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Birds took flight on Robinson's blast

Birds took flight on Robinson's blast in '66

As Major League baseball crowned a new home run king on Tuesday night in Barry Bonds, the memories of other memorable home runs come to mind for baseball fans. For many Orioles fans, one of the most memorable home runs in club history came in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series, when Frank Robinson blasted a two-run shot off the Dodgers' Don Drysdale in the first inning en route to the Orioles' first World Series game victory. But that wouldn't prove to be the most important smash for Baltimore.

Four days later, all the way across the country, Robinson stepped to the plate in the fourth inning in Baltimore and again stared up at Drysdale. Robinson prepared to face the 1962 Cy Young Award winner with statistics that would not give an advantage to either superstar.

Through that point in his 11-year career, Drysdale had allowed only one home run in every 11 2/3 innings of work. But he'd also allowed a home run for each of the six World Series games he'd worked.

On this day, Oct. 9, 1966, that number became seven.

Drysdale had surrendered just one hit over the first 3 1/3 innings when Robinson dug into the batter's box, but Robinson again gave the ball a ride. He smashed a Drysdale offering into the left-field bleachers in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

Bill Stetka, Baltimore's current media relations director, was 11 years old when he sat in Memorial Stadium, watching Robinson's blast with his father. The Orioles had also won Game 3 by a 1-0 count, and Stetka remembers doubting that Robinson's blast would stand up through the end of the ninth inning.

"We'd shut out the Dodgers in two straight games, and everyone was thinking, 'This can't be enough,'" Stetka recalled. "It wasn't until afterward that we realized what this home run had done for the team."

Robinson's memorable round-tripper held up as the only run of the game and Baltimore won the 17th 1-0 game in the World Series' 63-year history. More importantly, it capped the Orioles' four-game sweep of Los Angeles and clinched their first World Series title.

Before that season, Robinson had been traded from the Reds in one of the most unpopular trades in Cincinnati history, and in 1966, he became the first Triple Crown winner since Mickey Mantle did it 10 years earlier. He led the American League with 49 homers, 122 RBIs, a .316 batting average and a .637 slugging percentage in 1966, and marched the O's to their first pennant and championship. He was named World Series MVP and was voted the American League MVP, becoming the first player to win the league MVP award in both the NL and AL.

But the home run did more for the Baltimore franchise than earn its first title trophy. It finally solidified the Orioles in the same league as the other original AL teams, as they became the last of the original eight to win the Fall Classic. The O's also became the first non-Yankees American League team to win the World Series since 1948.

Geremy Bass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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