The last two decades have produced some of the most powerful home run lineups in baseball history: the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, the Over The Wall Gang in Boston and the Big Blue Brew Crew in Milwaukee.
So, in the last 20 years what team has hit the most homers in a season?
Strange as it may seem, the answer could turn out to be the 1985 Baltimore Orioles.
The hot, humid weather that produces home runs has arrived and the Orioles' long-ball count has risen like the thermometer. With 26 homers in the last 13 games, Baltimore's total reached 149 home runs in 113 games -- a pace that would produce 214 homers for the full season.
Only six teams ever topped that. Only one has done it since 1964 -- the 1982 Brewers with 216. In fact, if the Orioles keep up their recent increase in home run rate, it's not farfetched that they could end up No. 2 on the all-time single-season list.
The 1961 New York Yankees -- with Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) -- have an untouchable 240 total. But second place goes to the 1963 Minnesota Twins (225) led by Harmon Killebrew. No National League team ever has had more than 221.
Playing in a sizable, pitchers' park in a season with no evidence of a rabbit ball, the Orioles probably will hit more homers than the Brooklyn Boys of Summer or any team that Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Willie Mays ever played on.
Because bad pitching has consigned the Orioles to fourth place, the sluggers have been overlooked. All 11 of them.
That's right, 11.
No team in history ever has had 10 players who each hit 10 or more homers.
Eleven Orioles are likely to do it. Seven already have: Eddie Murray (21), Fred Lynn (19), Mike Young (19), Cal Ripken (18), Larry Sheets (13), Gary Roenicke (11) and Wayne Gross (10). Four others -- Lee Lacy, Floyd Rayford, Rick Dempsey and Jim Dwyer, with seven apiece -- probably will.
Others may not grasp the Orioles, but they know themselves. They're homer crazy and dinger daffy.
Long distance, please.
Dr. Longball on the line.
The Orioles' bench has gotten so addicted to predicting home runs, even trying to guess the exact pitch on which one will come, that batting coach Terry Crowley has been appointed commissioner in charge of "called" home runs.
Right in the back of the sacred pitching chart book, Crowley has kept an exact record of every Oriole homer that has been called in advance by another player. Rich Dauer leads with 18 true calls and Larry Sheets has 16. Newcomer Alan Wiggins already has five and a growing reputation as a clairvoyant.
"He can't hit 'em, but he sure can call 'em," Crowley said.
"We have strict rules," he said. "A player only gets three 'calls' a game. And he has to register them with me. No more than five guys can make a 'call' on any one at bat.
"There's one exception. Whenever (coach) Frank Robinson calls one, everybody gets on the bandwagon. So, we have a Hall of Fame rule. If Frank is the first person to 'put in a call,' then seven more guys can get on the list."
To register a call, a player just puts his fist to his ear as if he's talking on a telephone. Everybody plays, including Manager Earl Weaver. Even the man with the Orioles' radar gun behind the screen is in the game.
Yes, players (Dempsey, for instance) have put in a call for themselves. One Oriole even called himself standing at home plate. Crowley pleads the Fifth on that one, saying, "You want me to get one of my guys killed?"
Although the Call Game obviously is fun, it's also a teaching device. "You want players thinking about how home runs happen -- what count, what pitch to look for," said Crowley. "It gets them into the game, thinking about every pitch.
"To hit home runs, you have to be both patient and aggressive. Patient enough to wait for your strike and aggressive enough to pull the trigger and drive the ball when you get it. Walks and home runs go together. The game might help teach that," he added.
"Earl loves it. He put in a call this week on Dempsey, then when Rick got a double off the wall, Earl wanted his call back. He said, 'Jeez, Crow, it's my birthday,' so I gave it to him."
The new ingredient in an already potent team has been Young, who has 13 homers in his last 30 games. Suddenly, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound switch-hitter looks as if he may approach Murray and Ripken's power level.
"I hate to put labels on people, but he has talent unlimited," Robinson said. "He has more raw power than Cal or Eddie. He just flicks the ball and the whole bench says, 'That's gone.' Nobody even roots for it or waits for it to land. Just, 'Outta here.' His bat speed from either side of the plate is unbelievable. If he ever gets all of one, it won't land inside the stadium."
"When Mike realizes how strong he is," said pitcher Mike Flanagan, "that he doesn't have to swing hard and can still hit the ball out of any park in the league in any direction, where the devil are you going to be able to pitch him?"
With Crowley emphasizing technique and Murray counseling him on patience and pitch selection, Young has bloomed with a .277 average and 51 RBI in just 271 at bats. (That's a 44-homer, 120-RBI pace for 625 at bats.) As long as Weaver, who dubbed him Mighty Mike Young three years ago, is around, the 25-year-old will play just about every day.
"More patience and more fun," said Young. "You put so much pressure on yourself trying to produce in front of 30,000 people.
"I can see I'm going to have to accept the expectations (of his fellow Orioles). Sometimes I amaze myself. I'll see the ball land and say, 'I hit that?' "
Some managers fear players swinging for the fences. Not Weaver. "The bad habits come when they aren't hitting home runs," Weaver said. "You only hit a home run when you do everything right -- timing, anticipation, extension, don't overswing. All these home runs are a good sign."
Long-ball madness has brought some excitement and dignity to an otherwise overcast Baltimore season. Yet even the homers can leave an ambiguous feeling for a team that's more accustomed to consistent excellence than intermittent pyrotechnics.
"I grew up in New England and I always wanted to know how it felt to pitch for the Boston Red Sox. Now I do," said Flanagan. "Give up five runs and pray for eight."