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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / 1983 Baltimore Orioles: Final shot at glory!

1983 Baltimore Orioles: Final shot at glory!

Publish Date: 08/24/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

In 1983, the Baltimore Orioles had been among the league’s most consistent contenders for over 13 seasons, yet had been unable to take home a championship title – particularly during their most recent four-year drought.

In 1979, Baltimore led Pittsburgh 3-1 in the World Series before falling apart and losing three straight at home. A year later they won 100 games…but the Yankees won 103! And in 1982 – under legendary manager Earl Weaver’s final tenure – nearly staged one of baseball’s great late-season rallies before losing out in a winner-take-all regular-season finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Video: 1983 Orioles Highlight film

1983 Orioles Highlight film

Joe Altobelli had come on board as manager in 1983, and Baltimore players knew it was now or never for victory to come their way. Although Baltimore may have won one championship before (in 1970), none of its current cast had experienced its success yet.

Two future Hall-of-Famers led Baltimore in its everyday lineup: shortstop Cal Ripken was in his second year, while first baseman Eddie Murray had already established himself as an All-Star at age 27. Murray posted an on-base percentage of.393, hit 33 homers, and finished with 111 RBI – good enough to place second in American League MVP voting; Ripken ended up with an on-base percentage of.371, 27 homers, and 102 RBI and was named MVP award by voters.

Ken Singleton was another productive Oriole player in 1983 with an OBP/slugging percentage of 393/.436 slugging. Beyond Singleton’s performance in rightfield and as a DH he contributed depth on defense with veteran players who knew their roles on defense and offense.

Video: (1983) Ricky Dempsey Rain Delay - County Stadium

(1983) Ricky Dempsey Rain Delay – County Stadium

Catcher Rick Dempsey was an outstanding field leader. Leftfielder Gary Roenicke provided productive bats to share playing time with John Lowenstein, who excelled at the art of getting the clutch hit. Second baseman Rich Dauer proved reliable defensively, while Al Bumbry provided solid centerfield play while being capable of knocking in runs at the top of the order; Jim Dwyer and Joe Nolan contributed powerful bats off of the bench.

The Oriole’s starting pitching was one of their cornerstones since their inaugural World Series title win in 1966, featuring Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and young Mike Boddicker as cornerstones, with Storm Davis providing reliable relief. McGregor won 18 games with an ERA of 3.18 while Boddicker won 16 with an ERA of 2.77; Davis pitched 200 innings without fail while Altobelli filled out the rest of the rotation by including Dennis Martinez (26 years old Allan Ramirez), Dennis Martinez (37) and Jim Palmer (38%.

Altobelli could rely on workhorses Sammy Stewart and Tippy Martinez in his bullpen; both pitchers offered excellent righty-lefty combinations who could throw multiple innings per start, saving 21 games, winning nine more and finishing with an outstanding 2.35 ERA; Stewart worked 144 innings while posting a 3.62 ERA.

Baltimore began the season 23-13 against AL West teams early on and ended it 25-21 after seven consecutive losses against Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins and Kanas City Royals in a three-week span. Still, no other AL East team could really gain ground and their 25-21 record put them firmly in contention.

Baltimore played two series with the Milwaukee Brewers early in June and won five out of six games to move up into first place and even extend their lead by four games, but struggled in later games against the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, going 4-7 during that stretch of games against them and going into their early All-Star break on July 3 at 42-34 with six teams–Orioles, Yankees, Tigers, Brewers Red Sox Blue Jays–within five games of each other.

Baltimore started off strong after their break, winning 10 of 13 to take sole possession of first place and pull ahead by two games before succumbing to prosperity again and experiencing a seven-game losing streak that allowed Detroit and Milwaukee to catch back up a little; while Baltimore only fell one game back of both Detroit and Milwaukee.

August 24 was the beginning of an important stretch. Perhaps it’s fitting that Baltimore began their final push against teams such as the Blue Jays, Twins and Royals – teams they had struggled against earlier – on August 24. Baltimore went 11 for 12 against these three sides this time around to gain separation in the AL East race; by Labor Day their lead had reached 4 1/2 games; it remained five on September 9 with only the the Yankees Tigers and Brewers left in pursuit.

Baltimore traveled to New York for a four-game weekend series, dropping its opener 5-3 when McGregor gave up a two-run shot to Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles in the eighth inning. They responded well on Saturday by breaking open an even matchup tied 2-2 in the ninth with six runs capped off by a Lowenstein grand slam before winning the nightcap 3-1 behind seven solid innings from Boddicker before closing out its victory by scoring five times in two innings and winning 5-3 on Sunday.

After winning their series against Boston, Baltimore hosted four games against Milwaukee at home. Boddicker led his team to victory with an 8-1 start in Friday’s opener; Bumbry added three hits and scored three runs during Saturday’s 5-4 victory; while on Sunday Palmer was hit hard and allowed seven runs in just the second inning; yet they came all the way back and tied 9-9 after nine innings!

John Stefero emerged as an unlikely hero. A backup catcher who only made 14 plate appearances that year and just 210 overall, Stefero delivered the go-ahead single for a comeback win – then did it again Sunday, in an 8-7 triumphant victory!

Baltimore then traveled to Detroit and split four games against them, which at this point counted as winning by default. Just ten days remained before that season concluded, with Baltimore holding an 8 1/2 game lead over Milwaukee, Detroit and New York–promises of drama that instead resulted in them coasting to an AL East title with an overall record of 98-64.

Only one team in baseball had more wins than Baltimore: the Chicago White Sox with 99 victories – their opponent in the American League Championship Series. McGregor lost an early pitcher’s duel but Boddicker came through with an upset win in Game 2, ultimately sealing their victory by scoring on Tito Landrum’s homer in an 11th inning thriller win. The Orioles would beat the White Sox in four games to advance to the World Series.

The World Series took place against the Philadelphia Phillies along Interstate 95. Much like its counterpart in the ALCS, McGregor lost a hard-luck pitchers’ duel before Boddicker responded and then Orioles took control and won five games of World Series glory. Boddicker was one of the most underrated pitchers of the 1980s and always seemed to come through in the clutch, and in 1983 he was big-time in the playoffs and World Series.

Video: 1983 WS Gm5: Murray homers twice in clinching game

1983 WS Gm5: Murray homers twice in clinching game

Baltimore was finally back at the top of baseball, with many veteran players thinking this might be their final chance at glory. Indeed, that proved true; never seriously contending in the AL East again until 1989 and making few playoff appearances only since 1994’s realignment created three divisions and wild-card playoff system; still no return to World Series glory has occurred yet for Baltimore, but maybe 2023 will be that year.

Video: 1983 WS Gm5: Orioles win the 1983 World Series

1983 WS Gm5: Orioles win the 1983 World Series

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