Two special Birds still fly high in Baltimore
Robinson, Powell take honorary part in home opener
BALTIMORE -- Forty years ago, the Orioles won 108 games and made it to the World Series, where they took down Cincinnati's vaunted Big Red Machine in five games. Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell played crucial roles in the team's success. Robinson put on one of the greatest defensive displays in baseball history at third base to spark the Birds, and first baseman Powell helped with two key homers.
The two were great friends then and remain close today. They also remain two of the most beloved figures in Orioles history, something that was easy to see when the pair came on to the field for the ceremonial first pitch before the team's home 7-6 loss in its home opener against the Blue Jays Friday afternoon.
Powell drew a huge "Boooooog" roar when he walked out of the first base dugout to toss that pitch. Robinson got an even louder ovation, as many of the fans stood and cheered as if it were 1970 again. The former corner men walked to the mound, went to opposite sides, and threw their pitches.
And they loved every minute of it.
"How's your arm feel, Brooksie," Powell asked afterward.
"It hurts," Robinson said with a laugh. "[Miguel] Tejada made a nice pickup, though. I've been working with him over there at third, and he short-hopped it."
Robinson played for the Orioles from 1955-77 and went into the Hall of Fame in 1983. He's one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball history. But the display he put on in the 1970 World Series has long been legendary as Robinson made great stops, throws and catches to rob the Reds time and again.
"I played 23 years professionally, and I don't think I ever had five games in a row like that," Robinson said. "You can play a whole week at third base and not get a chance to do something spectacular or outstanding. That was kind of a springboard to attaining the Hall of Fame."
Robinson also batted .429 (9-for-21) in the Series, which made it easier for him to get picked as its MVP. He laughed when talking about the fact that he made an error on his first chance of that Series -- but everything went just fine after that.
Powell still thinks what Robinson did during that five-game stretch was incredible. But it was old news to him because the big first baseman had seen that show so many times.
"The rest of the world found out what we already knew," Powell said. "I said, 'That's routine stuff.' He made those plays day in and day out."
Powell played a big role for the Orioles when they made the World Series four times in six seasons from 1966 to 1971. He was named the American League MVP in 1970 after hitting .297 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs.
After that, he hit two homers and batted .294 in the World Series. His homers came in the Series' first two games and helped the Orioles come back from early deficits in both contests.
The success of those Baltimore teams and the role Robinson and Powell played is a big reason why they're so popular so many years later. Both remain active in the community, with Powell running his barbecue stand that's long been one of Oriole Park's most popular places to eat and where fans can see the former first baseman.
But both loved to be back on the field for Opening Day, something that remains special to two former ballplayers.
"To be out on the field ... it just brings back old memories," Powell said. "That was the fun part. You know when Opening Day is. It's a special feeling. It really is. It gets your heart pumping."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.