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The 1971 World Series, Game 7 (Camden Chat’s version)

Frank Robinson crushed a walkoff home run to lead the Orioles to their second straight championship...in our reimagining of events, at least.

Pirates v Orioles Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Inspired by Taylor Swift re-releasing her own songs as (Taylor’s version), Camden Chat writers will be spending the rest of 2023 re-releasing some Orioles game recaps and giving them better endings. Let’s come up with a more pleasant finale for the 1971 World Series, because how it actually ended was far less enjoyable.

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You guys. They did it! Again!!

Rejoice, O’s fans. For the second year in a row, the Baltimore Orioles are the kings of Major League Baseball.

On this glorious afternoon — Oct. 17, 1971 — the Birds became back-to-back World Series champions with a 3-2 comeback victory in the winner-take-all Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In front of a capacity crowd of 47,291 at Memorial Stadium, the Birds whipped the home fans into a frenzy on Frank Robinson’s walkoff, series-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth, turning a potentially heartbreaking loss into pure ecstasy.

Only four previous times in postseason history has a team lost a best-of-seven series after winning the first two games. The Orioles, with their dramatic victory in today’s clincher, assured they wouldn’t become the fifth victim, finishing a hard-fought series in which the home team won all seven games.

For eight and a half innings, the outlook wasn’t so sunny. Pirates starter Steve Blass, who’d already dominated the Orioles with a complete game victory in Game 3, appeared well on his way to another unforgettable performance. There was a bit of commotion in the bottom of the first when, with a runner aboard and Boog Powell at the plate, O’s manager Earl Weaver came onto the field to complain that Blass wasn’t keeping his foot on the rubber when he came set. The umpires discussed the matter with Blass and Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh. Blass took a warmup toss that sailed to the backstop, then, after play resumed, he threw two balls in a row to Powell before recovering to strike him out.

For a long while, Blass mowed down the O’s with ease, and the foot-on-the-rubber thing was mostly forgotten. (But hold on — it’ll come back into play later.) The Orioles had traffic on the bases but couldn’t push any runs across, wasting runners in the first, second, third, and fifth innings. Back-to-back perfect innings in the sixth and seventh got Blass into the eighth with a shutout intact.

Meanwhile, the Pirates staked him to a slim lead. The great Roberto Clemente started the scoring with a fourth-inning solo homer off O’s starter Mike Cuellar, who otherwise did a stellar job. Cuellar, who was defeated by Blass in an iffy Game 3 outing, more than held his own in this rematch. He worked eight strong innings and allowed just two runs, the second coming on a José Pagán RBI double in the eighth that made it a 2-0 game.

Weaver unleashed three of the four 20-game winners on his pitching staff in this decisive finale. While Jim Palmer was unavailable after working nine innings yesterday, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally both pitched in relief after Cuellar, combining on a scoreless ninth inning.

It almost wasn’t enough to propel the Orioles to victory. Key word: almost. But the never-say-die O’s weren’t about to let their championship dreams die. They finally got to Blass in the eighth, starting the inning with consecutive singles and plating a runner on a Don Buford groundout before the tying run was stranded at third.

And so the O’s headed to the bottom of the ninth trailing, 2-1, three outs away from what would have been a gutting Series loss. Blass was still on the mound for the Pirates, seemingly on cruise control. That’s when things took a wonderful turn for the Orioles.

Leading off the ninth was Boog Powell, last year’s AL MVP. He worked the count 2-2 before tapping a seemingly routine bouncer to second baseman Dave Cash. But in an incredible stroke of luck, the ball took a bad hop off a stray pebble in the infield, bouncing over the helpless Cash’s head into short right field. The leadoff man was aboard on a gift single. For Boog, who’d been struggling in the series — just 3-for-26 to that point — he’ll take a hit any way he can get it.

Up next was Frank Robinson, who previously homered against Blass in Game 3, the Orioles’ only run of that game. As Blass settled into the stretch position, Earl Weaver once more popped out of the dugout, again insisting that the right-hander didn’t have his foot on the rubber. As before, the umpires conferred with Blass and Murtaugh, and Blass made another errant warmup toss before Weaver left the field, satisfied.

If Earl was trying to play mind games, well, it worked to perfection. Blass missed badly on two pitches to Robinson and, frustrated, grooved a fastball that caught too much of the plate. And, well, Frank Robinson does not miss mistakes. With one mighty swing, Frank walloped a mammoth drive to left field that forever altered the course of history.

The ball didn’t fly quite as far as Robinson’s legendary shot that cleared the ballpark entirely in 1966. It didn’t need to. As the ball landed into the throng of euphoric Orioles fans in left field, Robinson and Powell jumped and celebrated their way around the bases, greeted at home plate by their blissful Orioles teammates. Thousands of fans streamed onto the field to join in the festivities, because it’s 1971 and security is lax.

What a scene. What a game. And what a way to win a championship. If that was the final at-bat in an Orioles uniform for Frank Robinson — because I’m getting a weird premonition that he’ll be traded this offseason to, I don’t know, the Dodgers — then what a way for him to end his legendary O’s career. I can’t imagine this 1971 Orioles season ending any other way.