Guest Post by Special Teams Guru
Somewhere in the back of my closet is an Orioles yearbook from 1972 that has an image so indelible that it is forever burned in my memory. The caption on that yearbook reads “This Clover has Four Leaves” and features the Orioles 4-man pitching rotation which each finished the 1971 season with 20 wins. The four pitchers were Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, Dave McNally, and the man they called “Crazy Horse”, Mike Cuellar. The feat that this quartet performed had only been done once in the history of baseball up until the 1971 season, and likely will never be repeated. Sadly, the third member of that famed Baltimore rotation, Mike Cuellar, succumbed to stomach cancer this past week.
In many ways, it could be viewed that Cuellar was in fact the lucky leaf on that four leaf clover. Acquired in December of 1968, the Orioles went on to win 318 games his first three seasons with the club and went to 3 straight World Series, winning it all in 1970. During that stretch, Cuellar won 67 regular season games, winning at least 20 each season. The Cuban born Cuellar was also the game winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 1970 World Series at Memorial Stadium. Much like Frank Robinson was viewed as the missing piece in the Orioles lineup a few years before, Cuellar is often thought to be the final piece of that fabled Orioles rotation.
The superstitious aspect of that “four leaf clover” caption was also a metaphor for how the man they called “Crazy Horse” lived his baseball life. I still remember seeing him take the mound and refusing to touch the chalk foul lines when he entered the diamond. It’s actually a practice that I adopted myself throughout my playing days and even to this day as a softball player. In recent days, there have also been numerous stories of favorite hats and odd in game quirks that made Cuellar a character in a time when baseball players were boring and vanilla. Anyone who saw him play saw the passion with which he played and will remember his broad grin.
I think I need to dig into my closet and find that old wrinkled book. The memories it will conjure were of the times when the Orioles ruled the baseball world and when the clover had “four leaves”. Thanks for the memories Crazy Horse.