1979 Baltimore Orioles season

1979 Baltimore Orioles
AL East Champions
AL Champions
Major League affiliations
Location
Results
Record 102–57 (.642)
Divisional place 1st
Other information
Owner(s) Jerold Hoffberger, Edward Bennett Williams
General manager(s) Hank Peters
Manager(s) Earl Weaver
Local television WMAR-TV
Local radio WFBR
(Chuck Thompson, Bill O'Donnell, Brooks Robinson, Tom Marr)
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The 1979 Baltimore Orioles season was a season in American baseball. The Orioles finished first in the American League East division of Major League Baseball with a record of 102 wins and 57 losses. They went on to defeat the California Angels in the 1979 American League Championship Series, 3 games to 1, before losing in the 1979 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 games to 3.

Season overview

The 1979 season represents a dividing line in Orioles history. Attendance was poor before it and terrific after it, steadily rising into the 1990s in a new ballpark at Camden Yards. Also, ownership changed hands in 1979, with a twelve-million-dollar sale marking the change from Jerry Hoffberger's Baltimore Baseball Group—a local, family-oriented operation—to Edward Bennett Williams, a powerhouse attorney from Washington, D.C. with ideas about moving the club to the nation's capital.

Against the backdrop of noise and tension, the club played well, winning 102 games and the American League East title for the first time since 1974. The season was a return to glory days of the late '60s and early '70s under manager Earl Weaver, but this club was different in nature and spirit. The talent was not as dominant, but a blend of heart, skills, and original personalities produced a team as compelling and effective as any in Orioles history.

Years later, it is still hard to say what happened in the summer of 1979, what caused Orioles games at Memorial Stadium to become more popular. It didn't hurt that pro football's Baltimore Colts, more popular for a long time, were coming apart under owner Robert Irsay; with the team losing and Irsay threatening to move, fans were abandoning the franchise and looking for an alternative. Another factor was a change in the Orioles' flagship radio station: After 22 years on WBAL, the games were now on WFBR, a smaller, hipper station with a younger audience.

Offseason

Regular season

A new owner

The team had won 90 games and drawn 1.05 million fans in 1978, maintaining a depressing attendance level that hadn't changed in 25 years. With player salaries rising and profits falling, Hoffberger was under pressure from his family to sell. He announced in 1978 that he would entertain offers, and Williams's purchase was completed in August '79. The lawyer said he would move to Washington only if attendance continued to disappoint, although crowds had already begun to swell earlier in the season, before Williams laid down his challenge.

The players

The '79 Orioles didn't have a high payroll, but they won with a blend of intelligence, strong fundamentals, and guile. An amalagam of All-Stars and role players who jelled under Weaver's forceful hand, they pitched well, made key plays in the field, hit in the clutch, came from behind, and won games in unusual ways. The phenomenon was given a nickname: "Oriole Magic".

Offense

Those carrying the heaviest loads on offense were outfielder Ken Singleton, who had a career-best year with 35 homers and 111 RBIs and finished second in the American League MVP voting and first baseman Eddie Murray, who had 25 homers and 99 RBI.

Rich Dauer, Kiko Garcia, and Doug DeCinces filled out the infield, with Garcia, a farm-system product, taking over for aging Mark Belanger at shortstop. Al Bumbry batted leadoff, stole 37 bases, and ran down balls in center field. Rick Dempsey hit just .239, but his get-dirty style behind the plate made him a fan favorite.

Weaver's idea of platooning veteran John Lowenstein and rookie Gary Roenicke in left field was surprisingly successful. Roenicke, acquired in the Montreal deal, had 25 homers and 64 RBI in his first full season in the majors. Lowenstein, acquired from the Texas Rangers on waivers after the '78 season, added 11 homers and 34 RBIs.

Weaver also found places to plug in reserve outfielder Pat Kelly, who batted .288; pinch hitter deluxe Terry Crowley, who batted .317, and Benny Ayala, a reserve outfielder with a knack for extra-base hits. Lee May still received the majority of the designated hitter at-bats, producing 19 homers and 69 RBIs.

Pitching

Pitching was still the heart of the club. The Orioles had the AL's lowest team ERA (3.28, more than a half run lower than the next best team ERA) and limited opponents to a .241 average, the league's lowest by 12 points. The staff was led by Mike Flanagan, whose 23-9 record, 3.08 ERA, and 16 complete games earned him the AL Cy Young Award. After Flanagan, there was Dennis Martínez (15-16, 18 complete games), Scott McGregor (13-6), Steve Stone (11-7), and Jim Palmer (10-6), who was injured and failed to win 20 games for only the second time in the '70s. The bullpen, with Don Stanhouse, left-hander Tippy Martinez, and right-handers Tim Stoddard and Sammy Stewart, had 28 wins and 30 saves.

Stanhouse, a closer acquired in a six-player deal with the Montreal Expos before the 1978 season, made the AL All-Star team despite a habit of narrowly escaping jams. Weaver nicknamed Stanhouse "Full Pack", as in the full pack of cigarettes Weaver nervously smoked to help him get through Stanhouse's appearances. Flanagan called Stanhouse "Stan the Man Unusual,"[5] a play on the nickname of Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial.

