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  • Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles ed. by Mark Armour and Malcolm Allen
  • Gregory H. Wolf
Armour, Mark and Malcolm Allen, eds. Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles. Memorable Teams in Baseball History series. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012. Pp. 277. Photographs and tables. $24.95 pb.

After the 1953 season, the hapless St. Louis Browns, winners of just one American League (A.L.) pennant in fifty-three years, moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where they became a model franchise. Leading the A.L. in victories in the 1960s and 1970s, the Orioles’ glory days stretched from 1960 through the early 1980s, with six World Series appearances, including championships in 1966, 1970, and 1983. Led by Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, and a pitching staff boasting three twenty-game winners, the 1970 team may be the best in Orioles’ history. Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers, published by the University of Nebraska and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), documents this Orioles team and its extraordinary 1970 season with detailed biographies of all the players, coaching staff, and broadcasters, while providing a historical context for the team’s success.

Edited by Mark Armour, director of SABR’s Biography Project, and Baltimore native Malcolm Allen, Pitching, Defense, and Three-Run Homers is the second publication in the Memorable Teams in Baseball History series. As the first of forty-nine chapters, Wayne Corbett’s excellent essay “The Oriole Way” recounts how general manager Paul Richards and scouting and farm director Jim McLaughlin created in the late 1950s one of the best and most innovative farm systems which served as the basis for the team’s transformation into an annual pennant contender for the next twenty-five years. “The Oriole Way,” the team’s philosophy of developing players physically and mentally, indoctrinated all players in the entire Orioles’ system to playing fundamentally sound and smart baseball. In “Looking Forward to the Season” Armour reveals how the Orioles, coming off a 109-win season but a disappointing loss to the “Miracle” Mets in the 1969 World Series, approached 1970, and with no substantial roster changes, expecting another first-place finish. Additional essays focusing on regular season and post-season games summarize the Orioles’ juggernaut.

The casual baseball fan may think of advanced baseball statistics and metrics when SABR is mentioned; however, SABR is also dedicated to preserving the history of baseball with a scholarly approach. The bulk of this volume consists of in-depth biographies of all five members of the coaching staff, all thirty-two players who saw action for the Orioles during the regular season, and three broadcasters covering the team. Though some star players have been the subject of full-length biographies, the overwhelming majority of the players and coaches have not. Averaging about 4,000 words in length, the biographies chronicle the individual’s life in baseball, from earliest memories and interaction with the sport, through the minor and major leagues, and post-playing career. Meticulously researched and well-written by SABR members, the biographies shed light on the player’s development, influences, career highlights, and approach to the game. Many of the biographies are supported by personal interviews with the players and coaches. [End Page 161]

Unencumbered by dry statistics, the biographies reveal the players as individuals in context instead of as the sum of numbers and facts. Readers learn, for example, about Terry Crowley’s frustrations when placed on waivers, Curt Motton’s depression by not breaking into the starting lineup, Moe Drabowsky’s attempt to resurrect his career after injuries, and Dick Hall’s conversion into a pitcher. The process by which players were scouted and signed in the years before and after the major leagues instituted an annual draft in 1965 proves especially insightful. Dave Leonard, for example, was a high-school teacher when he signed a professional contract; Don Baylor became the first African American to play baseball at his high school in Texas and was drafted as an eighteen-year-old; and Andy Etchebarren turned down an appointment at the U.S. Naval Academy to pursue baseball. If anything, the biographies reveal...


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