American League: Baltimore Orioles (108-54) - Third World Series (won in 1966)
National League: Cincinnati Reds (102-60) - Fourth World Series (won in 1919, 1940)
What Happened? Brooks Robinson happened. The 1970 World Series was supposed to be about a matchup of rising dynasties, with the Orioles and Reds both poised to dominate the upcoming decade. Instead, it turned into a one-man show like few series before it.
It wasn't just at the bat that Brooks Robinson dominated Cincinnati, though he did plenty of damage there, with nine hits in the five games and a series-record 17 total bases. But Robinson wouldn't have left the Reds' players and manager shaking their heads if he had merely had a good offensive series. He also had the perhaps the best individual defensive series any player had ever had, a series so good that it only took five games to cement his legacy as the best defensive third baseman of all time.
It wasn't the pure defensive numbers for Robinson as much as it was the acrobatic plays that made an impression. Like the diving stop he made on a Lee May grounder in the 6th inning of Game 1 to make sure that game stayed tied. Or the play in Game 3, where he snared a bouncer just over the third base bag, stepped on the bag, then made an off-balance but picture-perfect throw to first for a double play. It seemed whenever the Reds sent a rocket shot down the third base line, Robinson was there to stop it.
At the plate, he was a star as well. His 7th inning home run provided the winning margin in Game 1, and he hit the game-tying single in the middle of a five-run fifth inning rally in Game 2. He was at his absolute best in Game 3, hitting two doubles to go along with three stellar defensive plays; despite pitcher Dave McNally hitting a grand slam, Robinson was the talk of the series. Cincinnati came from behind in Game 4 to avoid the sweep, but the Orioles jumped all over the Reds to win the series with a 9-3 win in Game 5.
After the series, Robinson was the easy choice for MVP, and the new car that went with the award. Cincinnati's Johnny Bench summed up the Reds' attitude toward their nemesis: "If we knew he wanted the car so badly we'd have chipped in and bought it for him." Even Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson raved about his opponent: "I'm beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped this paper plate, he'd pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first."
Game 1 was the game with the most drama, and was the game that featured one of the weirdest plays in World Series history. First, the setup, as the Reds took a quick 3-0 lead in front of their home crowd. After the Orioles came back to tie it on a pair of home runs, Robinson made the first of his many sensational plays in the series to rob Lee May of a hit leading off the sixth.
(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:
71. 1970 - Baltimore (A) def. Cincinnati (N) 4-1
72. 1931 - St. Louis (N) def. Philadelphia (A) 4-3
73. 1967 - St. Louis (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
74. 1968 - Detroit (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-3
75. 1920 - Cleveland (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 5-2
76. 1945 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-3
77. 1940 - Cincinnati (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
78. 2009 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
79. 1984 - Detroit (A) def. San Diego (N) 4-1