WASHINGTON — While at work the other day, I overheard my boss Mike McMearty reminiscing about the 1979 World Series. That’s when it dawned on me: this season is the anniversary of that Fall Classic featuring the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.
The teams faced off again this week.
It took me back to the first World Series I can remember watching, and there were a lot of firsts at the series. The nostalgia in me started to stir.
I planned to go to the two game set this week in Charm City, when Mother Nature stepped in, raining on the parade. The games were pushed to the next day, strangely just like it did in Game 1 of the ’79 series (the same occurrence happened in the 1971 World Series, also played between the O’s and Pirates where Game 2 was postponed. By the way, Game 4 at Three Rivers Stadium, also was the first ever night game scheduled in World Series play).
Game 2 this week was also postponed, so like Cubs great Ernie Banks famously said “Let’s play two,” and a rare doubleheader was scheduled on both teams’ off day, Thursday.
Upon arriving at the park, I wondered if there were anyone at Camden Yards who went to that World Series at Memorial Stadium for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 — and if they wanted to reflect back to when their O’s lost to the Pirates in seven games, or even cared to.
I found an usher who wished to remain anonymous, who was at Memorial Stadium, recalling “the Pirates’ wives blowing an annoying whistle.”
“All you could hear was that whistle,” he said. The whistle was being blown by Pittsburgh Center Fielder Omar Moreno’s wife Sandra, as a rally for her husband.
It seemed to have worked. Moreno hit .333 and caught the last out of the series.
Another first in this World Series was team radio announcers not being involved in national radio play-by-play, leaving off great Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson, Bill O’Donnell and Tom Marr, along with the Pirates radio crew of Milo Hamilton and Lanny Frattare, allowing reporting by Vin Scully, whose first radio job was at WTOP, and Sparky Anderson, who was just completing his first season as Tigers manager.
I then met “Fancy Clancy,” celebrating his 40th season selling beer at the games. He vividly remembered those games in Memorial Stadium when beer was just $1.25 and sold in a bottle and served in a cup. Also, the beer was sold through the end of the game — not ending in the 7th inning as they do now.
He remembered “the crowd yelled ‘O’ during the singing of the National Anthem.” That was another first as this was the first World Series, the other in 1983 between, the O’s and Phillies, where the infamous shouting of “O” occurred during the National Anthem in Baltimore.
The official MLB 1979 World Series logo.
Other firsts at that last World Series of the 1970’s included Orioles Pitcher Tim Stoddard getting his first major league hit and RBI as the American League team, played by Nationals League rules.
Then, I met Denny Broderick, a season ticket holder of “The Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street,” and now at Camden Yards, had seats eight rows back, behind first base, where he said he tried as hard as he could to distract Pirates first baseman Willie “Pops” Stargell.
“I yelled everything in the book at him,” he said.
It didn’t pan out for him — it did for Stargell, who won the World Series MVP, hit .400 with three home runs, and 25 total bases in the seven-game series, matching Reggie Jackson’s record of total bases set two years earlier.
Broderick still has seats, numbered 1 and 2, in his recreation room at home.
Thursday was Orioles starter Chris Tillman’s first time facing the Pirates, who got into some early-inning trouble during the night cap of the doublebill. It was before Baltimore’s Matt Wieters hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the 10th innings to win it for the O’s, who took both games from the Bucos.
Also in that second game Thursday, O’s 3rd baseman Manny Machado’s played in his first game of the season since that horrific injury late last year.
Sure, there are other memorable events that have happened in baseball, some more than others, but here we are at one that a lot still remember, especially in Baltimore, and of course in Pittsburgh, too.
The same two teams will play again this season in Pittsburgh in less than three weeks, but you never know if these two storied franchises will face off for a third time in the Fall Classic, but to look back 35 years and at the present, it’s nice to remember a lot of firsts, appropriately on the 1st of May.