The Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies were both nearing the end of the line when they met in the 1983 World Series. Both teams were filled with veterans. In the case of the Phillies, they were looking for one more ring. In the case of the Orioles, they were looking for a long-sought ring.
You can read more about the regular season paths that Baltimore and Philadelphia took to the playoffs, and the years enjoyed by their key players, at the links below. This article focuses on the games of the 1983 World Series.
Philadelphia had enjoyed a strong run from 1976-81 and won a World Series in 1980. They had three members of the old Big Red Machine (1975-76 champions). The Orioles had enjoyed a lot of success, but their last title had been in 1970, a championship almost none of the ’83 team had been around for.
Homefield advantage for the World Series was done by a rotation system, and this year was the American League’s turn to open. The format of this era meant that National League rules—no DH—would apply. The Series opened in Baltimore on a Tuesday night.
John Denny won the NL Cy Young Award and was Philadelphia’s starter in Game 1. Baltimore answered with their ace, Scott McGregor. In the ALCS, McGregor lost a pitcher’s duel to the AL Cy Young winner, Chicago’s Lamar Hoyt. This game would be deja vu for the Oriole lefty.
Baltimore got on the board right away when Jim Dwyer homered in the bottom of the first and McGregor cruised through five innings. But Denny was completely shutting down the Orioles and the Phils tied the game on a solo home run by Joe Morgan in the sixth. Then in the eighth, Gary Maddox hit a solo home run. Those three hits were the only real action of the entire night, and the Phils won 2-1.
Mike Boddicker had been in a similar situation in the ALCS—a must-win game at home—and the young Oriole righthander had pitched a shutout. He was almost as good in Game 2 of the World Series against the Phillies’ Charles Hudson.
The game was scoreless through three, when Philadelphia got a soft run in the fourth. Morgan beat out an infield hit and stole second. He took third on an error by first baseman Eddie Murray and scored on a sac fly. The Baltimore offense finally got untracked in the bottom of the fifth when John Lowenstein homered to tie the game 1-1.
Baltimore kept coming in the fifth, with a single by Rich Dauer and Todd Cruz bunting his way on. Rick Dempsey ripped a double to make it 2-1 and put runners on second and third. Boddicker then did it with his bat—his line drive to left was caught, but it picked up the run. Baltimore added another run in the seventh on successive singles from John Shelby, Dan Ford and Cal Ripken and Boddicker cruised to a 4-1 win.
The “I-95 World Series” was in cities only an hour-plus apart, so everyone just took a quick ride north for the weekend in Philadelphia .On Friday night, two lefties with Cy Young Awards in their trophy case took the mound. Baltimore starter Mike Flanagan won the award in 1979. Philadelphia had Steve Carlton, with three Cy Youngs, over 300 career wins, a future place in Cooperstown and one of the best pitchers of his generation, at age 38.
Philadelphia got the early lead. Gary Matthews, hero of the NLCS win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, hit a solo shot in the second. Morgan did the same to lead off the third. Not until the fourth, did Baltimore start chipping at Carlton. A single and two walks loaded the bases with none out. But the veteran lefty got Murray to pop up and then induced Gary Roenicke to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Flanagan came out for a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth and Baltimore brought out their own three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer. Jim Palmer, at age 37, was no longer his old self and was pitching out of the bullpen, but he put up zeroes in the fifth and sixth and enabled his team to rally.
Ford homered in the sixth to cut the lead in half. In the seventh, with two outs, Dempsey doubled. Benny Ayala came up to pinch-hit for Palmer and drove him in with a single. Carlton was removed for closer Al Holland.
Shelby singled, and then a huge error by shortstop Ivan de Jesus gave the Orioles the lead run. The Baltimore relief corps, Sammy Stewart and Tippy Martinez, slammed the door over the last three innings and the Orioles prevailed 3-2.
Saturday afternoon was sunny in Philadelphia and this World Series game was always played in the early afternoon prior to 1985, when all Series games had to be played in prime-time. With the Phils trailing, they went back to Denny on three days’ rest, while the Orioles used their #4 starter, Storm Davis.
