Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. II: The Price of Beating Sandy Koufax

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December 1, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport; from players such as Wade Boggs and Justin Verlander, and instances like a black cat walking across Ron Santo in the one deck circle, it’s a sport that is steeped in superstition as much as it is rooted in tradition.  The reason for such is that much the same way that the course of the NBA is dictated by David Stern, the MLB is governed by the baseball gods.  They are the committee that controls the flow of the game and the outcome of events.  Like the gods of ancient mythology however, they are not infallible and from time to time have been stymied by the actions of a certain player or team.  As such, there comes a price for crossing the gods and their plans for baseball.

Pissing Off the Baseball Gods: is a 30 part anthology wherein I will go through each of the 30 franchises in the MLB and give an example of how they crossed the baseball gods, and give the ensuing penalty that arose from their transgression.  Essentially, a gigantic dose of karma, each team has had to pay for a victory they shouldn’t have had, or having unfavorable players on their team.  Most of the examples provided may seem disassociated and incongruent, but given the superstitious nature of baseball, chances are it’s just the price to pay for pissing off the baseball gods.

 

There was a time when the Baltimore Orioles were like the San Antonio Spurs; for a good seventeen year period, the Orioles were always a championship caliber team, and were perennially bound for the playoffs, much in the same way that the Spurs have been over the past seventeen years.  Both teams were good throughout this period and won multiple championships, but even though they were constant contenders, they aren’t really dynasties in the strictest sense.  The reason why the Baltimore Orioles never became a dynasty is because they came into conflict with the baseball gods.

There was a time in baseball when the Orioles were the best team in the entire league.  During this three year span they won 318 games and boasted three hall of famers on the team, along with their hall of fame manager.  Naturally enough the Orioles went to the World Series during these three seasons in 1969, 1970, and 1971.  Despite these credentials, they only won one of these series, and were upset in the other two.  By all accounts, the Orioles should have won at least two of these World Series, and that in conjunction with their past success and future endeavors, would have made them a dynasty.  But instead, they beat Sandy Koufax.

The reason why the baseball gods saw fit to deny the Orioles from repeating, or even three-peating from 1969-1971 lays in the simple fact that they beat the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series, and preventing them from repeating as world champs.  Not only that but they outpitched the Dodgers vaunted pitching rotation, led by Sandy Koufax in what would be his last season.  Opposing the likes of Koufax and Don Drysdale were a bunch of kids in their early 20s like Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Wally Bunker.  Not only were the Dodgers supposed to win, but they were supposed to dominate this group of upstarts and become the third national league team to repeat as world champions.[1]

Such was not the case, as it would be the Orioles, much to the chagrin and shock of the baseball gods.  In 36 innings, the Dodgers, who not known for their offense was limited to 2 runs.  Their pitchers by contrast gave up 13 runs across four games.[2]  The standout moment came in game two when a 20 year old Jim Palmer, outduels Sandy Koufax to take a 2-0 game lead in the series.  This kid who never had overpowering stuff, manages to outpitch Sandy Koufax, the best pitcher in baseball at that time, during what was arguably his best season as a professional baseball player.  Add on top of this that game 2 was Koufax’s last game, as he soon retired shortly after the World Series.

Here are these upstart kids who manage to knock off the Dodgers, and their stud pitcher, playing in his last games ever.  The baseball gods took great exception to this.  While the Orioles golden age was from 1966-1971, they won too soon.  And as a consequence for their successful usurpation of the World Series, the gods thought it necessary to make sure the same fate would befall the Orioles when it was their time to reign over the MLB.  Much the same way that the Orioles knocked off the Dodgers, a team that was considered to be better than them, the Mets did the same to the Orioles in 1969.  A team that while obviously very good (the Mets won 101 games that year), was expected to bow out to the Orioles rather quickly.[3]  But, instead the Mets won in a rather shocking, but unspectacular fashion.

After their successful 1970 season in which they defeated the Reds in five, the Orioles had a chance to repeat (which is what the 1970 season should have been), in 1971.  Going into that series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (again a good team, but one that didn’t pose any real threat to the Orioles), the Orioles featured four 20-game winners, the most potent offense in the American League, and the most efficient pitching staff.  They had won their last 11 games in the regular season and they proceeded to sweep the A’s in the ALCS bringing their winning streak to 14 games.

After winning the first two games in Baltimore, the Orioles found themselves down 3-2 games going back to Baltimore.  However, after a stunning win in extra innings of game 6, it appeared that the Orioles had all the momentum.  The baseball gods, using Steve Blass as a proxy, had other ideas.  Instead of the home team winning every game, the Pirates pitcher Steve Blass stymied and vexed the Orioles vaunted offense en route to the Pirates first championship since Bill Mazeroski’s home run in 1960.[4]

Because the Orioles had violated the baseball gods will by dismantling the Dodgers in 1966, they saw fit to balance the scales by taking one away from the Orioles that they should have won.  But by doing so, in their infinite cruelty, the baseball gods denied the Orioles going back to back in either 1969-70 or 1970-71, which probably would have led to them being a dynasty.[5]  It’s hard to be considered a dynasty when you don’t win consecutively, and lose to inferior teams.  The baseball gods saw fit to rob the Orioles of their dynasty in return for besting Sandy Koufax and his Los Angeles Dodgers.  In short, according to the baseball gods, the price of beating Sandy Koufax is one dynasty, something the Baltimore Orioles and their fans know all too well.

Next Week: The Toronto Blue Jays


[1] This distinction eventually fell to the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds.

[2] Remember this was the same Dodgers rotation that limited the Yankee, repeat the Yankees, to 4 runs across four games in the 1963 World Series.

[3] Most predictions had the Orioles winning in five games.  Ironic isn’t it.

[4] Don’t worry, the Pirates would get theirs for stealing two champions from better teams.

[5] Realistically and objectively the Orioles should have won all three World Series in a row.  But I have to admit, I’m glad Tom Seaver won a World Series.

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