Take me out to the ball game. Take me out...to see an umpire flatten the first-base coach? To hear Earl Weaver complain about too many fans at an Orioles game?

The Bird House has been a feathered asylum for nearly two months - and today the already giddy fans got Stoned. Still, the important number once again was not the 4-1 score or Steve Stone's 10 strikeouts but that 26,748 watched the O's beat the A's, the team Charlie Finley created and Bowie Kuhn destroyed.

Dwell on that once more. 26,748 fans to see the worst team in major-league baseball. In Memorial Stadium, where the Orioles' owner and the players have been serving nonsupport notices for years, where scholars once could bring their notes for meditation without concern for the sort of distractions they might find elsewhere, such as a library.

There is one story every Oriole tells on command that deserves repeating now to illustrate the sudden emotional turnabout here. Two years ago, the Orioles were a game behind the Yankees in the American League East and needed to average just 6,100 fans in their last four games to set an all-time attendance record.

They failed.

In their last 17 games, or since June 8, the team has averaged nearly 30,000. Their fans' lungs have been among the most overworked in the country.

"So many of them are young people who aren't afraid to stand up and cheer," said Doug DeCinces. "They're not afraid to go crazy. Instead of waiting for something to happen, the way it used to be around here, the fans are trying to make something happen.

"And when something does happen they have the feeling they've helped. Which they have. And they think it's great. They've involved themselves."

A dramatic, late-inning rally such as today's has become rather commonplace here, so the faithful mostly were abuzz over The Blade forcing The Hatchet to nearly bury poor Jim Frey in the dirt box slightly larger than a coffin near first.

The bizarre play began when Mark Belanger dropped a bunt in the fifth inning and Frey moved from the coaching box toward the first-base line to offer encouragement - and into the path of a freight train disguised as an umpire.

Frey is 5-9 and 170 pounds;. He wears glasses and his manner is that of a high-school biology teacher gone to seed. The umpire was Ken Kaiser, who weighs 250 pounds and once wrestled professionally as "The Hatchet."

"I was trying to help Blade run hard," Frey said, "and the next thing I know the world fell on me. Let's just hope I didn't hurt him. Check with him. See if he's all right."

Kaiser also was laughing.

"Hardly touched him," he said. "Hey, Jimmy just got French Freyed. Like that line? Thought you would. I been warning that guy, for two years now, that he gets so close to the line while I'm getting into position for the call that sooner or later I'll knock him.

"Today I got him. Got (Yankee coach Gene) Michaels last year. Hey, that's what they have that little box for, so guys like that won't get hurt."

Kaiser is a jolly, apparently competent fellow who has been away from the pro wrestling wars for six years. He was shaken only when he realized his official weight is listed as 220 pounds.

"Does this look like the body of a 220-pound man?" he said, rising from his stool and patting a surprisingly firm tummy."Right it's 250. Now there" - he pointed toward me - "is the body of a 220-pounder."

(It's the body of a 203-pounder whose bones still ache after an overtime handshake.)

Across the stadium and inside the Oriole clubhouse, Frey was saying, "I always thought mine was a fairly safe job. I looked up and saw him standing over me, like an elephant. No, I never was out."

Frey was relieved Kaiser remained in good health and good humor.

The pregame condition of Weaver was in doubt, however. During a dugout conversation, he suddenly began to show slight anger at the 50,000-plus crowd the O's had Saturday night for a jersey giveaway, Nolan Ryan and the California Angels.

Weaver had gotten several calls from friends irritated at finding nowhere to park and other frustrations. With a straight face, he said the team should not allow more than 39,000 fans into the 52,862-seat stadium.

"Cut it off there," he said. "That way everyone would have a place to park. And we'd still be as large as Fenway and some other parks. Or when there's larger crowds, tell 'em in advance about the problems."

Problems? The Orioles have been praying for such problems for a generation. CAPTION: Picture, Oriole John Lowenstein slides home safely as throw from outfield gets by Oakland catcher Jeff Newman. By Angus Phillips - The Washington Post