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Retro Orioles recap: Frank Robinson’s walk-off home run lifts O’s past Royals

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Slugger slams three-run shot with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the Birds stun the hapless Royals.

Baltimore Orioles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

This game took place on May 7, 1970. It is being recapped today as part of Camden Chat’s retro recap series while MLB is on hold due to coronavirus.

The Baltimore Orioles were down. As the Kansas City Royals found out, they were not out.

A team rarely is when Frank Robinson gets a chance to say something about it.

Robinson continued his torrid start to the season with one his most dramatic hits of this 1970 campaign, hitting a three-run home run off former Baltimore hurler Moe Drabowsky as the Orioles sent the home crowd home happy with a 7-6 win over the Royals.

The Orioles have had the look of a team on a mission after their bitter World Series loss last year, and are now 17-8 for the year. Kansas City, meanwhile, continues to scuffle and is now 8-17.

An elusive win was in the Royals’ grasp, though, when Drabowsky — who received a warm welcome from the Memorial Stadium crowd, due no doubt to his heroics in the O’s 1966 World Series victory — took the mound for his second inning of work in the ninth with a 6-4 lead.

Drabowsky got the first out when Elrod Hendricks grounded to first, but the cracks began to show when Terry Crowley, pinch-hitting for Eddie Watt, drew a walk, bringing the top of the Orioles’ lineup back to the plate.

Don Buford (2-for-4, two runs) flied out, but Merv Rettenmund, pinch-hitting for Mark Belanger, drew another walk, bringing Robinson to the plate as the winning run.

Robby hasn’t missed many pitches this year, he didn’t miss many today, and he didn’t miss one here. He smacked a Drabowsky offering deep over the center field wall for the game-winning home run, setting off a celebration both on the field and on 33rd Street.

Robinson went 2-for-5 with three RBI, and he’s now batting .370 for the season. His home run was his fifth of the season, and he’s now at 13 runs batted in.

He wasn’t the only Oriole with a big day at the plate. Boog Powell, the runner-up for MVP last year who many folks think has a chance to win it this season, went 3-for-4 with three RBI and clubbed his eighth home run of the year. Buford had his two hits, as did Belanger, who is only hitting .214 but who nonetheless went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The rally made a winner of Watt, who pitched two shutout innings and was part of a strong bullpen effort, along with Jim Hardin, Marcelino Lopez and Dick Hall, that allowed two runs in five innings in relief of an ineffective Mike Cuellar.

Kansas City got the first run across in their first two batters, with Pat Kelly reaching on an infield single and, after a balk, Paul Schaal singling to right field to make it 1-0.

Baltimore flexed its muscle in response, as Buford and Robinson had singles to put two on for Powell. The hulking first baseman smashed Dave Morehead’s offering to deep left-center field for a three-run shot, giving the Orioles a 3-1 lead.

The Royals chipped away. In the fourth, Lou Piniella — a player with the makings of a Rookie of the Year candidate — singled to center, and Mike Fiore moved him up with another base hit. Cuellar got Luis Alcaraz to ground to Davey Johnson for a force out of Fiore, but Piniella scored on the play to cut the advantage to 3-2.

Cuellar ran into more trouble in the fifth. The screwballer gave up a single to Kelly, a single to Schaal and a walk to Amos Otis to load the bases, and Bob Oliver followed with a single to center that scored Kelly and Schaal and put Kansas City in front 4-3.

The hit chased Cuellar from the game, and brought Hardin into a dangerous spot with runners on the corners and no outs. Manager Earl Weaver’s call was the right one, though, as Hardin escaped the inning without any further damage.

The Orioles appeared to right themselves in the fifth, when Buford drew a two-out walk and the light-hitting Belanger doubled to left to tie game back up at 4. The Royals, despite their record, continued to prove themselves a scrappy bunch, and Oliver crushed a Hardin pitch to deep left with Amos on second for a two-run home run in the seventh and a 6-4 Kansas City lead.

That was the last of the offense for the Royals, however, as Lopez and Hall combined to take care of the Royals in the seventh and Watt delivered with a shutout eighth and 1-2-3 ninth.

That left only the matter of the deficit to take care of. Robinson was happy to oblige with that.

The Orioles next welcome the Chicago White Sox to Memorial Stadium. Gerry Janeski starts for the South Siders, while Jim Palmer gets the ball for the Birds.

Box score from Baseball Reference.

Poll

Who was the most Birdland player for May 7, 1970?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Frank Robinson (2-for-5, walk-off three-run HR)
    (69 votes)
  • 10%
    Boog Powell (3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI)
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Don Buford (2-for-4, BB, 2 R)
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Mark Belanger (2-for-4, 2B, RBI)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Eddie Watt (2 IP, 1 K, 0 R, W)
    (0 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now