OCTOBER 5, 1966 – World Series Game 1
The match up of teams in the 1966 World Series could not have been more starkly different. The Dodgers were an entrenched powerhouse, looking for their fourth World Series title in the nine seasons since moving to Los Angeles.
Their foe was the Baltimore Orioles, a franchise whose lone pennant was won as the St. Louis Browns in 1944. That squad was filled with players who were not eligible for military service and lost the series to their brothers in the city, the Cardinals.
Both clubs were filled with dominant pitching aces, several of whom would make it to Cooperstown. But the first arm to make his mark in the Series was a reliever better known as a prankster than as an October hero.
In Game 1, Dodgers manager Walter Alston handed the ball to Don Drysdale to give LA an early edge. Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson would smack back to back homers and the Dodgers were down 3 before they even had an at bat. A second inning rally would make it 4-0. But the Dodgers would chip away at Baltimore starter Dave McNally. With the bases loaded and 1 out and Baltimore’s 4-1 lead looking shaky in the third inning, Orioles manager Hank Bauer removed McNally and called for Moe Drabowsky.
The 30 year old native of Ozanna, Poland who immigrated to Connecticut had already logged 11 seasons in the big leagues. He had bounced around between the Cubs, Braves, Reds and Athletics before being plucked from the Cardinals roster in the Rule 5 draft before the 1966 season.
He had the reputation of being a fine pitcher but more for being a free spirit. Drabowsky liked to put sneezing powder into the air conditioning system of the opposing team. He would put gold fish into water coolers, gave players the hot foot and hid snakes in people’s lockers.
Bauer was not asking Drabowsky to pull any pranks that day. He had been an effective reliever during the season and he needed to keep the defending World Champion Dodgers from putting together a rally.
He struck out Wes Parker but walked Jim Gilliam, forcing home a run. Now a base hit by John Roseboro would tie the game. And extra base hit would give LA the lead. But Roseboro popped up to the catcher, Andy Etchebarren, and the threat was minimized to one run.
With the lead extended to 5-2 in the 4th, Drabowsky struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings. He retired 11 in a row before working out of a jam in the 7th. He then retired the final 8 batters of the game, earning the 5-2 victory.
His final line would be 6 2/3 innings of relief, no runs, one inherited runner scored, 2 walks and 11 strikeouts.
The run Drabowsky walked in in the 3rd inning would be the Dodgers final run… for the Series! They would be shutout in Games 2, 3 and 4, with Dave McNally redeeming his shaky Game 1 performance with a World Series winning complete game shutout.
Drabowsky would continue to bounce around the big leagues for another 7 season. In 1970, he found himself back with the Orioles for half a season, in time to earn another ring and give Commissioner Bowie Kuhn a hot foot during the World Series.
He was a marvelous free spirit who passed away in 2006 at the age of 70. Drabowsky was never a star but he left his thumb print on the first team in the history of the St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles to win a World Series.
That earned him the title of Unsung Postseason hero of October 5.