Last time the Orioles were in the playoffs …

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OK, so by now we’ve all heard plenty about how the Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. October 15, 1997 to be exact, when they lost 1-0 to the Indians in Game 6 of the ALCS on a Tony Fernandez homer off Armando Benitez in the 11th inning.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the boxscore from that game. First of all, the starting pitchers were Mike Mussina for the Orioles and Charles Nagy for the Indians, which is more than enough to get a kid who grew up watching baseball in the 1990s giddy.

And here are the lineups:

   CLEVELAND INDIANS               BALTIMORE ORIOLES
1. Omar Vizquel, SS             1. Brady Anderson, CF
2. Tony Fernandez, 2B           2. Roberto Alomar, 2B
3. Manny Ramirez, RF            3. Geronimo Berroa, RF
4. David Justice, DH            4. Harold Baines, DH
5. Matt Williams, 3B            5. Rafael Palmeiro, 1B
6. Jim Thome, 1B                6. Cal Ripken Jr., 3B
7. Sandy Alomar, C              7. B.J. Surhoff, LF
8. Brian Giles, LF              8. Chris Hoiles, C
9. Marquis Grissom, CF          9. Mike Bordick, SS

I mean, where to even start?

Well, first of all Jim Thome batted sixth and played first base for the Indians that day. And tonight, 15 years later, he’ll play for the Orioles.

Omar Vizquel, who led off for the Indians then, just played his final game Wednesday. Sandy Alomar, who caught for the Indians then, just interviewed this week to be the Indians’ new manager. And his brother, Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, played second base for the Orioles then.

Brian Giles, who hit eighth for Cleveland, later went on to be one of the elite hitters in the NL for the Pirates. Brady Anderson, who had 50 homers the previous year, batted leadoff in a Davey Johnson-managed Baltimore lineup that had Rafael Palmeiro fifth and Cal Ripken Jr. sixth.

Oh, and here’s a list of some players who appeared off the bench or out of the bullpen: Eric Davis, Jeffrey Hammonds, Jerome Walton, Lenny Webster, Jose Mesa, Randy Myers, Paul Assenmacher, Mike Jackson.

I’m going to force myself to stop now because I could seriously just stare at the boxscore from now until the Cardinals-Braves game starts tonight and be perfectly happy.

UPDATE: MLB.com has video of Fernandez’s game-winning homer off Benitez:

Thanks to Jake Silver for digging up the video.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.