From their defensive positions, center fielder Al Bumbry and third baseman Doug DeCinces have essentially the same view of Memorial Stadium. The first two games of the Yankee series this week Bumbry saw nearly 17,000 each night-and was encouraged that most of them stayed until the end. DeCinces saw nearly 35,000 empty seats each game-and was furious.

Bumbry leads off, saying: "Most times in years past, if we'd been down three runs going into the ninth inning, like we were the last two nights, most of the people would have been gone.

"You'd get down a couple runs in the seventh, eight or ninth innings around here and everybody started to go. This time they didn't. This time they stuck with us. We gave it a great shot the first time (with two runs and men on second and third before the final out).

"And the second time we won it (with three runs in the ninth and the winner in the 10th). The guys notice things like that. They notice when the part empties early. They notice what happened the last two nights, too."

One of the guys, DeCines, also noticed that the park was more than half empty the first night, with the best left-hander since Sandy Koufax, Ron Guidry, on the mound. And the Yanks and O's played what everyone with eyes and a mind called a classic game.

So the next night, with Jim Palmer pitching for the Orioles and Reggie Jackson back in the Yankee lineup to be booed at will, only 472 more fans came.

Who are the April fools?

"If games like these don't bring the fans back, then they don't appreciate good baseball around here," DeCinces said. "I think people around here, if something doesn't happen, are going to learn the hard way.

"They just might be saying to themselves-after the team's gone-'We should have gone to the park. We should have supported the team.' The mayor is doing everything he can. Television and radio are doing a far superior job this year than ever before.

"So it's not that the people don't know about the games. And it's certainly not that we are-or were-a bad club. We've won more games than anyone in baseball the last 22 years (the Yanks are second, the Dodgers third and the Reds fourth).

"There are no excuses. What else can you say. If the people don't come"-he paused, then turned his head to a reporter from Baltimore and said-"if they don't come after this, they don't deserve us."

The Orioles are plagued by an unfair schedule-and unlucky that two of their best dates conflict with Passover. Still, in two games, most Baltimoreans did not see the Orioles scoring three runs off Guidry in 6 1/3 innings and four runs off relief ace Goose Gossage in 3 1/3.

Most Baltimoreans did not see Jackson pinch-hit a homer one night and scarcely bump the ball to the pitcher the next, although the Birds wisely pitched around him in the 10th inning Wednesday night.

Most Baltimoreans did not get a chance to see John Lowenstein called out when he clearly was safe in game one and then called safe when he probably was out in game two. Most Baltimoreans missed as much drama in two games as anyone could expect in 12.

Most Baltimoreans missed Goose nearly laying the baseball egg of the season. He was the loser Wednesday night, after winning game one, but if Pat Kelly had been more alert-or more daring-Gossage might have been haunted for years.

He had a chance to give up the game-winning blow while intentionally trying to walk Kelly with one out and Orioles on first and third.

Gossage had intentionally walked DeCinces just before Kelly. But his control all of a sudden deserted him after two pitches; he was unable to throw a slow, straight ball without causing all manner of Yankee stomachs to flutter.

His third pitch nearly sailed over leaping catcher Thurman Munson. That would have been embarrassing enough, to allow the winning run on a wild-pitch blunder while simply playing pitch-and-catch. He tried to correct that mistake the next pitch-and nearly made a ghastlier one.

Ball four to Kelly was very close to being strike one. It was very, very, very close to the plate-and slow, perhaps half the speed of batting-practice puffs. Clearly suprrised, Kelly still almost swung, hestitated and then mentally kicked himself all the way to first.

"Very tempting," Kelly said. "It would have been simple to punch it over third-or just get it far enough into the outfield to score the man from third. But I could just see (Manager) Earl's (Weaver) tantrum if I'd popped up.

"So I thought it best to take a pass." And pass up a possible royal chewing out from Weaver.

In the minor leagues, Oriole first-base coach Jim Frey once hit the ball in a similar situation-and drove in the winning run. But Frank Robinson had never been tempted his entire career. DeCinces had been tempted, but never swung.

"If he'd done that to me," DeCinces said, "I'd have smacked it. I was ready for something like that. You've got to be in a situation like that. You never know. You've got to be alert in this game."

Alert to what's happening on the field, and to what's not happening in the stands.