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1979 Baltimore Orioles season: Wikis

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1979 Baltimore Orioles
AL East Champions
AL Champions
Major league affiliations
Location
1979 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)

The 1979 Baltimore Orioles played baseball in the United States of America. The Orioles finished 1st in the American League East division of Major League Baseball with a record of 102 wins and 57 losses.

Contents

Season summary

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A new owner

The 1979 season represents a dividing line in Orioles history. Attendance was poor before it and terrific after it, steadily rising to unthinkable heights in 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 the familiar stability of Jerry Hoffberger's Baltimore Baseball Group to the edgy, hands-on command of Edward Bennett Williams, a powerhouse attorney from Washington, D.C. with ideas about moving the club to the nation's capital.

Gone forever were the days of the Orioles as a local, family-oriented operation.

Against the backdrop of noise and tension, the club played brilliantly, 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 wasn't as dominant, but a blend of heart, skills, and original personalities produced a team as compelling and effective as any in Orioles history.

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 form 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. Ironically, crowds had already begun to swell earlier in the season, before Williams laid down his challenge.

Orioles magic

Years later, it's 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. The change helped recruit younger fans, which led to a Woodstock atmosphere, particularly in the cheaper seats in the upper deck.

In section 34 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.

A blend of All-Stars

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- and it stuck.

Those carrying the heaviest loads 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; first baseman Eddie Murray, who had 25 homers and 99 RBI; and pitcher Mike Flanagan, whose 23-9 record, 3.08 ERA, and 16 complete games earned him the AL Cy Young Award.

True role players

Numerous other players had their roles, large and small. 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.

Don 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.

Weaver's idea of platooning veteran John Lowenstein and rookie Gary Roenicke in left field succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. 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. Their combined totals of 36 homers and 98 RBIs represented one of Weaver's greatest managerial feats.

Pitching's still the heart of the '79 team

Not only did Weaver adroitly push those buttons all season, he 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.

But 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. 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 seconfd time in the '70s. The bullpen, with Stanhouse, left-hander Tippy Martinez, and right-handers Tim Stoddard and Sammy Stewart, had 28 wins and 30 saves.

Offseason

Regular season

Season standings

AL East W L GB Pct.
Baltimore Orioles 102 57 -- .642
Milwaukee Brewers 95 66 8 .590
Boston Red Sox 91 69 11.5 .569
New York Yankees 89 71 13.5 .556
Detroit Tigers 85 76 18 .528
Cleveland Indians 81 80 22 .503
Toronto Blue Jays 53 109 50.5 .327

Notable transactions

  • June 26, 1979: John Stefero was signed by the Orioles as an amateur free agent.[5]
  • September 1, 1979: Elrod Hendricks was signed as a free agent by the Orioles.[4]

Roster

1979 Baltimore Orioles roster
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
C Dempsey, RickRick Dempsey 124 368 88 .239 6 41
1B Murray, EddieEddie Murray 159 606 179 .295 25 99
2B Dauer, RichRich Dauer 142 479 123 .257 9 61
3B DeCinces, DougDoug DeCinces 120 422 97 .230 16 61
SS Garcia, KikoKiko Garcia 126 417 103 .247 5 24
LF Roenicke, GaryGary Roenicke 133 376 98 .261 25 64
CF Bumbry, AlAl Bumbry 148 569 162 .285 7 49
RF Singleton, KenKen Singleton 159 570 168 .295 35 111
DH May, LeeLee May 124 456 116 .254 19 69

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
Belanger, MarkMark Belanger 101 198 33 .167 0 9
Lowenstein, JohnJohn Lowenstein 97 197 50 .254 11 34
Kelly, PatPat Kelly 68 153 44 .288 9 25
Smith, BillyBilly Smith 68 189 47 .249 6 33
Skaggs, DaveDave Skaggs 63 137 34 .248 1 14
Crowley, TerryTerry Crowley 61 63 20 .317 1 8
Ayala, BennyBenny Ayala 42 86 22 .256 6 13
Harlow, LarryLarry Harlow 38 41 11 .268 0 1
Krenchicki, WayneWayne Krenchicki 16 21 4 .190 0 0
Corey, MarkMark Corey 13 13 2 .154 0 1
Molinaro, BobBob Molinaro 8 6 0 .000 0 0
Chism, TomTom Chism 6 3 0 .000 0 0
Hendricks, ElrodElrod Hendricks 1 1 0 .000 0 0

Pitching

Starting pitchers

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Martínez, DennisDennis Martínez 40 292.1 15 16 3.66 132
Flanagan, MikeMike Flanagan 39 265.2 23 9 3.08 190
Stone, SteveSteve Stone 32 186 11 7 3.77 96
McGregor, ScottScott McGregor 27 174.2 13 6 3.35 81
Palmer, JimJim Palmer 23 155.2 10 6 3.30 67

Other pitchers

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Ford, DaveDave Ford 9 30 2 1 2.10 7

Relief pitchers

Player G IP W L SV ERA SO
Stanhouse, DonDon Stanhouse 52 72.2 7 3 21 2.85 34
Martinez, TippyTippy Martinez 39 78 10 3 3 2.88 61
Stewart, SammySammy Stewart 31 117.2 8 5 1 3.52 71
Stoddard, TimTim Stoddard 29 58 3 1 3 1.71 47
Flinn, JohnJohn Flinn 4 2.2 0 0 0 0.00 0
Rineer, JeffJeff Rineer 1 1 0 0 0 0.00 0

Postseason

ALCS

Baltimore Orioles vs. California Angels

Orioles win the Series, 3-1

Game Score Date Location Attendance
1 California - 3, Baltimore - 6 October 3 Memorial Stadium 52,787
2 California - 8, Baltimore - 9 October 4 Memorial Stadium 52,108
3 Baltimore - 3, California - 4 October 5 Anaheim Stadium 43,199
4 Baltimore - 8, California - 0 October 6 Anaheim Stadium 43,199

World Series

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

Game Score Date Location Attendance Time of Game
1 Pirates – 4, Orioles – 5 October 10 Memorial Stadium 53,735 3:18
2 Pirates – 3, Orioles – 2 October 11 Memorial Stadium 53,739 3:13
3 Orioles – 8, Pirates – 4 October 12 Three Rivers Stadium 50,848 2:51
4 Orioles – 9, Pirates – 6 October 13 Three Rivers Stadium 50,883 3:48
5 Orioles – 1, Pirates – 7 October 14 Three Rivers Stadium 50,920 2:54
6 Pirates – 4, Orioles – 0 October 16 Memorial Stadium 53,739 2:30
7 Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1 October 17 Memorial Stadium 53,733 2:54

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

Preceded by
New York Yankees
1978
AL East Championship Season
1979
Succeeded by
New York Yankees
1980
Preceded by
New York Yankees
1978
American League Championship
1979
Succeeded by
Kansas City Royals
1980

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