As we continue with the KOBS by the decade, we now examine the ’70’s. While the decade was a roller coaster ride for the Colts, it further solidified excellence for the Orioles.
The ’70’s rolled in without Lenny Moore and saw the beginning of the end for Johnny Unitas. That meant the Colts needed new heroes. The franchise needed players who would continue to put fans in the seats at Memorial Stadium. As Don Shula departed for Miami, the team was also in need for consistency at the helm. Instead, fans saw six different head coaches in the first five years of the decade.
After a huge Super Bowl victory in 1970, things began to take a turn for the worst. The team went 21-35 over the next four years, and decided to build its future on young players such as Bert Jones and Lydell Mitchell. The two helped to lead the team to a combined 31-11 record over the next three years, including three consecutive trips to the play-offs. The offense was ranked first in the league in ’76 behind Jones’ MVP season and the defense was consistently ranked at least in the middle of the league behind players such as Bruce Laird and Stan White.
Injury to Jones and the departure of Mitchell led to the demise of the Colts at the end of the decade. The Colts won only 10 games in ’78 and ’79 while struggling badly on the offensive end.
While Jones seemed to have a lock on the title of King of Baltimore football for the decade, one could argue that the Colts weren’t the Kings of Baltimore sports during that time.
The Orioles took the momentum that they built at the end of the ’60’s, and ran into the ’70 full speed ahead. The Birds made World Series appearances in ’70 and ’71, capping off their third consecutive 100-win season.
While the Orioles finished in third place in ’72 with a .519 win percentage, they rediscovered their magic touch in ’73 and ’74 with two consecutive AL East Crowns.
In fact, the Orioles made three World Series appearances, and five post-season trips during the decade. They also won to a .590 clip during the 10-year span. They did it with tradition, excellence and a changing of the guard midway through the entire run.
Players like Frank Robinson left, and Brooks Robinson’s career was winding down along with Boog Powell. The O’s began to rely on a new cast of characters such Bobby Grich, Ken Singleton, and Doug DeCinces. Young stars like Eddie Murray and Mike Flanagan began to emerge, while veterans Lee May and Mark Belanger continued to contribute.
Through all of the successful changes the Orioles were able to make, there was one player who remained one of the more dominant players at his position. Jim Palmer won three Cy Young awards during the ’70’s and was consistently among league leaders in wins, innings pitched and earn run average. Palmer earned the nickname “Ace.” If you look at his numbers, you’ll understand why.
The Baltimore Bullets were very successful in the early part of the ’70’s. While finishing only two games over .500 during the regular season in 1970, they reached the NBA finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks. Earl “The Pearl” led the team in scoring as this turned out to be his last full season with the team. Wes Unseld, Jack Merin, Kevin Loughery, and Gus Johnson all contributed to provide a very potent offensive line-up for the Bullets.
In ’71, the team had a losing season, but still made it to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, but finished toward to bottom of the NBA in attendance. In ’72, despite a 52-win season, and another trip to the play-offs, the team continued to struggle with attendance. That led to the Bullets leaving the city, and making the trek to D.C.
It looks like the Orioles were the King of sports in Baltimore in the ’70’s, and Palmer was at the top of the class throughout the decade. No team had a grip on success the way the Birds did during that 10-year period, and no player stayed on top of his game as long as Palmer during that same time.
It’ll be interesting to hear you thoughts today. Look forward to hearing from you.
Part 2 of 5.