Note: Leverage Index is an average of the leverage of situations, with 1 being average, below 1 being low-pressure, and above 1 being high-pressure.
Since beginning life as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901, moving to St. Louis as the Browns a year later, and heading east to become the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, the franchise was just never all that competitive. In their first 65 years of existence, they played in one World Series, losing in 1944. They cracked a .600 winning percentage just once (1922), and in 65 years they managed a .500 record or better just 18 times. Between 1946 and 1959, the Browns/Orioles finished in the bottom 3 of the AL in 13 of the 14 years, with the high mark being a 5th place finish in 1957. Times were lean, to say the least. In 1959, the club hired Yankees farm system director Lee MacPhail to be the GM. Things quickly changed.
The tide began to turn in 1960, Brooks Robinson‘s first year as a productive starter. Over the first 6 years of the 60’s they’d be over .500 5 times, winning 90 or more games 3 times. They were on the cusp of something big. In 1965, the pitching staff was stellar, with 7 competent starting pitchers, but the offense was league-average. MacPhail decided to take a job with the league office as the Commissioner’s top aide, but before he resigned, he and successor Harry Dalton began talks to improve the offense. Several weeks after his departure, Dalton finished what they started, trading staff ace Milt Pappas, reliever Jack Baldschun (acquired 3 days earlier from the Phillies), and OF Dick Simpson (acquired one week earlier from the Angels) to Cincinnati for 30 year old former MVP Frank Robinson. With this trade, now considered one of the most lopsided in history, Baltimore went from flawed contender to a team ready to start a dynasty. Robinson won the Triple Crown in ’66, and 65 years of demons were ready to be exorcised.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) didn’t have the better record, but most saw LA as the favorite. The defending champs, they’d won 2 of the last 3 World Series, and they had a by this point legendary pitching staff, allowing just 3.0 runs per game, more than half a run better than any other team in the league. Ace Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73, 317 K’s, 27 CG, 5 shutouts) was en route to his 3rd CY Award. Don Drysdale (13-16, 3.42) was coming off one of his worst regular seasons, but was still a feared October starter. Claude Osteen (17-14, 2.85) and 21 year old rookie Don Sutton (12-12, 2.99) rounded out the 4-man rotation. The bullpen was strong as well, led by relief ace Phil Regan (14-1, 1.62, 21 saves), Bob Miller (2.77, 5 saves), and Ron Perranoski (3.18, 6 saves). The offense was below average, but still had some solid regulars. RF Ron Fairly (.288/.380/.464) and 2B Jim Lefebvre (.274/.333/.460/ 24 HR) were the best hitters. C John Roseboro (.276/.343/.398), 1B Wes Parker (.253/.351/.385), LF Lou Johnson (.272/.316/.414/ 17 HR), and CF Willie Davis (.284/.302/.405 / 31 2B / 21 SB) were all solid. The Dodgers had the pitching and the rings, and the Dodgers were the favorites.
The Baltimore Orioles (97-63) were suddenly all about offense, leading the AL in runs per game while finishing around league average in run prevention. The offense was built like modern fantasy teams, with healthy doses of stars balanced out by below average players. The stars more than carried the load; offseason acquisition Frank Robinson (.316/.410/.637) led the way with 49 HR, 122 runs, and 122 RBI, on his way the MVP award. 3B Brooks Robinson (.269/.333/.444) hit 23 HR, 100 RBI, and provided phenomenal defense, himself finishing 2nd in the MVP race to his teammate. 24 year old 1B Boog Powell (.287/.372/.532) hit 34 HR, drove in 109, and finished 3rd in the MVP race himself. LF Curt Blefary (.255/.371/.468) hit 23 HR, giving the Orioles a 4th power threat in the lineup. The pitching staff wasn’t as feared as LA’s, but they had youth and talent, even if the results were uneven. The ace was 23-year old Dave McNally (13-6, 3.17). 4th starter Steve Barber (10-5, 2.30, 3 shutouts) was the most impressive statistically, and at 28 he was by 3 years the oldest starter on the team. 20-year old Jim Palmer (15-10, 3.46) showed flashes of brilliance yet to come, but 21-year old Wally Bunker (10-6, 4.29) couldn’t quite keep pace. A 3-headed bullpen monster of relief ace Stu Miller (9-4, 2.25, 18 saves), Moe Drabowsky (6-0, 2.81, 6 saves), and Eddie Fisher (2.64, 14 saves) gave Baltimore some stability behind the young rotation.
