Tag Archives: Baltimore Orioles

1974 Pirates, Orioles oft-forgotten, but had memorable walk-off finishes

The 1974 NL East and AL East division races go overlooked in history, probably because neither of the winners went to the World Series. So they’re remembered locally by people a little older than I am, but they’re footnotes to other notable seasons by these franchises.

But these were two amazing races and walk-offs had a LOT to do with who came out on top.

American League

The Orioles trailed the Yankees by 2 1/2 games for the AL East lead with 14 left to play (15 for the Yankees). But they put on a heck of a final kick to overtake the Bronx Bombers. First, they won three straight games in Yankee Stadium, to move in front. Then they took two of three from the Red Sox, after which they were one game up on the Yankees (though it should be noted, the loss was one in which the Red Sox walked-off after tying the game with four runs in the ninth).

Baltimore returned home for five games and won all five, four of which were by one run and three of which were by walk-off.

The first required scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth to overcome a 4-2 deficit. Tommy Davis’ two-out, two-run single against Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich brought home the winning runs. That win was necessary to staying in first place, because the Yankees walked-off on the Red Sox that night.

The next day’s walk-off required patience. It didn’t happen until the bottom of the 17th inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Bob Oliver hit a slow grounder to third base on which Brewers third baseman Don Money could not make a play. The Orioles won, 1-0. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this game was the length of the pitcher’s duel. Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer pitched 12 scoreless innings for the Orioles. Jim Colborn pitched 13 innings of zeroes for the Brewers.

The last of the walk-offs was less dramatic. Boog Powell walked with the bases loaded to snap a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth.

The Orioles went back on the road, swept a three-game series from the Tigers and won the division by two games.

National League

The NL portion is more about one game than a stretch of games, though the 1974 Pirates also had an impressive end run, going 8-2 in their last 10 games (though one of the losses was an epic 13-12, 11-inning defeat vs the Cardinals that took them out of first place).

Entering their final game of the season, the Pirates led the NL East by a game. A win or a Cardinals loss would give the Pirates the division title. The Cardinals game with the Expos got rained out, so it was up to the Pirates to take care of business themselves.

That didn’t look like it would happen. The Cubs led the Pirates 4-0 before the Bucs even got up to bat. The Pirates would chip away, scoring once in the third and once in the fifth, but still trailed 4-2 going to the bottom of the ninth. This was a rowdy affair in this regard. Fans, unhappy with a call made on a play at the plate in the fourth inning, began aiming at Cubs players with bottles, fruit(!) and golf balls. The umpires threatened a forfeit, but the game played on.

If I told you the Pirates tied the game without recording a hit, would you believe me?

That’s what happened. Walks to Richie Zisk and Manny Sanguillen got things started. Ed Kirkpatrick bunted both runners over. Dave Parker then produced a run with a ground out, the second out of the inning.

The Pirates were down to their final out, then their final strike, then their final huff and puff and prevailed each time. With the tying run at third base, Bob Robertson struck out on a curveball from Cubs pitcher Rick Reuschel. But the ball broke in and got away from Cubs catcher Steve Swisher. Robertson raced for first base as Swisher retrieved the ball. A good throw and Robertson would have been out. This throw hit Robertson, allowing the tying run to score.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Pirates pulled it out. A triple by Al Oliver set everything up. After two intentional walks, he would score on Manny Sanguillen’s slow grounder to third on which Cubs third baseman Bill Madlock could not make a play. The Pirates were NL East champs.


Harold Baines is the latest walk-off Hall-of-Famer

Congratulations to Harold Baines. That’s not for his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but rather his election to the Walk-Off Hall of Fame. Voting was done by a committee of one (me). To quote former NBA commissioner David Stern “It was a unanimous vote. One-zero.”

I know this was a controversial choice. There were certainly many worthy potential inductees, some of whom will likely be boosted by this selection in the future. I do feel that Baines is Walk-Off Hall-worthy.

The keynote to Baines’ election is the 25th-inning walk-off home run he hit for the White Sox against the Brewers on May 9, 1984. Baines’ current memory of that game, which was played over two days (it was suspended in the 18th inning) is foggy, per news reports from a few years ago, but to clear it up The game was tied 1-1 after 8. The Brewers scored two in the top of the ninth and the White Sox responded with two to tie it.

Neither team scored again until the Brewers tallied three runs in the top of the 21st. But the White Sox scored three of their own. Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk drove in the first one and Tom Paciorek drove in the other two.

After Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver pitched a scoreless top of the 25th (not a misprint), Baines crushed a Chuck Porter pitch to straightaway centerfield, well over the fence for a game-winning home run. It concluded a game that lasted eight hours and six minutes, the longest by time in MLB history. The Baines home run was emblematic of his season. He hit a career-high 29 home runs that year and led the AL with a .541 slugging percentage.

If you want to see video highlights of the game, click here.

What else is noteworthy about Baines from a walk-off perspective?

– Baines had eight walk-off home runs for the White Sox, the most by anyone on the team in the time for which Baseball-Reference has complete data (dating to 1925) and presumably the most in franchise history. Joe Crede and Robin Ventura rank second with five. Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas is well behind with three.

– He is the most recent player to hit two walk-off home runs in a season against the Yankees. He did it in 1996, both of John Wetteland, a year the Yankees won the World Series.

– His last of 18 walk-off RBI was a grand slam for the Orioles against his former team, the White Sox, as a 40-year-old in 1999. He tripled in a run as part of a rally to tie in the ninth (his first triple since the 1995 season), than hit the home run to win in the 10th.

