June 18, 2010

A Block Party For The Birds

Remember the good times? On Sept. 22, 1966, the Orioles clinched their first American League flag with a 6-1 victory over the homestanding Kansas City A's. Jim Palmer spun a five-hitter, Frank Robinson had three hits, and outfielder Russ Snyder made a diving catch of Dick Green's line drive for the final out.

In Baltimore, bells rang at City Hall in celebration of the Birds' pennant. And on The Block, that glitzy magnet for adult entertainment, patrons and employees paused -- albeit briefly -- to pay homage to the Orioles.


June 1, 2010

When The Birds Were Boss

See the Orioles, parading down Charles Street at Madison. See the fans, rushing out to greet them (women and children first). It's April 17, 1954, and Baltimore's love affair with its new baseball team is in full bloom.

Never mind that those Orioles of yesteryear were no better than today's sorry bunch. (The '54 Birds won exactly 54 games and lost 100). The city was just happy to have a big-league team, following a half-century of minor league ball, and officials staged a parade for the players when the club arrived in town.


For keen-eyed readers, that's a smiling Clint Courtney, riding shotgun, in the lead car. Good thing it's a convertible. Courtney, the Orioles catcher, was a tobacco-chewing, Louisiana farm boy who was strong as an ox and who smelled like one, too. On road trips, Old Scrap Iron visited stockyards in Chicago and Kansas City, looking to beef up the herd on his 200-acre spread.

"Clint would stomp around in that cow manure, wearing his only suit, then come straight to the park," Orioles' shortstop Ron Hansen once said. "The stink didn't bother him."

Fans could have cared less. They had a team, one that would evolve into champions in the years to come. Would that this year's faithful could expect the same.

May 28, 2010

Remembering Honeycomb

He was, arguably, the most exciting player ever to suit up for the Baltimore Bullets. Who could match Gus "Honeycomb" Johnson's windmill dunks, one-hand slams and blocked shots, like this one in 1964 against Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, of the Cincinnati Royals?

Johnson, who played nine seasons with the Bullets, will himself be inducted posthumously into the Basketball Hall of Fame in August. Gus died of brain cancer in 1987.

"I remember watching Gus play for the Bullets while I was in college, at Winston-Salem," Earl Monroe recalled last year, during a visit to Baltimore. "A bunch of us were sitting in the TV room, at school, watching them play the Boston Celtics. All of a sudden, Gus jumped out of the corner with that patented hook dunk, which he threw down on (Celtics center) Bill Russell.

"He made an indelible inpression on me," Monroe said. "I thought, 'Wow, I'd like to play with that guy some day."

That, he did. In 1967, the Bullets drafted Monroe, another Hall of Famer who teamed with Johnson for four years. They helped carry Baltimore to the NBA finals in 1971.


Postscript: Can you name the other players in the 1964 photo above? They are, from left, Bullets center Walt Bellamy, Royals forward Jerry Lucas, Bullets guard Si Green and forward Terry Dischinger (43).


June 26, 2009

Through the Looking Glass: Magic on ice

They tooted horns, rang bells and blew sirens. On a warm April night in 1963, nearly 11,000 playoff-crazed hockey fans shoe-horned into the spanking new Baltimore Civic Center to watch their beloved Clippers win their first postseason game.

The crowd cheered every shot by the Clippers’ high-scoring center, Dave Creighton, and every save by goalie Marcel Pelletier. They whooped when the public address announcer asked that a doctor go to the dressing room of the Hershey Bears, the Clippers’ opponent in the American Hockey League Calder Cup quarterfinals.

Baltimore won the game, 5-3, but lost the best-of-three series to Hershey. The Clippers would play 14 more years in the AHL but no team captured the city’s heart like the first one. Noel Price. Jean Ratelle. Duane Rupp. Who can forget?

Baltimore Sun file photo by Paul Hutchins


Click here to view past Through the Looking Glass posts

June 15, 2009

Through the Looking Glass: Brooks to ... Brooks?

