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Bookends to a marvelous career

McNally's first win for Baltimore, late in the 1962 season when he was 19, and his last win wearing an Orioles uniform, in September 1974 when he was 31, shared something in common. Both were pitching masterpieces.

Dave gave up two hits against Kansas City on September 27, 1962, to blank the A's, 3-0, in his major-league debut. And he yielded three hits to the New York Yankees en route to a 7-0 victory over the Bronx Bombers on September 19, 1974.

Those goose-egg wins, sandwiched around 179 other wins in McNally’s 13-year career with the Orioles, gave him 181 wins for Baltimore. They made him the winningest pitcher in Orioles' history when, after being traded to Montreal, he retired from baseball in June 1975. Jim Palmer later surpassed McNally in Baltimore's all-time win column, but Dave remains the lefthander who won the most games for the Orioles.

McNally's win over the Yankees kept the Orioles on track to eventually win the 1974 American League East crown. It had not looked good for Earl Weaver's squad on August 29 when the Orioles were eight games behind and seemed on the verge of folding. But the Birds won 18 of their next 23 games to take command of the race.

Weaver exuded relief in Baltimore's clubhouse after McNally’s gem, telling Baltimore Sun writer Ken Nigro (September 20, 1974), “we finally made it.” Although Weaver said that point in the race, with a few weeks left, was “the right time of the year to be here,” he cautioned that the race was far from over.

Weaver said the Orioles would “probably still be playing” on October 3, the last day of the regular season, and “maybe” they would be playing after October 3 when the season would end. But all he had to do was point at the other two teams Baltimore had been chasing to underscore the fickle nature of big-league baseball.

“Heck, we all know Boston had it won and we all know the Yanks had it won. Let's see how we do now that we're on top,” Weaver said.

Still, true to his cocky nature, Weaver said “there is nothing to get nervous about. We still have 11 games to play.”

McNally gave his manager little to get here nervous about. He got stronger as the game went on, holding the Yankees hitless over the last five innings. It was Dave’s fourth straight win and his fourth shutout. He ran his lifetime record against the Yankees to 21 wins versus ten losses.

Weaver, who first managed McNally in 1961 in the minor leagues in Appleton, Wisconsin, knew what to expect from his ace southpaw.

“Mac has always been tough in fight games,” the feisty skipper said. “He is the kind of guy who likes to pitch in the big ones.”

Yankee Stadium was undergoing renovation in 1974, so the Orioles played the Yankees at the park they were using that year, the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium. Hence, the win ended up being more satisfying because the 1969 Miracle Mets defeated McNally and the Orioles in that year’s World Series.

As the Orioles bus rolled down Seventh Avenue toward Shea Stadium, Larry Hargrove, another Sun writer, picked up a pre-game comment from Palmer and included the scene in his post-game story.

Palmer looked back at McNally and joked, “What are you going to say to the writers after you throw your three-hitter?”

Palmer's prediction proved true, and McNally explained why.

“They (the Yankees) were hitting me hard the first couple innings, but after that, things started settling-in.”

McNally said his control “was so good even I couldn't believe it. It was the best control I’ve had all season.”

McNally needed just 88 pitches to beat the Yankees. From the third inning on, only two Yankees got on base. In one stretch over the final seven innings, he retired 15 batters in a row,

The reason he could be skimpy on his pitches was because everything he was throwing was strikes, McNally said, and his pitches “all looked appetizing because the Yankees just kept swinging at them.”

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Jamie Larson