It was not exactly a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, but it was close enough, and the outcome allowed the Baltimore Orioles to snap a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the California angels today.
Everyone at Anaheim Stadium knew the collision was coming, as soon as Baltimore left fielder Gary Roenick settled under Willie Davis' one-out, ninth-inning fly ball and Angel Brian Downing tagged up at third base.
Downing thundered down the line, and Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey lumbered up the line, toward Downing and the ball. Roenicke's throw arrived first, giving Dempsey just time enough to get a grip on the ball before Downing ran into him.
They both went down in the dirt, and when Dempsey roller over with the ball still in his possession, home plate umpire Ken Kaiser signaled the out that gave the Orioles a double play and victory.
"Gary made a pretty good throw," Dempsey said, "but I knew it was going to short-hop me if I stayed back and waited for it. So I had to come up the line to meet it.
"Then I lost control of the ball when it first hit my glove. That kept me from getting down lower. But I was able to get low enough to get under him. I stuck my head in his stomach."
Dempsey also stuck a knife in some of the evil spirits that had plagued the Orioles during the past week as their 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East dwindled to two.
"It seems like for the last week everything's been going against us. We just haven't been able to take advantage of situations," said Billy Smith, whose two-run home run capped the Orioles' three-run seventh inning against Angel starter Don Aase (7-7).
It seemed that might be the case once more today. California, which picked up two unearned runs on two Dempsey errors in the sixth but otherwise did nothing against left-hander Scott McGregor (3-2) in seven-plus innings finally got a rally going against reliever Sammy Stewart in the ninth.
Downing started it with a single to right, then Stewart walked Joe Rudi. Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver weht to the bullpen against, bypassing left-hander Tippy Martinez and calling for rigth-hander Don Stanhouse to face the Angels' next hitter, left-hander Willie Aikens.
That confrontation lasted 10 pitches, each one punctuated by the screams of a standing, shirt-waving crowd of 29,062, and Aikens got the decision by drawing a walk.
Then California Manager Jim Fregosi went to his bench and called on Willie Davis. The former Los Angeles Dodger star, resurrected after a year in Japan to supply depth for the Al West entry, looked at strike one, then lofted the fly ball to Roenicke.
Downing stood on the bag, staring until the catch was made. Then he broke toward the plate.
"I couldn't tell that much from where I was," Weaver said when asked if it surprised him to see Downing on the move. "But you still have to throw the ball to the plate, you still have to catch it and you still have to tag him. They gambled and lost.
"After the game, when everyone was shaking his hand, I told Dempsey he was the only guy on the team who could make two errors and still be the hero."
Dempsey, however, was not the only candidate for the hero's mantle.
John Lowenstein also qualified. He had three of the Orioles' seven hits off Aase and Dave LaRoche, and his eight home run of the year opening the seventh got Baltimore started. CAPTION: Picture 1, Angel Brian Downing is tagged out by Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey at the plate. AP; Picture 2, Billy Smith