The 1971 Baltimore Orioles (BAL) became the first big league team in 51 years to have four 20-game winners: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Miguel Cuéllar and Pat Dobson. This feat had been accomplished by the 1920 Chicago White Sox (CWS), who were 96-58, https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHW/1920.shtml The Chisox were reeling from the infamous 1919 World Series but still finished second, two games behind Cleveland (98-56) and one game ahead of third-place New York (95-59), with Babe Ruth ushering in the “live ball” era with 54 homers.
Both teams—1920 White Sox and 1971 Orioles—enjoyed strong six-year runs, culminating with their starting rotations featuring four 20-game winners in 1920 and 1971, respectively. Table I focuses on their W-L records and position in the American League (AL) standings, six seasons. The 1920 White Sox nearly won their third AL pennant in six seasons, but late-season legal distractions plus losing two of their last three regular-season games versus the St. Louis Browns precluded them from a first-place tie with Cleveland. Chicago’s only “off-season” was 1918, due to World War I, and stars like Shoeless Joe Jackson leaving the team to take defense-related jobs.
Table I: Regular Season W-L Records, 1915-1920 CWS and 1966-1971 BAL
|CWS (3)||1915||93-61||.604||9.5||BAL (1)||1966||97-63||.606||1st|
|CWS (2)||1916||89-65||.578||2||BAL (6)||1967||76-85||.472||15.5|
|CWS (1)||1917||100-54||.649||1st||BAL (2)||1968||91-71||.562||12|
|CWS (6)||1918||57-67||.460||17||BAL (1)||1969||109-53||.673||1st|
|CWS (1)||1919||88-52||.629||1st||BAL (1)||1970||108-54||.667||1st|
|CWS (2)||1920||96-58||.623||2||BAL (1)||1971||101-57||.639||1st|
|CWS||Six (6)||523-357||.594||NA||BAL||Six (6)||582-383||.603||NA|
Sources: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BAL/1966.shtml https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BAL/1967.shtml
The two eras were utterly different. Thus, the focus is more on the teams’ and starters’ accomplishments within their particular period. However, some comparisons will be made between two 1920 White Sox right-handers (Eddie Cicotte and Red Faber) and 1971 Orioles counterparts (Jim Palmer and Pat Dobson). Likewise, southpaws’ Dickey Kerr and Lefty Williams with the 1920 White Sox were effective; so were southpaws’ Cuéllar and McNally with the 1971 Orioles.
If the White Sox played a 162-game schedule, 1915-1920, they could have won nine additional contests per season, for a 577-395, .594 composite record. They were two games behind Boston in 1916 and Cleveland in 1920. Boston won three World Series in that era—1915, 1916 and 1918—paced by Babe Ruth’s pitching. The 1920 Cleveland Indians dominated Brooklyn in the World Series. The White Sox won 1917 and 1919 pennants, and the 1917 World Series.
1915-16 Chicago White Sox
In 1915, the White Sox had a five-man rotation: Faber, Jim Scott, Joe Benz, Reb Russell, and Eddie Cicotte, with the quintet starting a combined 146 games (Faber-32, Scott-35, Benz-28, Russell-25, and Cicotte-26). All pitched 11-to-18 games in relief, too! They accounted for 1,287 innings pitched (IP), 91.9 percent of the club’s 1401 IP. The quintet was 87-58, with six other hurlers a combined 6-3. Cicotte, retroactively led the team with three saves. Scott had 23 complete games (CG) and seven shutouts (SHO).
These 1915 White Sox hit 25 “dead-ball era” homers (HR) but stole 233 bases, second-best in the AL. Eddie Collins, .332/.460/.436 slash line, with .896 OPS, was their top hitter. The team OPS+ was 105, with Collins paving the way at 165, well above the league average of 100. Shortstop Buck Weaver and CF Happy Felsch were two regulars later embroiled in the “Black Sox” scandal. Shoeless Joe Jackson joined the team, via a trade with Cleveland, on August 21, 1915.
Jackson’s 166 OPS+ in 1916 led the team, with 40 doubles, 21 triples, .341 AVG and 78 RBIs. His 1916 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) was .423, or .02 below his AL career wOBA of .443. Per Historian Jorge Colón Delgado, wOBA is the best hitting indicator, superior to OBP (on-base percentage), batting average (AVG), slugging percentage (SLG), etc. Math formula for wOBA is: (.69 x BB + .722 x HBP + .888 x singles + 1.271 x doubles + 1.616 x triples + 2.101 x HR)/(AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP). A .400 wOBA is Excellent; a .300wOBA is poor.
Seven of nine 1916 pitchers started 14 games or more. Reb Russell, from Jackson, Mississippi, led the team with 18 wins. (Russell won 22 for the 1913 White Sox, his rookie season; he faced two hitters, in one contest, with the 1919 White Sox.) Eddie Cicotte (15-7, 1.82 ERA) had a team-best ERA+ of 156. Spitballer Ed Walsh—40-15 for the 1908 White Sox with 269 strikeouts in 464 IP—pitched 3.1 innings for their 1916 club. After his 1917 stint with the Boston Braves, he retired with an MLB-career best 1.82 ERA and 2.02 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), measuring a pitcher’s effectiveness in preventing HR, BB, HBP and causing strikeouts.
This club won its first pennant and World Series title since 1906. Chick Gandil (1B) and Swede Risberg (SS) became White Sox, with Buck Weaver moving to third. Shoeless Joe had a sub-par .301 AVG, for a team that batted .253. Jackson had a 143 OPS+; Felsch outhomered him (6-5); drove in 17 more runs (99-82); and posted a team-best .308 AVG. Cicotte (28-12, 1.53 ERA),
Faber (16-13, 1.92 ERA), Jim Scott (1.87 ERA and Reb Russell (15-5, 1.95 ERA) were outstanding in helping a club have the lowest league ERA at 2.16. Lefty Williams (17-8, 2.97 ERA) showed greatness for manager Pants Rowland, who had one coach—Kid Gleason.
Faber (3-1, 27 IP) and Cicotte (1-1, 23 IP) pitched 50 of the club’s 52 World Series innings. They accounted for the four wins versus John McGraw’s New York Giants. Felsch hit the only White Sox HR; Jackson went 7-for-23, a .304 AVG. McGraw started lefties in four of six games to neutralize him and Eddie Collins, per David Fleitz’s SABR bio of Jackson: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/shoeless-joe-jackson/ White Sox winning share was $3,669.32.
1918-19 Roller Coaster
Shoeless Joe worked in a Delaware shipyard after playing 17 games in 1918. Lefty Williams did likewise later on. The 57-67 White Sox floundered in sixth place. Cicotte completed 24 of 30 starts but went 12-19. Faber (4-1, 1.23 ERA) pitched 80.2 innings. Lefty Williams’ 2.73 ERA mirrored the team’s ERA. Reb Russell (7-5) and Jack Quinn (5-1) performed well.
The 1919 edition stormed to the pennant at 88-52, before falling to Cincinnati, in the “fixed World Series,” five games-to-three. Faber (11-9, 3.83 ERA) missed part of the season due to influenza, and was unavailable for the World Series. Dickey Kerr (13-7, 2.88 ERA) completed 10 of 17 starts (he relieved 22 times), and was 2-0 in the Fall Classic. Cicotte (29-7, 1.82 ERA) and Lefty Williams (23-11, 2.64 ERA) were a formidable one-two punch that “collapsed” in the World Series. The team was known for its hitting: league-leading .287 AVG and 668 runs; speed: league-leading 150 SB; but not for its power—25 total HR, fifth-best in the AL. Their losing  World Series share was $3,254, compared to the Reds’ winning share of $5,207. A hypothetical 1919 World Series triumph by the White Sox equals two titles in three seasons.
Close Call in 1920
What if the 1920 White Sox had played Brooklyn in the World Series? The Chisox could have prevailed. in the onset of the “Live Ball Era.” Five regulars batted over.300: Jackson (.382), Eddie Collins (.372), Felsch (.338), Buck Weaver (.331) and 1B Shano Collins (.303)—who replaced the retired Gandil, Catcher Ray Schalk (.270 AVG), SS Risberg (.266) and LF Nemo Leibold (.220) hit below .300.
The team’s ERA ballooned to 3.59—due to the “lively” baseball—but four 20-game winners combined for 100 CG, of the team’s 109 CG, and 87 of the club’s 96 victories, per Table II. The FIP ranged from 3.24 for Cicotte to 3.62 for Williams, with Faber (3.32) and Kerr (3.49). Faber’s “out pitch” was the spitball. Cicotte threw the knuckleball; Williams depended on his fastball; Kerr was a finesse pitcher with a good curveball. Faber had the best ERA+ (126), followed by Cicotte (115), Kerr (111), and Williams (96). They were the most consistent 1920 rotation based on WHIP (walks plus hits allowed per IP).
Table II: Four 20-Game Winners with 1920 White Sox
Transition to 1966-1971 Baltimore Orioles
The author followed the 1963-65 AL pennant races featuring back-to-back pennants by the New York Yankees (1963-64) and Minnesota capturing the 1965 league title. The off-season trade—whereby Baltimore acquired Frank Robinson—“gave” Baltimore the 1966 pennant. Lee MacPhail Jr. orchestrated this deal before GM Harry Dalton finalizing it on December 9, 1965. (MacPhail Jr. became chief administrative assistant to Commissioner of Baseball William D. Eckert in November 1965, after spending many hours, as a Baltimore executive, setting up the parameters for this trade.) “What if the Reds did not trade Frank Robinson” is interesting.
Importance of Winter Ball to Orioles, White Sox and Pirates
Baltimore’s working agreement with the Santurce Crabbers, 1966-1971, resulted in Earl Weaver managing them, 1966-68; ditto for Frank Robinson, 1968-1971. Paul Blair, Dave May, Davey Johnson, Larry Haney, Elrod Hendricks, Dave Leonhard and Jim Palmer were a few of many Orioles who benefitted. Harry Dalton set this up with Hiram Cuevas, the Santurce owner. Conversely, 18 of 40 players on the 1964 Chicago White Sox 40-man roster played winter ball, including these for the 1963-64 San Juan Senators: Joel Horlen, Jerry McNertney, Deacon Jones, Don Buford, Marv Staehle, Al Weis, and Fritz Ackley. By the early 1970s, the White Sox sent players to the Ponce Lions, including Carlos May, Rich Gossage, Rich Hinton, Jim Magnuson, and others. Roland Hemond, White Sox executive, became a close friend of Ponce Lions owner Yuyo González. San Juan had an “agreement” with the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Roberto Clemente managing the 1970-71 Senators in Puerto Rico.
1966 Orioles (97-63)
Hank Bauer led the Orioles to their first pennant and World Series crown. Frank Robinson became the only big leaguer to win the Triple Crown in the AL (1966) and NL (1961), with a .316/.410/.637 slash line, 1.047 OPS, 1.98 OPS+ and—most importantly—wOBA of .459! Boog Powell, who played two seasons of winter ball with [Puerto Rico’s] Mayagüez Indians (1962-64), had a .287/.372/.532 slash line, and .903 OPS. Brooks Robinson cracked 23 homers and drove in 100, third-best on the club to Frank (49 and 122) and Powell (34 and 109). Brooks played winter ball in Colombia (1955-56) and Cuba (1957-58); Frank with 1954-55 Ponce Lions.
Baltimore topped the AL in runs (755), doubles (243), slash line, .258/.324/.409, and .733 OPS. Their 175 homers were second-best. Pitching-wise, they led the AL with 51 retroactive saves and were second with 1,070 strikeouts. Palmer (15-10) and McNally (13-6) were one-twos in team wins. Palmer later (1968-69) pitched for Santurce, on his “comeback” trail. He threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Mayagüez, December 22, 1968, and was 5-0 in the regular season. McNally, Boog Powell’s Mayagüez teammate, 1963-64, started Game One of the 1966 Fall Classic in Los Angeles, against the Dodgers.
Moe Drabowsky’s 1966 World Series Heroics and Winter Ball with Arecibo
Moe Drabowsky (6-0, 2.81 ERA, regular season) got the Orioles “back on track” in Game One, by relieving McNally in the third. Drabowsky’s 11 strikeouts in 6.2 IP and one hit allowed gave Baltimore a 5-2 win over Don Drysdale. Palmer bested Sandy Koufax, in Game Two, 6-0. The series moved back to Baltimore, and the Birds won Games Three and Four by 1-0 scores, behind Wally Bunker—a 1968-69 Santurce teammate of Palmer—and McNally. The Orioles posted a combined 0.50 ERA, with 28 strikeouts and 13 walks, in 36 innings. Baltimore’s 33.2 consecutive scoreless innings remains a World Series record. And Frank Robinson was voted World Series MVP, with two key homers.
Drabowsky later (1992) shared stories with the author on his 1961-62 winter season in Puerto Rico, with the expansion Arecibo Wolves. His Arecibo catcher was Bob Uecker. They were Arecibo neighbors living near the ocean in rented homes. Drabowsky—pitching for skipper Luis R. Olmo—won the first game in team history. There was a massive celebration in the town square (plaza). Drabowsky opined: “What will they do if we ever lose a game? They’ll probably have you hanging by a tree there.” Ironically, Peace Corps workers in Arecibo enticed Drabowsky to do some tree climbing using stout ropes. “That messed up my shoulder,” noted Drabowsky, “but other than that, Puerto Rico was a great experience.”
1969 – 1971 Orioles AL Trifecta
Baltimore won three straight AL Championship Series (ALCS), 1969-1971, under this new best-of-five format, against Minnesota (1969 and 1970) and Oakland (1971). Most remarkable is that they swept each series to finish 9-0 overall. However, they only captured the 1970 Fall Classic, versus Cincinnati, in five games. In five, the 1969 New York Mets and 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, in seven contests, prevailed over the Orioles.
1969 Orioles (109-53)
Harry Dalton fired Hank Bauer during the 1968 All-Star Break and gave Earl Weaver this job. Reliever Dick Hall recalled (via a 2019 phone conversation with the author) that Dalton told him, pre-1969 spring training: “Come down; we’ll give you a shot.” Hall impressed Weaver with 11 scoreless innings in spring training and remained on 1969-1971. He went 5-2 in 1969, with a 1.92 ERA and six saves, and won the first ALCS game, October 4, 1969. “Our [October 4, 1969] game came on TV before the Mets-Braves,” said Hall. “I came in the 12th with the bases loaded and got two quick strikes on [Leo] Cárdenas; threw a slider in the dirt—swung and missed; committed himself a split second too soon –turned just before I related the ball…Roseboro flew to left on an outside fastball.”
Baltimore won Game One, 1969 ALCS, 3-2, on a rare walk-off bunt by Paul Blair. Twins’ manager Billy Martin told a sportswriter, “There’s no way to beat a perfect bunt.”
Earlier that (1969) season, Jim Palmer no-hit Oakland, at Memorial Stadium, August 13, 1969, less than eight months after his seven-inning no-hitter for Santurce. Elrod Hendricks, MVP of the 1968-69 Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) season with Santurce, caught both of Palmer’s no-hitters. “It was special catching Jim with Santurce and Baltimore,” recalled Hendricks. “We had
good chemistry in both those games.” Coincidentally, Baltimore’s entire August 13, 1969 line-up, except for shortstop Bobby Floyd, had played winter ball, including:
- Don Buford (2B), San Juan Senators, 1963-65
- Paul Blair (CF), Santurce Crabbers, 1966-69
- Frank Robinson (RF), Ponce Lions, 1954-55
- Boog Powell (1B), Mayagüez Indians, 1962-64
- Brooks Robinson (3B), Willard Blues, 1955-56; Cienfuegos Elephans, 1957-58
- Elrod Hendricks (C), Santurce Crabbers, 1961-1978
- Merv Rettenmund (LF), LaGuaira Sharks, 1967-69; Santurce Crabbers, 1969-70; Magallanes Navigators, 1974-75
- Bobby Floyd (SS)
- Jim Palmer (P), Santurce Crabbers, 1968-69.
Palmer helped his cause with two hits, including a double. Brooks Robinson hit a three-run homer, and Buford went 3-for-4 in the Orioles’ 8-0 win. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196908130.shtml By the season’s end, Palmer (16-4) posted the best winning PCT (.800) in the AL. He had just come off the disabled list before his no-hitter.
Mike (Miguel) Cuéllar (23-11), and McNally (20-7) were two 20-game winners. Tom Phoebus (14-7) and Jim Hardin (6-7) were other Orioles’ starters. Both previously pitched for Santurce. Cuéllar’s long PRWL career began with the 1964-65 Arecibo Wolves and ended with the 1982-83 Bayamón Cowboys, with several inactive seasons in-between. Reliever Al Severinsen and reliever/spot starter Dave Leonhard pitched for Baltimore and Santurce. Orioles’ lefties Pete Richert and Marcelino López once pitched for Caguas, PRWL.
Boog Powell’s 37 homers and 121 RBIs led the team, followed by Frank Robinson’s 32-100. Blair contributed 26 long balls, with Brooks Robinson slamming 23. The team’s 175 homers duplicated their 1966 total. Pundits still wonder why the 1969 Mets dominated them?
1970 Orioles (108-54)
These Birds had three 20-game winners:
- Cuéllar, 24-8, 40 starts, 21 CG, 297.2 IP, 190 strikeouts, 1.15 WHIP
- McNally, 24-9, 40 starts, 16 CG, 296 IP, 185 strikeouts, 1.20 WHIP
- Palmer, 20-19, 39 starts, 17 CG, 305 IP, 199 strikeouts, 1.19 WHIP.
Baltimore’s staff ERA was a league-leading 3.15; their 60 CG led the loop. Richert (13 saves) and Eddie Watt (12 saves) accounted for 25 of 31 team saves. Dick Hall (10-5) won Game One of the ALCS, October 3, 1970, after relieving Cuéllar, and hurling 4.2 scoreless frames. “Hall was a great teammate, and we conversed in Spanish,” recalled Cuéllar. “His wife is from Mazatlán, Mexico, where he played winter ball [1953-56, 1957-58].”
In Game Two, 1970 Fall Classic, Hall preserved a Game Two victory for Phoebus. Palmer (Game One), McNally (Game Three) and Cuéllar (Game Five), won a game. The Orioles staff had a 3.40 ERA versus Cincinnati’s 6.70 ERA. They outscored the Reds, 33-20. Brooks Robinson, .429 batting average, two homers and six RBIs, plus his fielding, earned him Series MVP, to duplicate Frank Robinson’s 1966 Series MVP. Blair (.474 batting average) and Hendricks (.364 batting average) were productive. Moe Drabowsky got his second World Series ring with Baltimore after being traded to the Orioles by the Kansas City Royals, for Bobby Floyd, on June 15, 1970.
1971 Orioles (101-57)
Baltimore’s staff went from two 20-game winners (1969) to three (1970) to four (1971), per Table III.
Table III: Four 20-Game Winners with 1920 Orioles
Source: 1971 Baltimore Orioles Statistics | Baseball-Reference.com
Their other nine pitchers went a combined 20-26, with 334.1 IP 207 strikeouts, and 111 walks. Grant Jackson (4-3, 3.13 ERA) started nine of his 29 games. “I pitched for Caguas, mid-1960s to early 1970s,” said Jackson. “My wife is from Caguas, and I conversed with fans playing dominoes during leisure time.”