Brooks Robinson’s expression is matched by that of his four-year-old son, Brooks David, during the Orioles’ annual Father and Son game at Memorial Stadium in 1965. The youngster went on the play baseball at Loyola High and is now an investment banker living in La Grange, Ga. His dad’s likeness hangs in Cooperstown.

Sun file photo by Paul Hutchins

June 12, 2009

Through the Looking Glass: It's a Bird, it's Superman!

It’s September 11, 1970 and the Orioles are a cinch to win the American League East -- much to the chagrin of the New York Yankees, their opponent that night. Some weeks earlier, New York outfielder Curt Blefary had told his teammates that they could still catch Baltimore because the Orioles weren’t supermen. Here, Orioles slugger Frank Robinson suggests otherwise, ripping open his shirt as Blefary roars with laughter.

The Orioles won 108 games that season, swept Minnesota to win the American League flag and then defeated Cincinnati, four games to one, to win their second World Series.

Sun file photo by William Hotz

June 8, 2009

The Iron Horse takes a ride

Those Baltimore Colts who played with him will tell you: There was no one tougher than Bill "Iron Horse" Pellington, here tackling the New York Giants’ Bob Schnelker by the head during the Colts’ 1959 NFL championship victory at Memorial Stadium. Pellington played 12 years here (1953-64), compiled 21 interceptions and punished everyone he tackled.

How tough was he? In his autobiography, "Fatso," the Colts’ Art Donovan wrote that "Pellington once tried to clothesline [Pittsburgh running back] Tom Tracy, but he missed his throat and caught him square on the helmet. Tracy was lying unconscious for a good 15 minutes. Pellington said ‘Geez, I hurt my arm on that bleepety-bleep.’ He played five more plays before coming to the realization that his arm was broken in two."

Pellington died of Alzheimer's disease in 1994. He was 66.

Also see: Through the Looking Glass archive

Sun file photo by Joe DiPaola Jr.


June 6, 2009

Louie, Louie

When the Orioles dealt for Luis Aparicio in 1963, they sealed the left side of their infield for years to come. Few balls got past future Hall of Famers Aparicio, the go-go shortstop, or unerring Brooks Robinson at third. For five seasons here, the airborne Venezuelan turned double plays like this one, against Cleveland (and base runner Max Alvis) in 1967.

Aparicio had perhaps his best year in Baltimore in 1966, when he had hitting streaks of 17 and 14 games. Three times that summer, he hammered five hits in one game to help the Orioles to a World Series championship.

"I disappointed vice president, though," he said afterward. "(Hubert) Humphrey told me to hit home run for him and I didn’t."

Now 75, Aparicio resides in his native land.

Sun file photo





Also see: Through the Looking Glass archive

June 3, 2009

Through The Looking Glass: Breakfast with Jim Palmer


AP photo

Pancakes. Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer had to have them for breakfast every time he took the mound. Here, the 20-year-old right-hander digs into a stack of 41 (by our count) flapjacks prior to pitching Game 2 of the 1966 World Series. When Palmer defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-0, for his first big-league shutout, his nickname was for keeps -- Jockey shorts or no.


Through the Looking Glass archive

View more photos of Jim Palmer

View more photos of Orioles Hall of Famers

June 1, 2009

Through The Looking Glass: Bullets' Johnson grabs a board

Gus Johnson

Was there a more exciting player for the Baltimore Bullets than high-flying Gus Johnson? A 6-foot-6 power forward with a kangaroo leap, "Honeycomb" played nine years in Baltimore (1963-72), averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds. His patented dunk shot shattered several backboards at the Civic Center. A five-time NBA All-Star, he is seen here in 1964, outmuscling Philadelphia’s Ben Warley (left) and Chet Walker for a rebound. In 1987, Johnson died of brain cancer at age 48.

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