This game took place on Tuesday, October 13, 1970. It is being recapped today as part of Camden Chat’s retro recap series while MLB is on hold due to coronavirus.
The 1970 World Series began in Cincinnati with the Reds hosting the Baltimore Orioles for the first two games. In both games the Orioles had to come from behind and ended up winning by just one run in each. After the two close contests, the Orioles returned to Baltimore with a 2-0 series lead.
The 51,773 fans who packed Memorial Stadium were in for a treat. Rather than another nail biter, the Orioles laid waste to the Reds’ pitching staff. They scored two runs in the first inning and ultimately beat the Reds by a score of 9-3 to put them on the precipice of the championship.
Even after just two games, the story of the World Series so far was the defense of Brooks Robinson. But his bat also did some good work in the series as well. He hit the go-ahead home run in game one, and in game three he knocked in two in his first at-bat to put the Orioles ahead in a game they would never trail. The bases were loaded with Orioles legends (Don Buford, Frank Robinson, Paul Blair) and Brooks lined a ball to center for a two-run double.
The Orioles increased their lead over the next few innings thanks to dingers from a few of the usual suspects. In the third inning, Reds’ starter Tony Cloninger was taken deep by Frank Robinson, then in the fifth Don Buford tagged him for another solo shot to put the Orioles up by a score of 4-1.
If you just look at the play-by-play of this game, your eyes might glance past the top of the sixth inning in which the Reds were retired 1-2-3. Flyout to CF, strikeout, and line out to 3B. But if you are an Orioles fan or a fan of baseball history, you have probably seen a picture that came out of that inning. You know the one, with Brooks Robinson laid out on the infield dirt, raising his glove into the air after snaring a line drive.
With two outs in the inning, Johnny Bench hit a line drive that looked off the bat like a scorching hit. Unfortunately for him, he hit it in the vicinity of third base. Robinson dove to his left and came up with the ball, just another of the seemingly endless great plays he made in this series. Here is video showing back-to-back highlights of Brooks’s RBI double in the first and his diving catch in the sixth.
Three runs is a pretty big hole to fall into against the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, but it’s still close enough that you can imagine getting back into the game as long as you don’t make any big mistakes. About that.
The bottom of the sixth inning began with Cloninger still on the mound, but on a short leash. He retired Frank Robinson for the first out, but was pulled from the game when Paul Blair singled. The relief pitcher, Wayne Granger, was unable to shut the door. Brooks Robinson doubled to put runners on second and third with just one out, so the Reds opted to intentionally walk Davey Johnson.
Granger struck out Andy Etchebarren for the second out and was so close to getting out of it! With two outs, all he needed to do was retire pitcher Dave McNally to end the inning.
Before we get to what happened, let’s play a round of “You’re the Manager!” In this scenario, your team is up 4-1 in the sixth inning of game three of the World Series. A win in this game would put your team up in the series 3-0, basically assuring a World Series victory. With two outs and the bases loaded, your pitcher due up next to bat. Even just a single would break the game open. Do you pinch hit for the pitcher?
I have to say, I would. But this is why I am not a manager enshrined in the Hall of Fame and Earl Weaver is. Weaver elected to leave McNally in the game. During the regular season McNally had gone 14-for-105 at the plate with a hitting line of .133/.242/.219.
McNally rewarded his manager with the biggest hit possible: a grand slam. What! Granger, all you had to do was retire the pitcher! It was the first time in the history of the World Series that a pitcher had hit a grand slam, and it put the game out of reach for the Reds. It wasn’t, however, the first grand slam of McNally’s career; he also hit a granny in 1968 against the Oakland A’s.
McNally took the mound in the seventh to what I can only assume was a crazy ovation by the Memorial Stadium fans. But the home run seemingly took it out of him as he had his roughest inning of the game. He gave up two runs thanks to a three singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly before he got the third out of the inning. But since those two runs are only half of what he knocked in with one swing of the bat, I think all is forgiven.
Paul Blair doubled in Boog Powell in the bottom half of the inning to make the score 9-3, and from there on out it was just up to McNally to close things out. He did just that, retiring six of the final eight batters to finish the game and give the Orioles the win.
With that, the Orioles were within just one game of their second World Series championship. Check back on Monday to read about the clincher!
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Game 3 of the 1970 World Series?
This poll is closed
Dave McNally (9 IP, 3 R. Oh and he hit a grand slam!)
Brooks Robinson (2 doubles, 2 RBI, yet another outstanding play in the field)