Winners of 102 games the Cincinnati Reds returned to the World Series for the first time since 1961.
They were a power laden team featuring 22-year-old all-star catcher and league MVP Johnny Bench who clouted 45 home runs and drove in 148, Tony Perez with 40 round trippers and 129 RBIs, Lee Maye 34 homers and 94 RBIs and rookie Bernie Carbo with 21 home runs.
Pete Rose tied for the team lead in batting with a .316 average and they had speed in Bobby Tolan who stole 57 bases.
Right-hander Jim Merritt led the pitching staff with a 20-12 record, Wayne Simpson was 14-3, Gary Nolan 18-7, Jim McGlothin 14-10 and Wayne Granger in the bullpen with a 6-5 record and 35 saves, Clay Carroll 9-4 with 16 saves and nineteen year old Don Gullett 5-1 with six saves.
Baltimore had an impressive 108-54 record with Boog Powell contributing 35 home runs and 114 RBI’s and Frank Robinson adding 25 round trippers.
Pitching was their long suit as they featured three twenty game winners in Jim Palmer 20-10, Mike Cuellar 24-8 and Dave McNally 24-9 with Pete Richert 7-2 and Dave Hall 10-5 being their relievers.
The series opened in new Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati with the Reds’ rookie manager Sparky Anderson selecting Gary Nolan to start against Jim Palmer.
Lee Maye gave the Reds an early lead with a two run homer but Boog Powell answered with one for the Orioles and the game was tied 3-3 in the fifth when a key play in the series took place.
With two outs and Carbo on second and Helms on first pinch hitter Ty Cline hit a bouncer in front of the plate which was fielded by Elrod Hendricks who moved to tag Carbo who was coming to the plate.
However home plate umpire Ken Burkhardt was standing on the third base side of home and was in the way of Hendricks tagging Carbo. Burkhardt called him out even though later replays showed Hendricks tagged him with an empty glove.
The Orioles went on to win 6-5 on a seventh inning home run by Brooks Robinson but as closely matched as the two teams were that play in the fifth could have turned the series toward Cincinnati.
Game two featured Jim Merritt versus the veteran Mike Cuellar and again the Reds went out to a 3-0 lead until the Orioles scored five runs in the fifth to go on to win.
Game three switched to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore with Tony Cloninger starting against Dave McNally who helped his own cause with a grand slam home run and together with one each by Frank Robinson and Don Buford the Orioles went up three games to none with a 9-3 victory.
Game four finally turned the Reds’ way as a three run home run by Lee May in the eighth gave Cincinnati a 6-5 victory which was helped by Pete Rose’s solo home run in the fifth.
But the Orioles came back strong in game five with home runs by Frank Robinson and Merv Rettenmund for a 9-3 win to take the series for their second World Series title in five years.
As they did not have interleague play then this was first time Frank Robinson had faced his old teammates since he had been traded in 1961.
Brooks Robinson, nicknamed Hoover by his teammates and termed “the Human Vacuum cleaner” by sports fans and who had earned his tenth consecutive Gold Glove Award, gained the series MVP Award with his .429 average, and 2 home runs.
But if he had only batted .220 he would still have gotten the MVP because of his outstanding play at third base as whenever the Reds started a rally he promptly stopped it with an outstanding play at third base.
Another concern for the Reds was they had leads in first two games but could not hold those leads.
The Reds would return to the series in 1972 and the Orioles would be back in 1971.
Ron Griffitts a contribution columnist for the Daily Advocate