McNally faced Drysdale in the opener, but both struggled out of the gate. The O’s got things started with a couple of Robinson homers in the first – a 2 run shot from Frank followed by a solo bomb from Brooks. In the 2nd, a Russ Snyder RBI single pushed Baltimore’s lead to 4. However, Lefebvre led off the bottom of the 2nd with a HR, closing the gap to 4-1. In the 3rd, McNally got Willie Davis to pop up to lead things off, but then loaded the bases with back to back to back walks. Through 2.1, he had allowed just the one hit (the Lefebvre HR), but had gotten himself into jams by issuing 5 walks. Manager Hank Bauer called on reliever Drabowsky to come in. Drabowsky struck out Parker but walked in a run before getting Roseboro to pop out, getting out of the jam with a 4-2 lead still intact. In the 4th, Baltimore rookie Davey Johnson doubled and would score on a groundball from Luis Aparicio for a 5-2 lead. Drabowsky was brilliant. He struck out the side in the 4th, and then repeated the feat in the 5th. He set LA down in the 6th, got out of a 2 on, one out jam in the 7th, and mowed them down over the final two innings. Drabowsky turned in one of the best relief performances in World Series history – 6.2 innings, 1 hit, 2 walks, 0 runs, and 11 strikeouts.
Average leverage: 0.83
A little more than a week away from his 21st birthday, Jim Palmer was tasked with facing the best pitcher on the planet, Sandy Koufax. Both looked good early. The Dodgers loaded the bases against Palmer in the 2nd, but were unable to score. After 4, it was scoreless. In the 5th, Boog Powell led off with a single. Koufax got Davey Johnson out, and then got Paul Blair to hit a fly ball to CF. Davis, actually known for good defense, lost the ball in the sun and it dropped. The Orioles had runners on 2nd and 3rd after the error. Again, Koufax induced a fly ball off the bat of Etchebarren, and again Davis committed an error, this time bobbling the catch. Both runners scored and Etchebarren wound up at 3rd. After Palmer struck out, Aparicio doubled home Etchebarren to push the lead to 3-0. Frank Robinson led off the 6th with a triple and would be pushed home on a Boog Powell single. The O’s were up 4-0 on Koufax and were at 96% odds to win. In the 8th, with Perranoski relieving Koufax and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Johnson bunted for a hit, but Perranoski threw wildly, allowing both runners to score for a commanding 6-0 lead. The 6-0 lead would hold, and Palmer went the distance, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Palmer remains the youngest pitcher to ever throw a World Series shutout, and LA tied a World Series record with 6 errors. It was also Palmer’s first career shutout.
Average leverage: 0.65
Game 3 featured Osteen facing Bunker, and in the first ever World Series game in Baltimore, gave the fans a great pitching duel. Neither team would get a guy into scoring position until the Dodgers’ Parker doubled in the 4th, but Bunker struck out Lefebre to end the inning unscathed. In the 5th, Osteen made his first and only mistake, giving up a HR to Paul Blair. In the top of the 6th, LA got Maury Wills to 3rd, but Fairly grounded out to end the inning. The Dodgers threatened again in the 8th, this time with Tommy Davis on 2nd with one out, but Bunker got Parker to pop up and Willie Davis grounded out. Bunker set the Dodgers down in order in the 9th and finished off the 1-0 shutout, the first shutout he’d thrown all season. Claude Osteen allowed just 4 baserunners in 7 innings, but the Blair HR was all it took. Baltimore took a 3-0 Series lead.
Average leverage: 1.20
Game 4 was a repeat matchup from Game 1, with McNally facing Drysdale, and unlike Game 1, both were on top of their game. Baltimore got 2 on with 1 out in the 2nd inning, but Drysdale got Johnson to ground into a double play to escape the jam. In the bottom of the 4th, Frank Robinson hit a one out solo homer to give Baltimore a 1-0 lead. Aside from that hiccup, both pitchers cruised. In innings 5-8, McNally and Drysdale combined to allow 4 baserunners, none of which reached 2nd. Down by 1 run and down to their final 3 outs, LA finally made some noise in the 9th. Al Ferrara reached first on a one out single. Maury Wills then drew a walk, sending the tying run to 2nd. McNally, however, got Willie Davis to line out to right field, and then induced a Series-ending flyout to Lou Johnson. Baltimore had finished off the Dodgers with 3 straight shutouts, bringing the city of Baltimore its first World Series title.
Average leverage: 1.16
The Dodgers scored a run in both the 2nd and 3rd innings of Game 1 of the 1966 World Series. The Orioles then held them scoreless over the final 33 innings of the Series, using just 4 pitchers – Drabowsky, Palmer, Bunker, and McNally. The Dodgers were the team with the pitching, and they were outpitched by the Orioles.
The Series featured two great games, Games 3 and 4 in Baltimore, and two not-so-great ones, the opening pair in Los Angeles.
Frank Robinson was named Series MVP, hitting 2 homers, both of which broke ties and gave Baltimore permanent leads in games. 1966 marks the beginning of the Oriole dynasty; they’d reach the postseason in 5 of the next 8 seasons, including 3 straight trips to the Fall Classic from 1969-1971. It marked an end of sorts for the Dodgers, who had been in the World Series 10 times in 20 years, but wouldn’t return to the postseason for 8 years.
Game 2, sadly, would be Sandy Koufax’s final game. The legend retired after the World Series due to chronic arthritis in his left arm.
Average leverage: 0.96