Monday, February 13, 2012

1966 World Series: The Birds fly

The Teams
American League: Baltimore Orioles (97-63) - First World Series
National League: Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) - Fourth World Series (won in 1959, 1963, 1965)

What Happened
With two outs in the bottom of the third inning of Game 1, Jim Gilliam drew a bases-loaded walk for the Dodgers, cutting their deficit to 4-2. Catcher Johnny Roseboro followed that at bat by popping out in foul territory, ending the threat. The Dodgers were likely kicking themselves for wasting such a golden scoring opportunity and only getting one run. Little did they know what was to come.

The Dodgers of the 60s had earned a reputation for being an all-pitching, no-offense team. With Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale anchoring the rotation, they didn't really need that much offense to have success. Their 1966 team took that reputation to the extreme, though: No regular offensive player batted above .288, and nobody drove in more than 74 runs. The Dodgers ranked in the bottom half of the league in every offensive stat except stolen bases.

The Orioles, meanwhile, were loaded. Aside from a pitching staff that rivaled that of the Dodgers, the Orioles had offense to spare, led by triple crown winner Frank Robinson. Thirteen years after leaving the ineptitude of St. Louis behind them, the Orioles had built a powerful, deep, and - most importantly - young team that seemed poised to rule baseball.

Because of the talent disparity, the Dodgers had to be nearly perfect to win this series. They were not. After Gilliam drew that bases-loaded walk in Game 1, the Dodgers failed to score the rest of the series. For 33 straight innings, the Orioles kept them off the scoreboard, and they often kept them off the bases altogether, as the Dodgers only got 17 hits in the entire series.

The Dodgers' pitchers did what they could. Sandy Koufax got no help at all in Game 2, as his defense committed six errors behind him and his offense gave him no runs; it was a less-than-ideal result for what turned out to be his final Major League game. Games 3 and 4 were tighter, both ending 1-0. But it's hard to win when you don't score. The Dodgers went down quietly. In the span of four games, the Dodgers' dynasty died and the Orioles' dynasty began.

Defining Game
Game 2. Koufax got the ball for the Dodgers hoping to turn the series around against Orioles ace Jim Palmer. The game was scoreless entering the fifth inning when, in a disastrous sequence, Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis committed three errors in the span of two batters, leading to the first two runs of the game. Baltimore added two more runs, knocking Koufax out of the game - and into retirement - in the sixth.

Frank Robinson. In his first year with the Orioles after starring for the Reds, Robinson won the triple crown in 1966, then capped that with two home runs and a triple. He also scored four runs, more than the entire Dodgers team.

(Home team in Bold)

Baltimore 5 6 1 1
Los Angeles 2 0 0 0

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

91. 1966 - Baltimore (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-0
92. 1927 - New York (A) def. Pittsburgh (N) 4-0
93. 2004 - Boston (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-0
94. 1932 - New York (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-0
95. 1908 - Chicago (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1
96. 1999 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-0
97. 1963 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-0
98. 2010 - San Francisco (N) def. Texas (A) 4-1
99. 1937 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-1
Numbers 100-107

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