"Wild Bill"

In section 34 in the upper deck down the right-field line, a bearded cab driver named "Wild" Bill Hagy became the symbol of the awakening. He would rise from his seat, stand in front of his section, and spell out O-R-I-O-L-E-S with his body, twisting his arms and legs into recognizable facsimiles of the letters. When other, nearby sections joined in the cheer, it grew in popularity until the entire ballpark was following Hagy's lead, sending roaring cheers into the night.

Season standings

AL East W L Pct. GB Home Road
Baltimore Orioles 10257 0.642 55–24 47–33
Milwaukee Brewers 9566 0.590 8 52–29 43–37
Boston Red Sox 9169 0.569 11½ 51–29 40–40
New York Yankees 8971 0.556 13½ 51–30 38–41
Detroit Tigers 8576 0.528 18 46–34 39–42
Cleveland Indians 8180 0.503 22 47–34 34–46
Toronto Blue Jays 53109 0.327 50½ 32–49 21–60

Record vs. opponents

1979 American League Records

Sources:
Team BAL BOS CAL CWS CLE DET KC MIL MIN NYY OAK SEA TEX TOR
Baltimore 8–59–38–38–57–66–68–58–45–68–410–26–611–2
Boston 5–85–75–66–78–58–48–49–35–89–38–46–69–4
California 3–97–59–46–64–87–67–59–47–510–37–65–87–5
Chicago 3–86–54–96–63–95–85–75–84–89–45–811–27–5
Cleveland 5–87–66–66–66–66–64–98–45–88–47–55–78–5
Detroit 6–75–88–49–36–65–76–74–87–67–57–56–69–4
Kansas City 6–64–86–78–56–67–55–77–65–79–47–66–79–3
Milwaukee 5–84–85–77–59–47–67–58–49–46–69–39–310–3
Minnesota 4–83–94–98–54–88–46–74–87–59–410–34–911–1
New York 6–58–55–78–48–56–77–54–95–79–36–68–49–4
Oakland 4–83–93–104–94–85–74–96–64–93–98–52–114–8
Seattle 2–104–86–78–55–75–76–73–93–106–65–86–78–4
Texas 6–66–68–52–117–56–67–63–99–44–811–27–67–5
Toronto 2–114–95–75–75–84–93–93–101–114–98–44–85–7

Notable transactions

  • June 26, 1979: John Stefero was signed by the Orioles as an amateur free agent.[6]
  • September 1, 1979: Elrod Hendricks was signed as a free agent by the Orioles.[4]

Roster

1979 Baltimore Orioles
Roster
Pitchers Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders Manager

Coaches

Player stats

Batting

Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
CRick Dempsey12436888.239641
1BEddie Murray159606179.2952599
2BRich Dauer142479123.257961
3BDoug DeCinces12042297.2301661
SSKiko Garcia126417103.247524
LFGary Roenicke13337698.2612564
CFAl Bumbry148569162.285749
RFKen Singleton159570168.29535111
DHLee May124456116.2541969

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Mark Belanger10119833.16709
John Lowenstein9719750.2541134
Pat Kelly6815344.288925
Billy Smith6818947.249633
Dave Skaggs6313734.248114
Terry Crowley616320.31718
Benny Ayala428622.256613
Larry Harlow384111.26801
Wayne Krenchicki16214.19000
Mark Corey13132.15401
Bob Molinaro860.00000
Tom Chism630.00000
Elrod Hendricks110.00000

Pitching

Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Dennis Martínez40292.115163.66132
Mike Flanagan39265.22393.08190
Steve Stone321861173.7796
Scott McGregor27174.21363.3581
Jim Palmer23155.21063.3067

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Dave Ford930212.107

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L SV ERA SO
Don Stanhouse5272.273212.8534
Tippy Martinez397810332.8861
Sammy Stewart31117.28513.5271
Tim Stoddard29583131.7147
John Flinn42.20000.000
Jeff Rineer110000.000

Postseason

ALCS

The Orioles won the Series, 3 games to 1, over the California Angels.

GameScoreDateLocationAttendance
1California – 3, Baltimore – 6October 3Memorial Stadium52,787
2California – 8, Baltimore – 9October 4Memorial Stadium52,108
3Baltimore – 3, California – 4October 5Anaheim Stadium43,199
4Baltimore – 8, California – 0October 6Anaheim Stadium43,199

World Series

NL Pittsburgh Pirates (4) vs. AL Baltimore Orioles (3)

Game Score Date Location Attendance Time of Game
1Pirates – 4, Orioles – 5October 10Memorial Stadium53,7353:18
2Pirates – 3, Orioles – 2October 11Memorial Stadium53,7393:13
3Orioles – 8, Pirates – 4October 12Three Rivers Stadium50,8482:51
4Orioles – 9, Pirates – 6October 13Three Rivers Stadium50,8833:48
5Orioles – 1, Pirates – 7October 14Three Rivers Stadium50,9202:54
6Pirates – 4, Orioles – 0October 16Memorial Stadium53,7392:30
7Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1October 17Memorial Stadium53,7332:54

Awards and honors

  • Earl Weaver, Associated Press AL Manager of the Year

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Rochester Red Wings International League Doc Edwards
AA Charlotte O's Southern League Jimmy Williams
A Miami Orioles Florida State League Lance Nichols
Rookie Bluefield Orioles Appalachian League J. R. Miner

Notes

References

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