The Orioles are welcoming back members of the 1970 championship team on Saturday for a 40th anniversary celebration of their World Series victory. Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson will be on hand, just as they were on June 24, 1979, when the franchise held its Silver Anniversary Celebration of 25 years playing in Baltimore.
Brooks and Frank were the top two vote-getters that year in balloting among fans at Memorial Stadium for the Silver Anniversary Team. Brooks, who had retired just two seasons prior, received 50,295 votes. Frank, who played his final season in Baltimore in 1971, received 45,142 votes. The all-time greats had plenty of constituents as the Birds chased attendance records that season.
The four-game weekend series that culminated in the Silver Anniversary Celebration attracted 122,470 fans, the third-largest draw in team history at the time. More than 41,000 of those fans showed up for the celebration, boosting the team’s season total to a franchise-high pace of 577,508 fans in 29 home dates.
Those who arrived two hours prior to the game’s three o’clock start saw their top two Silver Anniversary vote-getters join with former teammates including Gus Triandos, Jim Gentile, Mike Cuellar, and Don Buford, for an otherwise scoreless old-timers game that was decided by an Elrod Hendricks two-run homer.
Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, who was in the midst of guiding his squad to 102 wins and the American League championship, made this somewhat expected observation about the old-timers game: “Homers will do it for you every time. Every time.”
Though their 45-22 record was the best in baseball, Weaver’s Birds failed to produce a win that afternoon, losing 6-4 to Sparky Anderson’s Tigers. The loss ended a season-long nine game win streak for Baltimore. Dennis Martinez was seeking his 11th straight victory, but instead ended the day 10-3.
Martinez, working under the tutelage of teammate Jim Palmer, explained his quick start as a result of not wasting pitches.
“Last year, I had more strike’-emouts, but now I’m winning more,” Martinez told The Washington Post. “I’ve learned not to waste your best pitches for strikeouts when you don’t need it . . . save the good pitches.
“I thought that ‘learning the hitters’ meant learning to throw a perfect pitch in a perfect spot for a strikeout,” he continued. “Now I know that it means finding a pretty good pitch that gives you an easy fly ball or grounder.”
The Orioles went on to win seven of their next eight following the loss to Detroit. The Birds finished 23-6 in the month of June. The 24-year-old Martinez, meanwhile, lost four straight and ended the season 15-16. He led the league with 18 complete games.
Martinez joined 1978 Team MVP Eddie Murray, Gary Roenicke, and Sammy Stewart among a young Orioles core that, as Post columnist Thomas Boswell observed, wasn’t even born when the team played its first game at Memorial Stadium.
In summing up the young team’s success, Boswell hinted at elements of what we now call “The Oriole Way.”
“It is typical of the Orioles’ recent progress, from gutty strugglers to strongmen, that they have produced waves of young, and unpublicized players, many of whom have done better in the majors than in the minors,” Boswell wrote.
“The four youngest Birds, all under 25, exemplify Baltimore’s method of nurturing, improving and refining talent at the big league level – a sort of baseball finishing school.
“This graduate school of hardball – the toughest kind of on-the-job training – has been a desperate force-feeding remedy for a team whose nest has been rifled by free agentry. Baltimore, however, has proved uniquely ready to take young players under its wing – and win immediately.”
[Posted on Camden Chat on Thursday.]