The reasons why the Orioles won

Oct. 24, 1966
Oct. 24, 1966

Table of Contents
Oct. 24, 1966

The Tide
Wild Cards
Pro Basketball
College Football
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

The reasons why the Orioles won

A large share of the credit goes to a scouting report that said flatly, 'The Dodgers can't hit fast balls'

Four months from now Warren Giles, the president of the National League, will go to his hall closet, take out his brown-and-white saddle shoes, his mahogany walking stick, his handy gallon-size decanter of Sea & Ski suntan lotion and head south from Cincinnati toward spring training. Along the way Warren will leave a trail of headlines like GILES FORECASTS 10 TEAM TIE IN SENIOR CIRCUIT Or GILES FORESEES NEW STADIUMS IN PITTSBURGH, PHILADELPHIA, CINCINNATI AND CHICAGO Or LOOP PREXY EXPECTS NL GATE TO SOAR TO 16 MILLION IN '67. In many places, however, people are going to stop Mr. Giles and ask an embarrassing question. "Warren, bay-bee," they will ask, "what happened to the Dodgers in the Series—was they pushed or did they jump?"

This is an article from the Oct. 24, 1966 issue Original Layout

If Warren stays in the role of league president, he will answer, "Wait till next year," but if he wants to be candid he will admit that the National League's champions were plainly and simply overmatched. By winning the way they did, the Baltimore Orioles gave the American League its biggest lift in years and showed many people for the first time some of the young stars the American League has been developing over the last two seasons. While negative statistics were being spouted left and right in the 63rd World Series, two very positive ones were being overlooked: the Orioles used only 13 men, and their average age was only 25.8, compared to 28.4 for the players the Dodgers used.

Arguing the merits of one league against another is, of course, one of the great conversation pieces of American sport, yet until the Orioles brushed the Dodgers aside with what looked like the back of a hand, American League fans have had little material to argue with. Because the National League had won six of the past nine World Series as well as nine of the past 12 All-Star games (one was a tie), American League fans, and particularly non-Yankee American League fans, have had to take a great deal of abuse from National Leaguers.

But this year 31 rookies won regular jobs on American League teams, compared to 20 in the National, and young players are, more and more, beginning to dominate. Until the current wave of youth started arriving in 1963 there is no doubt that the American League was inferior. But Minnesota gave the National League champions a hard fight last year in the Series, and this time around Baltimore had only once to use its strongest weapon, the bullpen, to rub the Dodgers out.

Still, with all respect to the vigor of youth, a very large measure of Baltimore's success must be credited to two older players—Frank and Brooks Robinson—and one old (in terms of service) front-office man, Jim Russo. Russo is a black-haired, 44-year-old scout who wears horn-rimmed glasses and neatly cut clothes, and he is the last St. Louis Brown still employed in the Baltimore office.

Since 1961 Russo had been after the Orioles to make a trade with Cincinnati for Frank Robinson, even though Robinson, for most of that time, was regarded as an "untouchable." His persistent interest eventually bore fruit. On the evening of December 1, 1965 in the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Jimmy McLaughlin, the farm director of the Cincinnati Reds, approached Russo, handed him a slip of paper and said, "Frank Robinson for that." Russo looked at the paper. On it were three names: Pappas, Baldschun and Blefary. Milt Pappas was Baltimore's best starting pitcher, and Jack Baldschun was a veteran reliever just obtained by the Orioles from the Philadelphia Phils. Curt Blefary, a young outfielder, was the American League's Rookie of the Year. Russo looked at Blefary's name and sighed. "I don't think it is possible that we will give up Blefary," he said, but he took the message to the club. The Oriole front office talked about the deal all night, but they would not trade Blefary, even if it meant passing up Frank Robinson. Russo so reported to McLaughlin.

The next day the Orioles traded First Baseman Norm Siebern to the California Angels for Dick Simpson, an untested 22-year-old outfielder with great speed and potential. On Saturday, December 4, the day the major league meetings ended, Russo got on an airplane bound for his home in St. Louis and sat next to Herk Robinson, McLaughlin's assistant at Cincinnati. "I just felt like relaxing with a couple of drinks," says Russo. "We got to talking, and Herk asked if we would be interested in trading Pappas, Baldschun and Simpson for Frank Robinson. I told Herk to call Bill DeWitt from the airport in St. Louis to see if he would make the trade, and if he would to call Lee MacPhail." On December 9 the deal was completed, and the Orioles got Frank Robinson in one of the greatest testimonies ever to drinking while flying.

