Throughout the 2016 season Roar from 34 will use Flashback Fridays to remember the 1966 Baltimore Orioles and honor the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s first World Series title.
Fans of sports history and great writing will enjoy the revival of the Sports Illustrated Vault, a curated archive of all of the magazine’s content. I dug into the vault for this week’s Flashback Friday post, which comes from the April 18, 1966 edition of Sports Illustrated.
In the story “Things Are Looking Up For the Americans” we learn that Sports Illustrated loved “the once-hitless Baltimore Orioles, who now seem all muscle,” but wasn’t sold on the city or its fans.
Here’s an example of some of the love shown for the team itself.
No team will be more interesting to watch than the Baltimore Orioles
B. Robby—Brooks, the original Oriole hero—is the best third baseman in baseball, all things considered, and Luis Aparicio, if he can shrug off last season’s .225 average, is close to being the best shortstop. Add Boog Powell at first base (where he is a lot more adept than he is in left field) and Jerry Adair at second, and you have a solid, veteran infield, maybe the best in the majors. With F. Robby in left joining Paul Blair in center and Blefary in right, the outfield is pretty sharp too. Remember that Sam Bowens, a rookie sensation two years back, is sitting on the bench.
And then there’s the outlook on the city and the fans.
Fascinating as the Orioles will surely be, the question remains: Can the city of Baltimore get aroused enough to come out and watch them? It is difficult to forget Sunday, September 20, 1964. That day the Orioles played a double-header. They had been fighting for the lead all season, and this Sunday they were only half a game out of first place. How many ecstatic crab eaters jammed their way into Memorial Stadium? Exactly 8,474. Natives explained this lack of interest by pointing out that the Baltimore Colts were playing on TV. That’s the old Oriole spirit.
Baltimore is an old city (settled in 1729) and a big one (sixth in the U.S. in the 1960 census), but it has a depressingly smalltime gait, maybe too small to appreciate a ball team that could win the pennant.
If you’re feeling particularly thick skinned, check out the article’s final paragraphs that include mention of a biting Baltimore parody song.
For what’s it worth, there is this description of Washington: “40 miles southwest and five positions lower in the American League.”
See each of the Flashback Friday posts dedicated to the 1966 Baltimore Orioles here.