This afternoon Reggie Jackson stopped by the Baltimore dugout to say the Orioles were "just like Spectacular Bid - eight lengths in front and not even using the ship."
His drift was that, like the great thoroughbred who just missed the Triple Crown, the Birds would never go all the way.
The Orioles showed Jackson they can come from behind while they're running out front.
Jackson's Yankees left the Birds at the gate, storming off to a 4-0 lead, but the front-running Birds came raging back in the backstretch. They sent 11 men to the plate in the eighth inning. Five scored, and the Orioles hung on gamely to win the 15th of their last 17 games, 5-4.
It was a game that gave Oriole Manager Earl Weaver a chance to do all the things he does best - scheme, plot and raise a mighty stink. It paid off.
In the Yankee sixth, with Bronxers ahead 4-0, Bucky Dent sent a routine grounder to third. Bird third-sacker Rick Dauer threw wildly to first but Eddie Murray stretched high, dragged a foot over the bag and headed for the dugout.
Umpire Nick Bremigen saw it differently. "Safe," he said.
Murray screamed and Weaver came a-running. They shouted and stammered. Weaver stalked off, but Murray wasn't done. He held the ball, delaying the game, and it cost him his right to play. He got the boot.
Weaver was out again to storm and shout and wave his arms about that.
Then Coach Frank Robinson got the axe for something he said from the dugout. Weaver came out again.
He emerged in a snit four times. Minutes ticked away, and while they did, Yankee starter Catfish Hunter, who had stifled the Orioles, felt his arm stiffen.
He couldn't come out to pitch the seventh inning.
Jim Kaat, the ageless reliever, could. He survived an easy seventh. The Oriole barrage buried him in the eighth.
"Of course we didn't plan it that way," said a still-hot Weaver after the game.
Kiko Garcia started the eighth-inning uprising with a single up the middle off the left-handed Kaat. Rick Dempsey blasted a double to deep center. Al Bumbry punched a two-base grounder over third base, scoring both to make it 4-2.
Rich Dauer popped out but steady Ken Singleton singled Bumbry in to make it 4-3. Terry Crowley, replacing Murray, sent Singleton to third with another hit, and John Lowenstein brought the tying run in with a sacrifice fly.
Still it wasn't over. Ace Yankee reliever Rich Gossage got the call and was met by Lee May's single, sending Crowley to third. Crowley scored on Billy Smith's chopper between first and second. It was all the Orioles needed and all they got.
The Yanks had scored once in the fourth on doubles by Jackson and Lou Piniella. Those were the first hits in 9 2/3 innings off starter Steve Stone, who had nothing tonight.
In the fifth Stone collapsed, giving up three walks and rookie catcher Brad Gulden's first major league hit - a double - before he was lifted in favor of Dave Ford. All four runs were charged to Stone.
Ford kept the Yanks in check through the middle innings and collected the victory, his first of the year. In the bottom of the eighth Jim Spencer sent a screaming liner to the right-field wall. Singleton leaped after it, plucked it from atop the cement but the ball came tumbling out as he descended. It was a great almost catch and may have saved a home run. Spencer took second and Weaver took Ford to the showers.
Ace late-inning man Tippy Martinez took over and stumped the Yanks. In the ninth he gave up a lead-off double to Den but squeaked out of the jam on a grounder (Dent going to third) and strikeouts of Craig Nettles and Oscar Gamble.
In five appearances since the All-Star break Martinez has given up two hits and one walk in 12 2/3 innings.He has one win and three saves in that span.
Jackson's jovial pregame visit to the Orioles' quarters was, he told one newsman, his effort to break the gloom Thurman Munson's death had cast over Yankee Stadium.
Weaver was happy to see him.
"Reggie," he said, "you should have taken all that money you got from the Yankees and bought our club. We're gonna draw a million-five. We're going to the Series. You'd have been a rich man right now."
Reggie didn't like the odds.
"Hey," he said, "If I was still over here (with the Orioles) you guys really could go out and buy something new. Because you could count on that big check right now."