The 1966 Orioles: “The Kookiest Cast of Characters Who Ever Called Themselves a Ball Club”

Throughout the 2016 season Roar from 34 will use Flashback Fridays to remember the 1966 Baltimore Orioles and to honor the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s first World Series title. See the previous installments here

July 22, 1966 Time Magazine.jpgThe Orioles earned their way into Time magazine midway through their championship season in 1966, and some of the text from that article could just as easily be applied to this year’s team.

The July 22, 1966 edition of Time included “Baltimore’s Early Birds,” a story that termed the American League-leading Orioles “the kookiest cast of characters who ever called themselves a ball club.”

Here is how the magazine described some of the team’s key players to justify that description:

First Baseman Boog Powell is (at 6 ft. 4½ in. and 246 lbs.) one of the biggest men in baseball, and he spent seven years perfecting the fine art of tobacco chewing—”the trick,” says Powell, “is not to swallow.” Leftfielder Curt Blefary keeps a pet cocker spaniel that has scrambled eggs and Coke for breakfast. “Ugh,” says Blefary, who has been known to start his own day with clam chowder and hamburger.

Relief Pitcher Dick Hall is an amateur mathematician who on drizzly afternoons amuses himself trying to predict whether a game will be called off —by calculating the number of raindrops falling per second on one square foot of the field.

Then, as it is now, the starting pitching was viewed as suspect with the bullpen providing a potential saving grace.

Baltimore’s only apparent weakness is its front-line pitching: in 90 tries so far, Orioles starters have managed to complete a mere 15 games. That does not alarm Manager Bauer. “All I want is six or seven good innings—and then I’ll bring in the relievers,” he says. “What the hell, I’ve got the best bullpen in the business.”

And while the 1966 team sat comfortably atop the American League, concerns of a collapse were still present, just as they are in 2016.

As every ornithologist knows, the Baltimore oriole is a bird that makes a lot of noise in the spring, then lays an egg and departs.

The way they croon in June and croak in August, the best that the Orioles usually can hope for is to be remembered in September. They have not won a big-league pennant since 1896; they are the team that Mighty Casey struck out for; and they peddled Babe Ruth away for $2,900. Still, all those past transgressions will be forgiven this year, unless the Orioles find some curious new way to commit suicide.

Not even two straight losses to the second-place Detroit Tigers last week could make Hank Bauer lose his new cool. “Our guys are smelling the money.” he said—serenely confident that his 1966 Orioles would give Baltimore its first pennant in 70 years.

That final line provides a bit of a departure. I don’t think anyone is feeling “serenely confident” in 2016.



About Matthew Taylor

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
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