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Opening Day in Baltimore Used to Include Trash Can Fires and Historic Wins

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Dave Trembley managed his third Opening Day for the Orioles on Tuesday. That's no small accomplishment. Only one manager - Mike Hargrove - has lasted more than three full seasons at the helm in Baltimore since the O's last won the World Series in 1983.

Clearly, continuity has not been the team's strength in recent years. Let's consider a time when it was: Opening Day 1979.

Earl Weaver managed his 11th straight Opening Day for the O's on April 6, 1979, a blustery day in Baltimore that featured 50 mile-per-hour winds. Fans set trashcan fires in the men's room at Memorial Stadium to keep warm.

The faithful who braved the cold were part of an historic moment as Weaver earned his 1,000th win with a 5-3 victory over the visiting Chicago White Sox.

Jim Palmer pitched a complete game to help secure the mark for his skipper. An Associated Press photo of Palmer and Weaver in the following day's edition of The Free-Lance Star featured a caption noting, "Palmer ... does not always see eye-to-eye with Weaver."

Four Orioles drove in runs, led by Rich Dauer with two RBI. Said Palmer: "I knew we were going to win when Dauer got a hit in April."

Meanwhile, Doug DeCinces tallied an RBI for the 11th consecutive game, a streak that would end the following day.

But the moment belonged to Weaver, who became the 31st manager in major league history to win 1,000 games. (The number now stands at 52.) Not that Weaver thought much of it. He mistakenly gave the game ball to a fan as a souvenir.

By September, Weaver had earned his 1,100th win. The Birds went 102-57 in 1979 and made the World Series, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the 10 seasons prior, Weaver won less than 90 games only twice (88 wins in '76, 80 wins in '72). He led the Orioles to three consecutive World Series appearances ('69-'71) and two American League Championship Series ('73 and '74). And the American League East was every bit as tough then as it is now.

Four teams, including the Orioles, won more than 90 games in 1978 led by New York's 100 wins and third straight World Series appearance. But the Orioles always had a fighting chance behind the Earl of Baltimore.

At the start of the '79 season, Reggie Jackson boasted that he would hit 40 home runs. Weaver offered his own boast in reply: "I'll bet the family estate that we hit more home runs than the Yankees."

The Orioles out-slugged the Yankees 181-150 and finished 13.5 games ahead of New York in the standings. Reggie Jackson finished the season with 29 home runs.