It was scoreless through three innings, and the Baltimore started the fourth with three straight singles from Dwyer, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray to load the bases. With one out, Rich Dauer singled in two runs and moved Murray to third. Denny bore down and struck out Todd Cruz, escaping the inning with the score still 2-0.
The Phils immediately answered in their own half of the fourth. With one out, Rose singled and Mike Schmidt dropped a blooper into left field. Joe Lefebvre doubled to score a run and set up second and third. After an intentional walk, Davis got a big double play grounder from Greg Gross and kept the 2-1 lead.
But Philadelphia kept coming in the fifth. Bo Diaz doubled to lead off the inning and Denny aided his own cause with a one-out single, taking second when the throw home went awry. With two outs, Rose doubled in Denny and Philly was up 3-2.
Now it was Baltimore’s turn to punch back. A one-out single by Lowenstein was followed by a Dauer double and an intentional walk. Ken Singleton, normally the Oriole DH, was available to pinch-hit for Dempsey. Singleton drew a walk and the game was tied. Shelby picked up the lead run with a sac fly. One inning later, Dauer had another clutch hit, a two-out RBI single to drive in Dwyer, who had doubled.
Stewart and Martinez were again controlling the late innings, though the Phils made a move in the ninth. Diaz singled, was pinch-ran for by Bob Dernier, who took second on a ground ball out and scored on a two-out single. Morgan came up and hit a line drive, but Dauer capped off his big game by pulling it in and Baltimore’s 5-4 victory had them one win from a title.
The Orioles had been here before though—in 1979, they won Games 3 & 4 on the road in Pittsburgh to take a 3-1 series lead. They lost Game 5 to the Pirates and then lost two straight at home. Not until the 2014 San Francisco Giants did another home team lose a seventh game, and the ’79 Orioles are the last team to lose both Games 6 & 7 at home. They weren’t fitting themselves for rings just yet.
McGregor had suffered two hard-luck losses in this postseason and was just as ready to make good. After losing two straight pitchers’ duels, the finesse-throwing lefty apparently decided the only way to be sure was to just give up nothing. And he dominated. Meanwhile, some quiet Baltimore bats opened up.
Eddie Murray had not been hitting in this Series, a subject of no small press attention, giving his disappearance in the final three games of the 1979 World Series. The pressure was growing on Murray, and he answered with a mammoth home run off Hudson in the second inning of Game 5. Dempsey homered in the third. After a Ripken walk started the fourth inning, Murray again unloaded a home run. Both of these were massive blasts that may not have come down until they arrived back in Baltimore.
Dempsey led off the fifth with a double, chasing Hudson, and then scored on a wild pitch and Bumbry sac fly. It was 5-0, and the 1983 World Series was all but over. McGregor went the distance and when Maddox hit a soft liner to Ripken to end the ninth inning, the party could start in Baltimore.
The 1983 World Series MVP honor went to Dempsey, for his 5-for-13 hitting and two home runs. Lowenstein also went 5-for-13 and homered, while McGregor worked 17 innings and gave up just two runs, including a clinching shutout. But I want to look somewhere else for Series MVP–how about Sammy Stewart?
The biggest difference in this World Series was that Stewart and Martinez controlled the last three innings in the close games of Games 3 & 4, and Stewart in particular threw five shutout innings in the Series overall He got 4.1 of those innings in the Friday and Saturday games that all but secured the title. There was no one standout offensive performer–remember, Dempsey was pinch-hit for at the big moment of Game 4–and as well as McGregor pitched, he wasn’t able to win Game 1. I’d give Stewart a narrow edge for this award.
The 1983 World Series would be the last time partying would take place in either city for a while. Even though Ripken was young and Murray was in his prime, the rest of the Orioles were older, and they did not return to contention until 1989, and have not made it back to the World Series since. The Phillies disappeared for a decade before winning the NL pennant in 1993, but not until 2008 did they win the World Series again.
1983 saw a lot of great players come together on the October stage one last time, and the end result was something they still call “Oriole Magic” in Baltimore.