This game took place on Saturday, October 10, 1970. It is being recapped today as part of Camden Chat’s retro recap series while MLB is on hold due to coronavirus.
After defeating the Twins to capture the American League pennant, the Orioles’ magical season continued as they moved onto the World Series, beginning the best of seven series against the Cincinnati Reds on the road. With only two teams in baseball still playing, Jim Palmer opened up game 1 against at Riverfront Stadium. And he was working his magic yet again.
The right-hander was a rock for the Orioles in 1970, finishing the regular season with a 2.71 ERA, 3.22 FIP and 20 wins in 305 IP. He continued that excellence in the postseason too. Just seven days prior, on October 3, Palmer pitched a complete against the Twins to send the O’s to the World Series.
From simply looking at the box score, one might say that Palmer excelled with less than his best stuff. Case in point, he allowed five walks and managed only two strikeouts. But he also kept the Reds lineup off balance for the entire game, limiting damage and coming within an out of a complete game.
The righty’s final pitching line was 8.2 innings, five hits, three earned runs, five walks, two strikeouts and one home run allowed.
The Orioles had to face right-hander Gary Nolan, who was 18-7 with a 3.27 ERA and 3.65 FIP during the 1970 regular season. He did alright; he was just out-dueled by Palmer in this particular game. Nolan lasted 6.2 innings, allowing five hits, four earned runs, one walk and seven strikeouts.
One big difference between the two teams in this game was the power flashed by the Orioles. In the process of scoring their four runs, the Birds cranked a total of three home runs, all of which were allowed by Nolan. Palmer, on the other hand, only allowed one long ball by the Reds.
Cincinnati got to Palmer early in game 1, stringing together a double, sacrifice fly and RBI single in the bottom of first to scratch out a 1-0 lead.
A few innings later, in the bottom of the third, Palmer gave up a two-run home run to Lee May. Just like they say, nothing good ever happens after a lead off walk. And this example was no exception. Cincinnati’s Bobby Tolan led off the inning with a free pass and would later come around to score on May’s home run.
The Orioles mustered some pop of their own the very next inning, getting on the board for the first time in the game courtesy of a long two-run home run to left field by Boog Powell directly following a Paul Blair infield hit.
With the Orioles trailing by a run, Elrod Hendricks went deep in the fifth inning, launching a shot into the seats in right. It was a brand new ballgame.
It was a scoreless game for the next couple innings, until the tie was broken by the great Brooks Robinson. He took a pitch from Reds’ pitcher Gary Nolan to deep left — up and over the fence — which would prove to be the go-ahead, game-winning home run.
Brooks not only made an impact with his bat but with his glove. In the bottom of the sixth, he made a sensational defensive play, running into foul territory to field a Lee May grounder behind the bag and making a strong throw to first for the out.
Later that inning, the Reds were denied a chance to take the lead on a controversial umpiring call. With Bernie Carbo at third, Ty Cline hit a high chopper right in front of home plate. Elrod Hendricks fielded the ball with two hands and dove to try to tag Carbo, who was sliding into home plate. Replays showed that Hendricks tagged Carbo with his empty glove while holding the ball in his bare hand, but umpire Ken Burkhart, who was knocked over on the play, called Carbo out. Reds manager Sparky Anderson angrily argued the call with Burkhart, to no avail.
Flash forward to the top of the ninth inning and O’s shortstop Mark Belanger, who hit .218 during the regular season, garnered an intentional walk in the with two outs after Davey Johnson doubled to center. The Reds chose to put Belanger on first in order to bring up the Orioles’ no. 9 hitter, Jim Palmer. It worked. Palmer flied out to end the inning.
The O’s right-hander came back out to the mound to pitch the bottom of the ninth, striking out Jimmy Stewart and Angel Bravo for the first and second outs, respectively. Then Pete Rose worked a walk and Palmer got the hook. He was replaced by Pete Richert to face Bobby Tolan, who ended the game with a lineout to Belanger at shortstop.
As a team, the Reds only managed five total hits and they were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. And a key to the game for the Orioles was suppressing leadoff hitter and all-time hit leader Pete Rose at the top of the Reds lineup. He was 0-for-3 in the game, with a walk in the ninth inning representing the only time he reached base.
The Birds may have been 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, but they were able to muster seven hits and three home runs, the most clutch of which came in the seventh inning off the bat of Brooks Robinson to put the Orioles up by one game on the Reds in the series.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for October 10, 1970 (World Series Game 1)?
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Jim Palmer, W (8.2 IP, 3 ER)
Brooks Robinson (go-ahead HR in the 7th)
Boog Powell (1-for-3, 2-R HR, BB)
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.