During the first week of September this season, Russo went on the road to scout the Dodgers for the Series. Although Los Angeles was in third place at the time, Harry Dalton, Lee MacPhail's successor, assumed that the Dodgers' pitching eventually would win them the National League pennant. As soon as Russo caught up with the Dodgers they began to win; he saw them take 12 of 14 games and shut out Houston four times in a row. But in one of the games the Dodgers won, Russo noted that Gaylord Perry of the Giants had given them trouble by using fast balls and a hard slider (plus an occasional spitter). Russo also saw that Larry Dierker, a hard-throwing young pitcher for the Astros, gave the Dodgers trouble with fast balls, even though he was beaten. Russo was later joined by Scouts Al Kubski and Harry Craft, and on September 16, after 14 hours of writing on a legal pad, the Orioles had their scouting report on the Dodgers. When typed up, the report came to 16 pages single spaced; it carried some very interesting things about the Dodgers, plus some editorial comments.

Russo's summations were that Maury Wills was an excellent bunter but that Willie Davis was not; that left-handers hurt the Dodgers because the switch hitters had to bat right-handed and thus a step was taken from them; that lefthanders took Ron Fairly out of the lineup and thus hurt the Dodgers both offensively and defensively. He maintained that Koufax "is their bread and butter. Has been a great pitcher but would now call him a real-good pitcher. His fast ball is good, the type that rises, but the National League hitters have been helping him much too often by swinging at the rising fast ball above the strike zone. Try to lay off this pitch." Two of Russo's editorial comments were, "Let's not panic against this club," and, in conclusion, "We can beat this club."

On the day before the Series began, Manager Hank Bauer held one of his infrequent clubhouse meetings. He told his players that they were a good team and "to hell with the odds, because guys that made odds don't play baseball." Bauer also told them that he had seen them all year long, respected them and admired them for the way they bounced back and overcame injuries. Even if they were to lose, Bauer said, "lose fighting," but he didn't think they would lose. Hank then turned the meeting over to Russo and for two hours the Orioles went over the scouting report point by point, and every now and then Frank Robinson would offer an added suggestion or two about the Dodgers.

Just before the first game Bauer sent 11 men down to the bullpen, but he kept his second-and third-game pitchers, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker, on the bench. When Moe Drabowsky began getting the Dodgers out with fast balls, Palmer and Bunker got the message, and everyone on the Orioles began to realize that Russo had hit on something mighty good. Further, the momentum that the Orioles got when Frank and Brooks Robinson hit back-to-back first-inning home runs for the first time since the second day of the season was tremendous, and by the fourth inning a few people began to notice the fight in the Orioles, particularly that coming from Bauer himself on the bench. Disturbed by some ball and strike calls by Plate Umpire Bill Jackowski of the National League, Bauer lit into Jackowski in a marvelous, screaming diatribe. Even after the inning ended, Bauer was still on Jackowski, and he did not subside until Jackowski finally turned and gave him a long, warning stare. The Robinsons, Drabowsky and Bauer had the Orioles on the offensive, and they stayed there.

More significant than the fact that the Dodgers did not score for 33 straight innings is that over the final 25 innings they were able to advance only one runner to third base. Part of the Dodger act over the last few seasons had been to get runners—lots of runners—to third base. Eventually somebody makes a mistake and a run leaks home. On great days two or three runs may score. Because of this style of play the Dodgers are the only team that can win a game 2-1 or 3-2 and make the opponent look terrible. When they lose, it doesn't make any difference if the score if 9-0 or 1-0, the Dodgers look terrible either way.

One of the reasons why the Dodgers could not get men around to third was their abandonment of the bunt, normally one of their strongest weapons. Los Angeles tried to bunt only 11 times in four games, and only one of those, a sacrifice by Maury Wills in the eighth inning of the third game, was successful. The Dodgers were really intimidated by the presence of Brooks Robinson at third base and seemed afraid to bunt against him. Thus they psyched themselves into hitting at an infield only three quarters its normal size, as though a new foul line ran from home plate to shortstop.

The embarrassment that the Dodgers underwent in the Series will no doubt be reflected both in their trades during the off season and the type of pitching they will see next year. The Dodgers won the pennant this season on grit, cortisone and Koufax, and it is doubtful that they can repeat again in 1967 without a third baseman who can hit the ball out of the infield and keep grounders in it. With Maury Wills due for an operation on his knee, their speed may be vastly reduced.

Although some feel that the Orioles may already be on their way to replacing the Yankees as the American League dynasty, people were saying that about the Twins last season. The Orioles still have flaws and, like the Dodgers, they face an operation on their key man. Frank Robinson, like Wills, will undergo surgery on his knee this winter, and the prospect of that makes Oriole fans uneasy. But whatever happens, no one can take the 1966 season away from them.