a football town. It still is.”

It wasn’t, for a while, when the Colts left town in 1983 and the Orioles had it all to themselves. They squandered that opportunity and now play second fiddle again to football, this time to the Ravens. But tonight, in October, baseball in Baltimore will be celebrated again.

“We had a great bunch of guys,” said the manager of that team, Hank Bauer. “I thought we had a good chance to win it. When you have good players, you don’t have to manage. They manage themselves. When you have bad players, that’s when managers get fired.”

Bauer speaks from experience, fired in the middle of the 1968 season and replaced with Earl Weaver, who would preside over nearly all of the remainder of the golden years, save for the 1983 World Series championship team that won under Joe Altobelli.

Unfortunately, two very important figures in the success of that 1966 team won’t be on hand — Frank Robinson and the late Moe Drabowsky.

Museum officials said former Nationals manager Frank Robinson — who won the Triple Crown that year by leading the American League in home runs (49), RBI (122) and batting average (.316) was not going to be in attendance because of a scheduling conflict. But there was clearly a falling out between the Hall of Famer and the museum that everyone is reluctant to talk about. That’s a shame, because when you talk to nearly any member of that 1966 team, the first words out of their mouth are usually “we knew we would win when we got Frank,” or something along those lines, after Frank Robinson came to Baltimore in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds.

Powell: “When you go back to spring training, and when Frank showed up, I think we all felt then that it was going to happen, that nobody was going to beat us.”

Blair: “We felt that we were a pretty good team in 1966, and Frank Robinson sort of solidified the team and made us the team that we were. We didn’t fear anybody. We could play with anybody.”

Dick Hall: “When we saw Frank in spring training, we felt like we were on our way.”

The other key absentee is Drabowsky, who died in June of multiple myeloma at the age of 70.

Drabowsky was an integral part of the personality of that team, the legendary prankster who kept things loose with hot foots and firecrackers and snakes and anything he could find for a laugh.

“I was scared to death of snakes,” said Blair, who was on the receiving end of a number of Drabowsky’s snake pranks. “I stayed away from Moe most of the time because I knew you never knew what he might do, but the jokes were not done in a mean way. It was done for fun, the team had fun, and it kept us loose and ready to play.”

But what he did on the field was a big part of the Orioles World Series success in 1966, when he came into Game 1 of the series with one out and the bases loaded in the third inning to relieve a wild Dave McNally. Drabowsky gave up just one hit and no runs and struck out 11 batters in 62/3 innings, including six consecutive batters, a World Series record — Jim Barbieri, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Lou Johnson, Tommy Davis and Jim Lefebvre.

“That was bigger for us than anyone realized,” Etchebarren said. “I will tell you how important that was. We had a meeting with our scout, Jim Russo, before the series. He had been with the Dodgers scouting them for three weeks before the series. We met and went over how we were going to play these guys, how we were going to pitch them, and about two hours into the meeting, Hank Bauer says, ‘We don’t have a chance if these guys are this good. That’s the end of this meeting.’ So the next day in the first game McNally comes out wild, and Moe comes in and pounded down and away hard, and they never hit the ball.

“When that game was over, I went into Bauer’s office and said, ‘Hank, you know that meeting yesterday … Drabowsky just stayed hard and away all day long, and I think we should stay with that — hard and away until they show us they can hit the ball. Moe showed us how to beat these guys,’ ” Etchebarren said. “Hank said OK, and we stopped them after that and swept the series.”

It was the best of times, and shines even brighter in the worst of times.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide