Even though I wasn’t around during the 60’s, and was only eight years old at the end of the 70’s, I know a little something about sports in this city during those decades because of what I read, as well as having family members who debate about those decades all of the time.
As we look at the upcoming KOBS Tournament, I can’t help not examining each decade to assist me in my voting.
First, look at the 1960’s. This tournament covers the past 50 years, so the 50’s are somewhat out of bounds.
The Colts spent the first four years of the 60’s, essentially a .500 team (29-25). In fact, the Colts had no post-season appearances during this time either. Even though the NFL never had more than 14 teams during this time, the Colts never finished worst than fifth in the League in total offense.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were spending their time chasing that elusive post-season appearance as well. Although they had budding stars such as Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, the Orioles just couldn’t get over the “hump” in the American League.
The Colts and the Orioles ruled this city during that time, even though Baltimore had a professional hockey team, Baltimore Clippers. The kings of the early part of the 60’s was Johnny Unitas and Brooks Robinson. And while the teams were young in the case of the Orioles, and rebuilding as far as the Colts were concerned, things were about to change in the “Charm City.”
In 1964, the Colts returned to championship form before losing to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game. They went back to the play-offs the next season, but lost in the first round, and advanced to the Super Bowl in ’68, but lost to the New York Jets.
With two Championship Game appearances and a record of 63-17 from ’64-’69, the Colts were one of the best teams in the NFL, and with Unitas being the team’s leading passing in all but one season, ’68, it was obvious that he was the king of Baltimore football during the decade.
The Orioles didn’t have their breakthrough season until 1966. In December, 1965, the Birds traded Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson to the Cincinnati Reds for an old 30 year old Frank Robinson. Frank went on to win the Triple Crown in ’66 and the Orioles won the World Series.
With the Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and an amazing pitching staff led by young Jim Palmer, the Orioles would make two trips to the World Series before the end of the decade. Although there’s some debate among fans over the true king of baseball during that span, Oriole players don’t debate over that title at all. To a man, they’ll tell you Frank Robinson was king.
The Baltimore Bullets didn’t have a winning season until 1968 and ’69. By that time, the Colts and the Orioles had so much momentum with the fans.
While Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Wes Unseld were clearly the kings of basketball for Baltimore, some would argue that high school basketball may have been more popular in this town.
So, the choice is yours. Who ruled the Baltimore Professional sports scene during the 1960’s? John Unitas, Frank Robinson, or neither? I look forward to hearing from you.
Part 2 of 5 on Wednesday.