If you grew up as a baseball fan during the 1960s and 1970s, you know that for most decades before this, the New York Yankees were the power house in Major League baseball. But by the late sixties, their dynasty had fizzled out.
Now the team to beat in the American League was the Baltimore Orioles . Originally, the Orioles were the Milwaukee Brewers way back in 1901. They were one of eight original American League franchises.
The Brewers moved to Saint Louis and became the Saint Louis Browns. They stayed in Saint Louis for fifty two years without much success. In 1954, the club moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.
In 1966, the Orioles acquired future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson from the Cincinnati Reds. Frank proceeded to win the triple crown that season and lead the Orioles to their first American League pennant since 1944. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in four straight games to win their first World Championship.
By 1969 Major League baseball had gone to a divisional format. The Orioles won the American League East and swept the Minnesota Twins in the first American League Championship Series. They went on the lose to the Miracle Mets in the World Series.
Baltimore won the American League pennant again in 1970, beating the Reds in the World Series. Then in 1971, they had perhaps their best team.
The Orioles were in the World Series again against the Pittsburgh Pirates and heavily favored to win. They featured a pitching staff that had four twenty game winners. Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson. Along with Palmer, they had future Hall of Famers Brooks and Frank Robinson. However it wasn’t enough as Roberto Clemente and the Pirates beat them in seven games.
1979 again saw the Orioles in the World Series again, losing to the Pirates one more time.
They were World Champions in 1983 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Orioles won the 1996 American League Wild Card and the American Eastern Division in 1997. And that’s been it. Where are they now?
Not only have the Orioles not won a pennant since 1997, they have not had a winning record since then.
Another dominating club from those days was the Kansas City Royals. The Royals won the American League Western Division seven times between 1976 and 1985. They made it to the World Series in 1980, but lost to the Phillies. Then in 1985, George Brett and company beat the Saint Louis Cardinals to win the World Series. The Royals have not seen the post season since.
How about the Oakland Athletics? Three consecutive World Series victories in 1972, 1973, and 1974. Again in the late 1980s, the A’s were in the World Series from 1988 through 1990. They haven’t won an American League pennant since. Although recently they have managed to win a few Western Division titles.
I’ve saved the best for last. In 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the nerve to beat the Yankees in the World Series. Even though they had a rather mundane decade, the 1970s found them back in the post season action.
The Bucs won the National League Eastern Division six times during the 1970s and added two World Series championships in 1971 and 1979. They have not seen the World Series since. They were division champs again from 1990 through 1992, but that has been it. The Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992.
So what is the reason that these great old teams are not so great anymore? In a word, money. They are all small market clubs. The big teams get the big television contracts and have money to gobble up the high priced free agents.
When a high profile player becomes a free agent, these small market clubs can not compete financially. As a Pirates fan, I would not even care about the free agents. I just wish they could keep what they got. But when they bring up a kid that becomes a great prospect, as soon as he is eligible for free agency, he is gone.
There are always exceptions to everything. In 2008, the small market Tampa Bay Rays won the American League pennant and the Colorado Rockies managed to get to the World Series in 2007. But for the most part, the powerful get more powerful and the weak get weaker.
As spring training approaches, I see little hope for my Pirates or any of these other great old teams.
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