Forty years ago this week, our selection for the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week was completing an amazing run of perfection as a hurler for the Baltimore Orioles.
On July 30, 1969, Dave McNally allowed only two runs in eight innings to improve his record to 15-0 on the season.
He suffered his first loss in a 5-2 game against Minnesota on August 3rd and went on to finish the season with a 20-7 record.
Throughout his entire career with the Orioles, McNally was a steady performer, but never seemed able to firmly grasp the spotlight on a team filled with stars.
Whether it was fellow hurlers Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer or position players Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Boog Powell, there seemed to always be someone else getting the glory and recognition.
However, it is clear that the Orioles would have had a very difficult time claiming two World Series titles and four American League Pennants between 1966 and 1971 without the services of the left-handed hurler.
McNally registered 20 or more wins each season between 1968 and 1971. In 1970 he won a career-high 24 games, but finished second to Jim Perry in the Cy Young voting.
Particularly clutch in post season play, McNally had a 4-1 career record in World Series play, including a dramatic 1-0 shutout over Don Drysdale and the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the 1966 World Series title.
He also made noise with his bat on the biggest stage blasting home runs in both the 1969 and 1970 World Series. His home run against Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series was the first grand slam in World Series competition by a pitcher.
McNally signaled future greatness when at age 19 he pitched a two-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in his major league debut on September 26, 1962.
He moved into the starting rotation the next season and by the time the Orioles won the American League Pennant in 1966 he was an established member of their rotation.
McNally posted a 181-113 record in 13 seasons with the Orioles before completing his career with the Montreal Expos in 1975.
Along with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Andy Messersmith, McNally helped bring an end to baseball’s reserve clause following the 1975 season. Though he never enjoyed the benefits of free agency, McNally helped pave the way for the great wealth that followed.
McNally passed away from lung cancer in 2002.
If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.