The scales were removed from the eyes of Baltimore Oriole free-agent Steve Stone tonight in Memorial Stadium.
In his ninth major league season the pugnacious Stone finally felt the joy of having a contending club behind him as his Oriole mates gave him a world of support in a 6-3 victory over the swaggering Milwaukee Brewers.
Stone, whom the O's are paying over $200,000 per season for four years, saw Mark Bellanger end a Brewer rally with a marvelous double play. He saw Don Stanhouse pitch two shutout innings of relief to save his win. And he saw his club batter 22-game winner Mike Caldwell for 14 hits and a staggering 23 total bases.
"It suddenly dawned on me," said the delighted Stone who was making his Memorial Stadium debut, "I'm not in Chicago anymore."
Belanger's inning-ending double play after stopping a potential base hit in hole caught Stone by such surprise that the right-hander forgot to leave the mound.
His new teammates pounded his back in the dugout, kidding him, "Welcome to the world of defense."
At a mound conference in the seventh, Stone told third baseman Doug DeCinces, "Don't you think Blade (Belanger) should shade the hole a little more?"
DeCinces patted Stone and said, "This is Baltimore. This is the seventh inning. We'll take care of everyghing Duke."
The O's were as delighted as Stone to win their second in a row after losing six straight. "A relief, just a big relief," said Manager Earl Weaver.
"We just looked awful for a week," said DeCinces. "You don't want to bury yourselves in April, but it's easy to do."
For the Brewers, this defeat was a shock.Their main man Caldwell had beaten New York's Ron Guidry, Boston's Dennis Eckersley and the O's Jim Palmer with three straight complete-game wins. Those four gents led the American League Cy Young voting last year. Stone was the last man anyone would expect to break Caldwell's eight-game win streak.
For a week, since Caldwell beat them in Milwaukee, 4-2, the O's have grumbled about how they wanted to even a score with the stubble-bearded beligerent southpaw who glares at every hitter and stares at every man who homers off him.
The O's wasted no time setting their tone for the night. Larry Harlow singled and Rick Dempsey doubled to open the first inning. Singleton drove in one run with a grounder, and Gary Roenicke - who has a nine-for-12 lifetime mark against Caldwell - singled home another.
After Milwaukee's Sixto Lezcano poled a 415-foot homer over the center field fence in the second, singles by Roenicke, Eddie Murray and Lee May made the O's lead 3-1 in the third.
The mighty Brewers, the majors' top home run and runs scored outfit in '78, tied the game in the fifth when Cecil Cooper, the league's hottest bat at .465, crashed a 400-foot two-run homer to right.
That 3-3 deadlock lasted one pitch.
To start the O's fifth, Caldwell - called Mr. Warmth by his teammates because he is so grumpy-did one of his intimidate-the-batter stalling acts, glaring at Singleton for nearly two minutes.
"Maybe Caldwell just had a feeling to knew what would happen after he let it go," said Singleton. He smashed that first pitch far over the 378-foot sign in left for what proved to be the winning run.
As Singleton circled the bases, he gave Caldwell the stare treatment in return. "He did it when Eddie (Murray) homered off him last week, so I just returned the compliment," said Singleton.
Caldwell appeared to walk almost into Singleton's path as he headed for home, but a promising altercation never developed as Singleton could not suppress a laugh.
In the eighth, when Caldwell should have been showering, the O's banged him for doubles by Belanger and Rich Dauer (the second two-bagger of the night for each) and an RBI single by Harlow
Wild man reliever Stanhouse with his two-foot-wide haircut, protected that 6-3 lead in typical fashion, issuing a ninth-inning two-out walk to frail Robin Yount so he could pitch to dangerous Cecil Cooper - who already has four homers in April off the O's - with two men on base.
"What's he doing?" wailed Stone in the clubhouse.
"That's just the way that crazy Stanhouse does it," said Lee May.
Cooper flied out deep to left.
"Well," said Stone, "if that's the way it's done in Baltimore, that's fine with me."