Dave Leonhard had six starts in 12 Orioles’ games, with a 2-3 record, 2.83 ERA. He pitched six winter seasons for Santurce, with a 26-21 record and 3.44 ERA in 406 IP—many more opportunities than he had with Baltimore. Leonhard had graduated from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In January 1971, he prepared an article, published in the Baltimore Sun, complimenting Puerto Rico and its quality of professional baseball. He wrote: “A good sacrifice bunt in Puerto Rico is “more appreciated than a base hit in the States.” Excerpts of this article were published in a Spanish-language Puerto Rico newspaper during the 1971 World Series. Leonhard made over $50,000 from 1969-1971 World Series shares with Baltimore, so he did not pitch in Puerto Rico for the money.
1971 Fall Classic
Jorge Colón Delgado and the author—as avid Santurce Crabbers fans—rooted for Baltimore, 1971 Fall Classic, since the Buccos had a strong connection to the San Juan Senators (Santurce’s arch-rival). But it was not meant to be as Roberto Clemente and José A. Pagán drove in Pittsburgh’s runs in a 2-1, Game Seven win, at Memorial Stadium, October 17, 1971. Steve Blass’ CG and Clemente’s Series MVP Award got the headlines, but tough-luck loser Mike Cuéllar allowed four hits; two earned runs; fanned six; and walked none, in Game Seven. “That’s baseball,” noted Cuéllar. “You go out there to help your team and hope for the best.”
Don Buford, Clemente’s San Juan teammate, would accompany Clemente, on the latter’s trips to a chiropractor, in Puerto Rico. Buford preferred winning the 1971 World Series, with excellent starters and a strong line-up, but complimented the 1971 Pirates for their play.
Dobson (two-thirds of an inning) and McNally (one-third) pitched the ninth inning of Game Seven. Earlier in the Series, Dick Hall pitched the ninth, in relief of Jim Palmer—Game Two—an 11-3 Orioles’ win. Pinch-hitter Milt May made the last out, grounding to Boog Powell, who flipped the ball to Hall, covering first. “I put the ball in my back pocket—saved it—[was] the last pitch I ever threw in a regular-season or World Series game,” said Hall. “It’s in a plastic case…have shown it to my grandson.” https://sabr.org/journal/article/dick-halls-baltimore-legacy/
Baltimore’s October 23-November 20, 1971 Japan Goodwill Tour
Baltimore played 18 games in a 25-day period, in Japan, October 23-November 20, 1971, post-1971 World Series. https://sabr.org/journal/article/the-baltimore-orioles-1971-japan-trip/ Baltimore finished 12-2-4 on the Japan goodwill trip, highlighted by a 115-pitch no-hitter by Pat Dobson, October 27, 1971, 10 days after the 1971 World Series concluded. https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/four-20-game-winners__;!!FUTpS1-z7bov!hdjxRtVSoxcIjFeMofs_UDdfz-AJx60ESq82wYp9_t08AMSBM80oya4-eSSxCh1mOdi5$
Dobson still holds the PRWL record of 21 strikeouts in a nine-inning game, December 10, 1967, pitching for San Juan against Arecibo. Johnny Bench was Dobson’s catcher with San Juan. José “Palillo” Santiago, Dobson’s San Juan teammate, recalled a “wicked curve ball” that night. Santiago noted that 1969-70 San Juan teammate Mike Cuéllar’s “out pitch” was a screw ball; that Jim Palmer, with Santurce and Baltimore “had a first-class fastball,” and Dave McNally—who he pitched against, in the 1963-64 PRWL season, was a “smart pitcher” with an assortment of pitches.
Caption: Pat Dobson commemorative poster for hurling a no-hitter in Japan, October 27, 1971. Photo credit: https://sabr.org/journal/article/the-baltimore-orioles-1971-japan-trip/
The author thanks Don Buford, Miguel Cuéllar, Moe Drabowsky, Dick Hall, Elrod Hendricks, Grant Jackson, Dave Leonhard and José “Palillo” Santiago for their time and insights. Jacob Pomrenke’s research on the 1919 Chicago White Sox was helpful. Jorge Colón Delgado edited the blog and furnished photos.