1966 World Series
By the mid-'60's the Los Angeles Dodgers had replaced the perennial champion New York Yankees as baseball's premiere dynasty after winning the World Series for the second time in three years. After holding the "Bronx Bombers" to four total runs in their four-game sweep in '63 and limiting the Minnesota Twins to seven runs over the last five games of the '65 Series, the Dodgers had proven that great pitching can silence almost any line-up. Their American League rivals, the Baltimore Orioles also boasted a strong rotation featuring Jim Palmer (who had fifteen victories) and the '66 Triple Crown winner, Frank Robinson. Robinson had finished the regular season with a league-high forty-nine home runs, one-hundred twenty-two runs batted in and a .316 batting average. Both teams seemed to match up well, although no one in a Baltimore uniform had numbers even close to Koufax, who had risen to the top step of Major League pitchers in a few short seasons.
As the Series got underway in Dodger Stadium, the Orioles' star left-hander, Dave McNally held an early 4-1 lead in the third. Frank Robinson had started things off for "the Birds" with a two run homer in the first and Brooks Robinson matched the effort in the next at-bat. Years later, Brooks stated that hitting a "back-to-back" homer in the World Series was his biggest thrill in baseball, even topping his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. McNally retired the first Dodger batter in the third, but then allowed three consecutive bases on balls. Orioles Manager Hank Bauer exhibited a quick hook and replaced the twenty-three year-old with Moe Drabowsky. The veteran reliever struck out Wes Parker, but then yielded a walk to Jim Gilliam that resulted in Johnson crossing home. Drabowsky maintained his composure though and induced John Roseboro to foul out. It would be LA's last scoring opportunity for the rest of the day. The thirty-one year-old reliever went on to sit down the Dodgers' sides in the fourth and fifth innings while tying the Fall Classic record of six consecutive strikeouts. In the end, he totaled eleven strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit on the way to a 5-2 opening lead.
For Game 2, the Orioles' Jim Palmer was given the monumental task of keeping pace with Sandy Koufax. The Dodger veteran had just finished another all-star season with twenty-seven wins and an ERA of 1.73 and many felt that it would be no contest. Palmer surprised everyone though, by matching the LA ace pitch-for-pitch for a scoreless outing that lasted into the fifth. The Orioles were the first to break through with three unearned runs in a terrible inning for the Dodgers' Willie Davis. First, the centerfielder dropped consecutive fly balls (after losing both in the sun). Then he threw a wild ball past third base after the second drop. Luis Aparicio added the only RBI of the inning and before the Dodgers knew what had hit them, they were down 3-0. Koufax, who was suffering from an arthritic elbow, stumbled again in the sixth after yielding an earned run when Frank Robinson tripled and Boog Powell singled him home. Before a total disaster, Koufax managed to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam, getting Andy Etchebarren to ground into a double play. However, it was an unfortunate end to Koufax's play in the Series and ultimately, his career. He announced his retirement the following November in an effort to prevent permanent damage to his arm. Silencing his critics, Baltimore's twenty year-old "underdog" finished on top by allowing only four hits for the 6-0 win.
As the Series moved to Baltimore for the first time in it's sixty-three year history, another young pitcher named Wally Bunker stepped up to the mound and delivered a six hitter for a clutch 1-0 victory. Although the home team managed a meager three hits off of the Dodger's rotation, one was a monster 430-foot homer by Paul Blair off Claude Osteen in the fifth. McNally returned to save face in Game 4 against Drysdale and both pitchers allowed only four hits. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, one of theirs was a fourth inning blast by Frank Robinson that landed in the left-field bleachers. The result was another Baltimore 1-0 victory and a World Series title. The Orioles had defeated baseball's newest dynasty and they had done it with less-than-spectacular stats. In the end, their scorecards totaled a meager twenty-four hits and ten earned runs in four games. However, the Dodger's boasted an even lower total (setting an all-time record) with two runs, seventeen hits, a .142 batting average and pathetic thirty-three consecutive scoreless innings.