07/23/08 8:55 PM ET
Orioles honor 1983 World Series team
Players reminisce about memorable championship season
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The roll call was nearly complete, boasting three Hall of Famers (Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken and Jim Palmer), a local catching icon in Rick Dempsey and a host of starters who combined for more than 900 wins in the big leagues. The biggest names missing were the managers that made it happen -- Joe Altobelli and legendary baseball mind Earl Weaver.
"Joe Altobelli did an outstanding job with this team. He was the right man at the right time," said Dempsey. "But we had learned this game through the eyes of Earl Weaver, and he was tough to deal with. I hated the man, as a player, every single day, [but] I loved the guy because I wouldn't want to go back and play for any manager other than Earl Weaver."
The players met the media in two shifts, and at one point, the platform had Mike Boddicker, Scott McGregor and Dennis Martinez -- who combined for 517 wins -- sitting within a few feet of each other. The players relished spending time with each other and shared a few anecdotes, several of which said that the team's resolve started with a loss.
Baltimore had come within one game of winning the American League pennant in 1982, falling to the Milwaukee Brewers. And after watching the Brewers celebrate on their home field, the Orioles felt something click.
"After 1982, we knew we were going to win," said Murray, one of four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. "And it just played itself out. All we had to do was go through 162 [games], and we were just going to be there. ... We went out there, we did our jobs and we had come that close the year before. We really knew we could win the following year."
"The most exciting series I've ever played in was the last four games against Milwaukee," added Ripken. "And the disappointment that came from watching the celebration on the field. I remember sitting in the clubhouse thinking about, 'We were so close. Where could we have made up one game over the course of the season?'
"We all thought about one or two games that we should've won but didn't, and I think going into Spring Training was a lot more businesslike. ... We weren't going to let it go to the last day of the season. Any chance that you get to watch a celebration of another team, there's a lot of value that you can bring to your team -- even in defeat."
One year later, the Orioles applied those lessons. They came storming out of the gates in April and never really let up. The O's won the AL East by a handy six-game margin, and they beat the White Sox, 3-1, in the divisional round. Baltimore also stormed to a 3-1 lead against Philadelphia in the World Series, but refused to let up, citing an earlier disappointment.
"I thought the White Sox were tougher than the Phillies, but I do know this -- when we got ahead three games to one against the Phillies, the guys who had been around in '79 weren't celebrating that we were ahead until Scottie threw a shutout in the last game," said designated hitter Ken Singleton, who had lost the World Series with Baltimore in 1979.
"Now that we've had an opportunity to see baseball after we've all retired," said Dempsey, who was named the MVP of the '83 World Series, "we all have become fairly knowledgeable about what it takes from watching other ballclubs and what they lack that we had. We look back with a tremendous amount of pride at being a part of this entire system."
The fans got to pay tribute to their heroes later in the night, when the players were introduced one by one and walked out from the dugout over an orange carpet and onto the field. The team had video highlights playing on the scoreboard during the introductions, and the strongest ovations rang out for Murray, Palmer, Dempsey, Ripken and Mike Flanagan.
There were a few no-shows -- most notably Rich Dauer, John Lowenstein, Storm Davis and Tim Stoddard -- but the players that showed up spoke about how much it meant to be a part of that particular team.
"A number of guys had played together," McGregor said. "This team kind of got assembled in 1976 and got called up at the end of '76. Eddie joined us in '77, and the young guys had a real good cohesiveness together. ... It was a group that just kind of worked together, and when it came up, it was just a perfect combination of the young and the old."
"The veteran players sort of set the tone," said center fielder Al Bumbry. "And with all the history we had over the years of always being successful, there was always that positivity in the way we went about playing the ballgames and the way we felt about our chances of winning. ... We always knew, as a team, that we'd be there in September."
And what could they say about winning the Series? Perhaps the most poignant recollection came from Singleton, who was 36 years old and getting ready to wrap up a long and distinguished career when he won it all for the first time.
"I had played 13 years up to that point and was on a world championship team," said Singleton, recalling the moment. "At the end of the game, I started thinking about how far I had come in my career since the Minor Leagues to the big leagues and winning a championship. I thought about all those days on the buses in the Minor Leagues. And what was I doing at the end of the World Series? I was on a bus going back to Baltimore, so it was sort of like what goes around comes around."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.