Whirled Series

Special to the Oriole Post – By Ian Scott


Watching Game 1 of the 2012 World Series this evening, I was intrigued by a statistical tidbit offered up when Tim Lincecum relieved San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito on the mound. The pitching change marked the first time a former Cy Young Award winner relieved another since the 1983 series, when Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles came on in relief of Mike Flanagan. Palmer would pick up the win that night with only two innings of work, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out one, making him the only pitcher in history to win World Series games in three decades. The stats on those Cy Young awards are noted below, for those of you keeping score at home.

Zito: AL Oakland 2002 and Lincecum: NL San Francisco 2008, 2009

Palmer: AL Baltimore 1973, 1975, 1976 and Flanagan: Baltimore 1979

Pitching was always the strength of the Baltimore Orioles in the club’s heyday, despite the fact the club lost as many World Series as it won. Between 1966 and 1983, the Orioles made six trips to the fall classic, primarily on the strength of the arms of men like Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and, in the latter years, Flanagan, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez. Cuellar shared an AL Cy Young Award in 1969 with Detroit Tiger Denny McLain. Fellow Oriole Steve Stone repeated Flanagan’s award in 1980, giving Baltimore hurlers five awards in a 12-year span. In 1971, McNally, Cuellar, Palmer and Pat Dobson each won 20 or more games, making Baltimore only the second team to major league history to feature such a pitching rotation, alongside the 1920 Chicago White Sox.

Flanagan was one of four Oriole pitchers who combined for a no-hitter against the Oakland A’s in 1991. He relieved starter Bob Milacki and later gave way to Mark Williamson and closer Gregg Olson in a 2-0 victory.

McNally and Cuellar never pitched no-hitters during their careers, but each man holds a postseason mark made with their bats! McNally is the only pitcher in World Series history to hit a grand slam, while Cuellar holds the same distinction for League Championship play. The designated hitter rule, instituted into the American League in 1973, and originally adopted into World Series play in 1976, limits considerably the amount of at-bats pitchers can take compared to before the DH rule. Both players’ accomplishment could stand unmatched forever.

McNally and Palmer each threw shutouts during the Orioles first World Series win in 1966, sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0. In fact, the O’s did not give up a run after the third inning of the first game of the series! In that inning, McNally loaded the bases on walks and was relieved by Moe Drabowsky with one out. Drabowsky made the most of his appearance, allowing but one hit and two walks while striking out 11 Dodgers, including a series-tying record of six in a row. Palmer, Wally Bunker and McNally followed suit with complete game shutouts and the Orioles had earned the franchise’s first championship in dominating fashion.

Palmer would pitch in all six World Series the Orioles appeared in during his 19 years in Baltimore, compiling a record of 4-2 with one shutout. He also threw a no-hitter in the 1969 season and never gave up a grand slam or back-to-back home runs in his career. His only other appearance in the 1983 postseason was as a pinch runner in an ALCS victory over the White Sox. Palmer is also the last surviving member of that 1971 Oriole pitching staff.

So on a night when the Giants” Pablo Sandoval became only the fourth man in history to hit three home runs in a single World Series game and the focus was on hitting, I was instead enthralled by a casual reminder of the pitching prowess of the Baltimore Orioles of my youth.

Those were the good old days.