The Baltimore Orioles figured out the perfect Opening Day way to attack the pathetic Chicago White Sox defense in today's 50-mile-per-hour winds.
Hit'em where they are.
"The key was our ability to hit popups in the clutch," chuckled the O's Doug DeCinces after Baltimore's 5-3 triumph before 39,648 petrified onlookers in Memorial Stadium.
Those who were not here, amidst the cyclones of shopping bags and newspapers, may think that Jim Palmer presented Manager Earl Weaver with his 1,000th career victory on a typically masterful three-hitter.
Actually, the Chisox defensive circus struck again as every Baltimore run was a gift-the product of walks, errors and hilarious blunders so awful they could be scored only as base hits.
Every White Sox player knows the fundamental rule of official scoring-if nobodby touches the ball, it can't be an error. When in doubt, the Chisox leave no fingerprints on their crimes.
Twice with men in scoring position the Orioles hit high flies behind second base. Twice the frigid crowd began its anticipatory roar, knowing the escapades that were in store. Twice the ball embedded itself in the soggy outfield turf without a Chicagoan getting close enough to throw a bat at it, much less a glove.
Both gaffes led to runs. The O's won by two. Welcome to the wonderful world of the White Sox.
"Our defense has improved this spring...that's the main thing," said rookie Manager Don Kessinger before the game. Maybe in balmy Florida but not in blustery Baltimore. It would take a Kissinger, not a Kessinger, to get the Chisox to stop self-destructing.
Twice southpaw starter and loser Ken Kravec set the necessary stage for his mates by issuing back-to-back walks. Four of the five O's runs quickly followed.
The Sox mastered errors of commission as well as acts of absenteeism.
Alan Bannister, a spectator as one pop-up fell to earth, also get a grounder bite him in the ankle.
First sacker Lamar Johnson dropped a throw for an E3 (the runner later scored), then in the same inning knocked over a 230-pound amateur ump while chasing a foul pop that landed in the upper deck.
That marvelous pair of matched bookend outfielders - Ralph Garr in left and Claudell Washington in right-did its act.
Garr slapped a high fly out of the air so hard that it bounced off the box seat ralling in time for him to throw out the shocked batter at second base. Washington missed one fly entirely and thrilled the crowd on two others.
The Sox were only half to blame. The brutal wind was reminiscent of, well, Chicago. "When do the Bears get here for the kickoff," said a shuddering Ken Singleton before the game, watching the wind swirl in all directions. "You'd think a 50-mile-per-hour wind could make up its mind."
The third-base tarp blew up like a fat lady's shirt and engulfed the first two rows of box seats. A SWAT team was dispatched.
A fan carrying a hot dog and beer through the wind-tunnel upper deck had the mustard blown off into his face and half his suds sprayed to the winds. Trashcan fires were deliberately set in the men's rooms with lines two-innings long outside, waiting to get into the warmth.
"As soon as I saw the wind," said Palmer, whose back has nagged him all spring, "I knew I was going out there and pitch. It just wouldn't be fair to ask anyone else when it was my turn."
With the gale moving predominantly in from left to right, Palmer threw all fast balls except three sliders and one change. "Throw strikes and keep your guys in the dugout where it's warm," siad Gentleman Jim. "A day like this is senseless. You keep the ball low so your guys will have to field as few duck-hooks as possible."
The O's, 10-14 in Florida, had abundant good omens. Rich Dauer's bases-loaded single in the second inning tied the game, 2-2 after the Chisox had scored two, thanks to a walk, two steals a passed ball and two clean singles to left.
"I knew we were going to win when Dauer got a hit in April," said Palmer, fondling a hot-water bottle at the time.
"I've been O for seven on Opening Days," said the chagrined Dauer. "I mean O for seven different cities."
DeCinces learned that his groundout RBI put him one game short of the major league record for consecutive games with an RBI (12 - by Ted Williams, Paul Waner and Joe Cronin).
"Gee, I hope the wind blows tomorrow," said DeCines, whose bunt hit today extended an around-the-corner hitting streak to 22. "I've got my pop-up swing grooved." CAPTION: Picture, Jim Palmer