Orioles combine teamwork and talent for World Series victory
Philadelphia — The success of the Baltimore Orioles this year strikes one more blow for the team concept - for the idea that a group of players pulling together for a common goal will win out more often than not against a multi-talented, highly paid bunch of individualists.
Of course these things are all a matter of degree. Obviously you need at least a reasonable amount of talent, which the Orioles have (including some players with pretty hefty bank accounts of their own). But you also need unselfish athletes who are willing to put personal considerations and thoughts of their own statistics aside in the interest of a winning team effort.
This latter area is where over the years the Baltimore organization seems to have developed a better formula than those of most other ballclubs. And never was it more apparent than in the 1983 World Series as the Orioles, after losing the first game at home, bounced back to sweep four in a row - including the last three in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium - for a decisive four games to one triumph.
One marked similarity between these teams, for example, was that for one reason or another (age, equal abilities, left-right batting situations, etc.), each club had several positions at which it made a lot of sense to platoon at times. There was nothing similar, however, about the way the players involved reacted to such moves.
The Phillies practically staged a mutiny over the issue, eventually getting Manager Pat Corrales fired only to learn that when General Manager Paul Owens took over the field manager's post he wound up platooning just as much or more. The players kept on complaining, too, with some of them even continuing their petulant outbursts during the World Series.
This sort of thing has become standard practice in Philadelphia, where the players seem to have something against just about everybody - the press, their manager, and the front office. One writer, in a takeoff on the Chicago White Sox' slogan of ''Winnin' Ugly,'' decided that the Phillies were ''Winnin' Testy.'' Or at least they were until they wound up ''Losin' Nasty.''
Meanwhile the Baltimore platoonees, some of whom also would undoubtedly have preferred to be in there every day, kept such thoughts to themselves and just went out and did the best they could whenever it was their turn.
Reporters tried repeatedly to get Oriole players to compare the two approaches, usually to no avail.
''I'm not familiar with the Philadelphia situation,'' parried outfielder Jim Dwyer in the standard reply. ''As to our own, I know that a lot of the players involved have been doing this for a long time. I've been a spot starter and utility man all my career. I'm just happy to be continuing my career doing the same thing.''
But Dan Ford, who shares the Oriole right field job with Dwyer, did say that it seemed to be ''an ego thing'' with the Phillies, and that ''egotistical things just don't win ball games.''
And Manager Joe Altobelli praised his own team as ''a sincere, solid, competitive club that lets the manager make the moves and just goes out and does the job when called upon.''
And what a job the Orioles have done - not just this year, but for nearly two decades. Since they won the city's first world championship in 1966, the Orioles have been in more post-season action and won more World Series (3) than any other team.
But the Orioles have had more than their share of recent frustrations, too, starting with that memorable 1979 World Series when they blew a 3-1 lead against Pittsburgh and continuing with three straight near-misses in the American League East.
This year they reached the same situation heading into the fifth game as they had in '79 - except that, as second baseman Rich Dauer pointed out, it really wasn't the same at all.
''We were cocky kids then - we thought we were neat,'' he said, noting that 15 members of the current team were also on that one. ''We know a lot more now. The first thing we said coming down the runway after the fourth game was, 'Remember 1979.' ''
One who certainly wasn't about to forget was Scott McGregor, the fine little left-hander whose post-season record would be a lot better if his team hadn't seemed to leave its bats in the locker room whenever he took the mound. McGregor lost this year's playoff opener to Chicago 2-1 and dropped the Series opener by the same margin, while back in '79 he lost the seventh game, also going out on the short end of a 2-1 count that eventually became a 4-1 Pirate triumph.
This time, though, two homers by Eddie Murray and one by Rick Dempsey gave Scott all the support he needed in a 5-0 five-hitter that nailed things down.
Murray's explosion ended an incredible stretch in which both teams paraded a seemingly endless array of unlikely heroes across the field while the big guns remained silent. Most of the heroics, of course, were on the Baltimore side - John Lowenstein's hitting and rookie Mike Boddicker's pitching in Game 2; catcher Rick Dempsey's two doubles and pinch hitter Benny Ayala's clutch single in Game 3; Dauer snapping a 1-for-26 post-season slump with three hits in Game 4 ; other lesser lights like Ford, Dwyer, and John Shelby also rising to the occasion at important moments.
And despite Murray's closing flourish, Dempsey's overall play throughout the series both at bat (.385, five extra base hits) and behind the plate made him a unanimous Most Valuable Player choice.
Altobelli won the managerial war of wits too. The Baltimore pilot used his personnel to maximum advantage and seemed to have a sixth sense of when to make a move - as in Game 4 when he pulled out all the stops by sending up a record four straight pinch hitters in what turned out to be the winning rally, and in the way he used his bullpen so effectively throughout.
From the Phillies' standpoint, the biggest disappointment was the failure of Mike Schmidt, the MVP of their 1980 Series victory, who had only one hit (a broken bat single) in 20 tries.
Despite the 4-1 score in games, though, the Phillies weren't really blown out of this Series. Most of the games were close, well-pitched contests that could have gone either way, and in the end it came down to the Orioles just outdoing their foes in those things that have become Baltimore trademarks - defense, execution, getting the key hits, and of course pitching. With McGregor, Mike Boddicker, and Storm Davis all winning as starters, with onetime ace Jim Palmer picking up a victory in relief, and with Sammy Stewart and Tippy Martinez closing the door in the late innings, the Orioles just had more depth and flexibility than the Phillies in what is still, after all, the single most important ingredient in any short series.