From town to town, like a baseball revival meeting, the Baltimore Orioles trivel the land spreading their good news about a plucky team that wins without money, without starts, without acrimony.
And, at every stop, this chautauqua leaves in its wake a profound silence as the victims mull over this strange new gospel of teamwork, intelligence, euberance and an intangible element of jubilant camaraderie.
Tonight, the Big Sleep came to Milwaukee as the Orioles finished a three-game sweep of the so-recently torrid Brewers to drive Milwaukee 9 1/2 games off the Baltimore lead.
County Stadium might as well have been a 50,000-seat library for all the noise it contained as Baltimore methodically ground down Bambi's Bombers, 5-2, with 15 hits and a gritty complete game from 14-game winner complete game from 14-game winner Dennis Martinez.
In just three nights of preaching, the O's have turned the rowdy brat-wurst-and-beer burg of True Blue Brew Crew fanatics into a tame and drowsy ballpark full of resigned belivers.
Last weekend this mighty Blue Crew swept a series from the world champion New York Yankees and as both teams brawled, the capacity crowds yelled for blood.
How uncouth. How like two teams of Hessian free agents. The Orioles knew better. Each evening here they have read the Brewers chapter and verse -- first squelching them with a one-hitter, than blitzing them with 28 total bases and a ninth-inning grand-slam homer.
Tonight, on Brewer Manager George Bamberger's 54th birthday, the O's struck with their splended efficiency and understatement.
If the first night's game was a classic wrestling match of giants, and the second was an evening of Oriole jubilation, then tonight's victory -- the O's 13th in 15 games -- was a deliberate and cold-blooded execution.
The Orioles had three runs before the Brewers could get three outs. That, as it proved, was enough for young Martinez, who battled his way through an eight-hitter replete with jams.
When Martinez might have tired in the late going, Rich Dauer provided an insurance run with a ninth-inning homer that seemed to pull the plug on both the Brewers and their crowd, sending everybody home in a dreary hurry.
"The closest we got to Baltimore," said one Brewer fan as he trudged out, "was the (2-1) game when we only got one hit."
The Orioles, who still lead the second-place Boston Red Sox by 7 1/2 games with two full months to play, claimed no ultimate victory, although their 72-34 record means that if they play .500 ball for the last 56 games they will win 100.
The Brewers were not so tentative. "They either have to go completely sour or we have to play .800. What a tremendous ball club."
"When we came to town, they were flying," said Steve Stone. "Just like a lot of teams have been this year when we arrived. We've hit a lot of hot clubs. But every night, the volume in the park was lower until tonight . . . nothing."
"The only thing good about this birthday," said Bamberger, "was that nobody got hurt. Now we've got five games in four days with Boston to look forward to, and I've got two hurt starters. I sure wish it was Toronto instead."
Again tonight, the Birds, who had a hit in every inning, were blessed with seeing-eye hits and plenty of self-induced luck.
"How many sick little fly balls did they have fall in?" said Bamberger, half seriously. "Somebody tell (traveling secretary) Phil Itzoe to quit holding back on the meal money. Let those guys eat a steak so they can it hard enough so we can catch it."
To such drollery, Ken Singleton, who had two blooping blows, replied, "Hit'em-where-they-ain't has become more scientific with the years. It's easy . . . You figure out the square root of where they are and that's where they aren't.
The Birds started instantly in the first as Al Bumbry responded to his teammates' familiar locomotive cheer with a single and scored when Dauer and Eddie Murry followed with hits.
John Lowenstein, producing a run every three at-bats this yeat (53 in 163 at-bats), singled home a second and Dough DeCinces' sacrifice fly provided a third.
When Bumbry singled, stole second and scored on Singleton's soft throw-the bat at the ball double in the third, the O's had a 4-0 lead.
The Brewers fought back stubbornly. Bamberger had proved they meant business before the game, leaving orders in the parking lot and his old buddies Earl Weaver and Jim Frey, an Oriole coach, were not to be allowed into the private (free) parking lot.
"Win a couple from George," grinned Weaver, "and suddenly no more Mr. Nice Guy."
Three consecutive singles by the bottom third of the Brewer order in te fifth and Gorman Thomas's solo bottom third of the Brewer order in the fifth and Gorman Thomas' solo homer in the sixth cut the o's lead to 4-2.
Merinez, however, squirmed out of his toughest holes, getting Don Money to ground into inning-ending double plays to short with men at the corners in the third and fifth. Ironically, two years ago, Money grounded into only one DP in an entire 439 at-bat season.
The final decisive blow of the night was Dauer's smoking homer into the bleachers in the left field corner in the ninth to give Martinez one more run's worth of breathing room.
Naturally, Dauer, who has seven hits in the last two games, got nothing but the needle as he returned to the Oriole drugout, which has become one continuous party in recent weeks.
Rick Dempsey, waging a little homer war with Dauer, refused to shake the second baseman's hand, saying dead seriously, "How many you got? I got five. You better watch out."
"six days ago when these Orioles began their brutal schedule of 16 consecutive games against Kansas City, Milwaukee and new York and then Milwaukee and New York again, their hope was to keep some semblance of a lead intact
Now, this team of slighted names like Dempsey and Dauer, Stone and Tippy Martinez, Sammy Stewart and Lownnstein, who have all been heros here, have a new gold.
They have spread their gospel so assiduously that now, all of a sudden, they have it within their power perhaps to inflict their "Big Sleep" on the entire American League East -- and have the job done by the ides of August.