Dodgers chasing Orioles for history’s best championship defense

Adam Weinrib
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 22: (L to R) Gene Brabender #32; Brooks Robinson #5 and Boog Powell #26 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate clinching the American League pennant in the clubhouse after a game on September 22, 1966 against the Kansas City A's at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Orioles beat the A's, 6-1. JV00116 (Photo by: John Vawter Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 22: (L to R) Gene Brabender #32; Brooks Robinson #5 and Boog Powell #26 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate clinching the American League pennant in the clubhouse after a game on September 22, 1966 against the Kansas City A's at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Orioles beat the A's, 6-1. JV00116 (Photo by: John Vawter Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /
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Kids, gather ’round, and let me tell you a story about a time the Baltimore Orioles were good.

So good, in fact, that they’re the only team the 2021 Dodgers are chasing down in their quest to post the strongest regular season in history for any defending champion.

LA’s got plenty of other business to handle during the 2021 stretch run — after all, MLB hasn’t officially changed their playoff format, so they still might be stuck in a one-game, winner-take-all contest despite winning over 100 games.

Safe to say, that’s not what you want.

The 1971 Orioles didn’t suffer that fate during their title defense; instead, they posted an historic regular season after shaking off the embarrassment of losing to the 1969 Mets and winning the 1970 crown over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Dodgers? Well, they’re on a mission as well. A mission to prove the legitimacy of their title that followed a 60-game regular season.

So far, it’s going historically well.

The 2021 Dodgers are on a quest to match the remarkable 1971 Baltimore Orioles.

The problem with this quest? The 2021 San Francisco Giants are also going for it, even though 101 wins is a meaningless mark to them. Quite rude, actually.

Much like this year’s Dodgers, that O’s squad had everything. Offense? Boog Powell, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson took care of that. Defense? Paul Blair and, again, Robinson at third, otherwise known as the Human Vacuum Cleaner, had that covered.

Pitching? They were positively Dodgers-like, going famously deeper than any rotation the game had ever seen, up to that point. Four different Orioles won 20 games that year in a four-man rotation: Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, Mike Cuellar, and Dave McNally. The highest ERA in the group? 3.08, by Cuellar. And you call yourself an ace …

In essence, Baltimore’s rotation quartet was Scherzer-Buehler-Kershaw-Urias before those fellas were conceived of.

The only thing the Dodgers don’t want to emulate about that Baltimore club? Their ultimate playoff fate.

The repeat bid went well through the regular season (duh) and the playoffs; the Orioles swept the A’s in the newfangled ALCS. Unfortunately, their journey ended in Game 7 of the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading to their dominance being largely forgotten by the masses.

Nobody on this Dodger club wants to be forgotten. They’ve got bigger fish to fry than adding this all-time winning percentage mark to their trophy case, but it wouldn’t be a bad feather in their cap — as long as they can secure the trophy again and edge past San Fran.

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