– His first of 10 career walk-off home runs came as a rookie against a Hall-of-Famer, Ferguson Jenkins of the Rangers in 1980. It was described as a front-row shot by the Chicago Tribune. Said Baines afterwards: “I didn’t feel any excitement. I’m just not an emotional person.”

Here’s hoping he had a better reaction to Sunday’s news.

Ultimately, this kind of walk-off is just grand

I wanted to look up a game that featured an ultimate grand slam. For those unfamiliar, an ultimate grand slam is a walk-off home run that comes with two outs in the final inning and the home team down by three runs. There was a cool one this year with David Bote of the Cubs, but I prefer obscure to recent here, in case you didn’t notice.

There have been 15 ultimate slams in the time period for which Baseball-Reference.com has data, so there are some fun ones to choose from.

I am very much enjoying looking at the box score from the May 17, 1996 game between the Mariners and the Orioles. This was some game. Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro each drove in six runs. Cal Ripken Jr. had four hits. Ken Griffey Jr. had three. Edgar Martinez had two.

But they were the secondary stories. In baseball, the last shot doesn’t always go to the superstars.

By the bottom of the ninth inning, the game was challenging the record for longest nine-inning game (it finished a minute short of the mark at the time, which coincidentally was set by the Orioles earlier in the season). Every player in the starting lineup for this game had at least one hit. Except for one. Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles, the No. 8 hitter, came to bat with his team trailing 13-10 with the bases loaded and two outs. Mariners reliever Norm Charlton had already pitched to two Hall of Famers in the inning – Ripken and Roberto Alomar. They were on the corner bases. Bobby Bonilla was on second.

Now, let’s not label Hoiles a bad player. He was a very good catcher, who happened to be in a mini-hit drought (he was 5-for-29 for the month). Charlton proved to be the cure.

The newspaper reports state that much of a crowd of more than 47,000 had left, perhaps turned off by the game’s length. Shame on them.

The count stretched to 3-2. Charlton threw his best pitch, a forkball, and Hoiles hit it out. Left fielder Brian Hunter jumped for it, but couldn’t get close enough to it.

“There were 80 hits out there and I was the only guy without one,” said Hoiles, who also holds the distinction of being the first catcher to hit two grand slams in the same game. “I just wanted to drive in a couple of runs.”

Orioles manager Davey Johnson was pretty excited. He called it “the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen in my life.”

We’d beg to differ given that he was in the Mets dugout when Bill Buckner let a ground ball go between his legs. But we understand and salute his passion for the rarity of the ultimate walk-off.

If you want to see the Hoiles homer, click here.

Brooks Robinson’s last home run was a pretty cool walk-off

I like the idea of writing about a notable player’s notable walk-off every so often, so today I picked a notable player I like –- Orioles Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson.

When I was 12, I went to a baseball card show on Staten Island where Robinson was signing autographs. Since my dad was a vendor at the show, we got a freebie, and I got an autograph and (at Robinson’s insistence) a picture with Robinson. He couldn’t have been nicer. I’ve heard he’s that way with everyone.

The other story I like comes from Curt Gowdy, whom I got to interview when I worked at ESPN. He said he went on a hunting trip with Robinson once, and when they got back to the hotel, Robinson paused for a moment. Gowdy asked what was wrong, and Robinson said something to the effect of “I can’t believe we got beat by the Mets in 1969.”

So this brings us to Robinson and walk-offs, and he may have had one better than this, but I really like this one, so this is the story I’ll share.

In 1977, Brooks Robinson was 39 and at the end of an illustrious 23-year career that was best known for his 16 Gold Glove Awards for unbelievable defense. The Orioles had a young potential star at third base in Doug DeCinces, so Robinson was limited to a reserve role. The Orioles were playing the Indians, a team managed by former Orioles legend Frank Robinson, on April 19. Brooks Robinson hadn’t played in a week.

He watched from the bench as the teams battled to a 2-2 tie through nine innings. In the top of the 10th, the Indians scored three times. They could have scored more had Buddy Bell and Andre Thornton (two good hitters) not struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Those turned out to be two important outs. In the bottom of the 10th, Ken Singleton singled and Doug Decinces walked to bring the tying run to the plate. Eddie Murray struck out, but Lee May followed with a single that scored Singleton. Earl Weaver, perhaps playing a hunch, called on Brooks Robinson to pinch-hit for lefty-hitting Larry Harlow against lefty pitcher Dave LaRoche (Adam’s father).

Bill Tanton, a columnist for Baltimore’s Evening Sun estimated that only hundreds remained from a crowd of 4,826. They saw an epic at-bat, one with seven foul balls and a 3-2 count. It kind of had the feel of Kirk Gibson against Dennis Eckersley, but with smaller stakes. And it ended similarly, with Robinson homering (to left field instead of right field) to win the game, and raising his fist in celebration.

“I feel like a little kid every time I put the uniform on,” Robinson told reporters after the game.

It was the 268th and last home run of Robinson’s major league career. He’d have 44 more at-bats before retirement. This was a good at-bat to remember him by.

Brooks Robinson Minutiae
– Brooks Robinson hit eight walk-off home runs, which I can say with 99.99% certainty is a Browns/Orioles franchise record. Baseball-Reference’s data dates to 1925 and there’s no one from the Browns within striking distance. Eddie Murray ranks second with six.

– Brooks Robinson had a walk-off RBI in Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. He hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning against the Pirates. Future Indians manager Frank Robinson scored the winning run.