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Retro Orioles recap: Birds rally in ninth, clinch first of doubleheader in extras

After Curt Motton evened the score in the bottom of the ninth, Brooks Robinson blasted a solo shot that clinched game one of a doubleheader against the Red Sox.

Orioles Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images

This game took place on May 24, 1970. It is being recapped today as part of Camden Chat’s retro recap series while MLB is on hold due to coronavirus.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as “too much baseball.” There may come a day when everyone takes the game for granted, but the Orioles did no such thing today (May 24, 1970). A scheduled doubleheader simply wasn’t enough, so the Birds went ahead and played extra innings in the first of two.

The Orioles trailed by one in the bottom of the ninth, but Baltimore refused to look ahead to game two. Curt Motton put the Birds on the board to force extra innings, and Brooks Robinson made sure it was not in vain. The human vacuum cleaner blasted a 1-1 pitch over the left field fence, and the Orioles defeated the Red Sox 2-1 at Memorial Stadium.

O’s lefty Mike Cuellar and Boston pitcher Mike Nagy came to play for the 2 pm start, and both offenses suffered because of it. Cuellar and Nagy notched quality starts, but neither received a decision from the contest.

Nagy allowed two base runners in the bottom of the first, but a Don Buford walk and Terry Crowley single were erased by a Paul Blair ground out to end the inning. After that, Nagy held the Orioles in check. The righty from the Bronx allowed five hits, walked four, but struck out three and did not allow a run over 7.1 innings.

Boston provided Nagy an early lead in the top of the second. George Scott took advantage of Cuellar’s only major mistake of the evening, and blasted the pitch over the center field fence. The knock gave Boston a one-run advantage, and would prove to be the only run scored by either club until the ninth inning.

Cuellar overcame the early error and turned in a masterful performance. The Cuba native allowed just one more hit, and struck out four over nine innings. Most days, that’s enough to pick up a win. Motton made sure Cuellar did not take the loss.

Baltimore nearly tied things up after finally getting to Nagy in the bottom of the eighth. Crowley led off the inning with a double into the gap in left-center, and Boog Powell did his best to bring Crowley home. Powell laced a ball to right field, and Crowley got the wave around at third base.

Tony Conigliaro fielded the knock by Powell, and fired the ball to home plate. The throw arrived in time, and Crowley was called out at the plate. Boston still led 1-0, but the sequence was enough to chase Nagy from the game. The Sox summoned Vicente Romo to the mound, and after a walk to Blair, he retired Robinson and Davey Johnson to end the inning.

Crowley may not be known for his speed, but the decision to test Conigliaro’s arm is understandable. Baltimore had failed to put a run on the board all afternoon, and there was little indication that they would have another chance. Robinson and Johnson made that point clear when they failed to plate Powell at the end of the inning.

Still, the failed rally in the eighth makes Baltimore’s ninth-inning come back even more impressive.

Romo returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth looking to put things away. Instead, he immediately walked Elrod Hendricks and pinch-hitter Dave May to put two on with nobody out. Boston pulled Romo in favor of Sparky Lyle, and the reliever retired Buford for the first out of the inning.

With the game on the line, Earl Weaver elected to pinch hit Motton in place of shortstop Mark Belanger. It worked. Motton delivered a clutch single to left field, and May hustled home to even the score.

Baltimore nearly walked it off in the ninth inning. Weaver elected to send a second consecutive pitch hitter to the plate, and Merv Rettenmund worked a walk to load the bases. Unfortunately, the Orioles failed to capitalize. Powell struck out, and Blair grounded out to end the inning.

After May hit in place of Cuellar, Baltimore sent Eddie Watt to the mound in the 10th. Watt struck out George Scott to start the inning, and forced a pair of fly outs to send the Sox down in order.

Brooks Robinson led off the bottom half for Baltimore, and did not waste any time. His walk-off blast was his sixth home run of the season, and brought the Orioles to an impressive 29-12 start to the season. Boston fell to 16-22.

Tom Phoebus is expected to start game two for Baltimore, while Boston will send out righty Sonny Siebert. The game should start around 5:15 pm.

Box score from Baseball Reference


Who was the most Birdland player for May 24, 1970 (Game 1)

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Brooks Robinson (1-4, Walk Off HR)
    (28 votes)
  • 13%
    Curt Motton (1-1, pinch-hit, game-tying single)
    (12 votes)
  • 56%
    Mike Cuellar (9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 K)
    (52 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now