There was a loud commotion in the VIP section of Memorial Stadium just before the start of the playoffs. A horde of angry women, at least a dozen, demanded better seats befitting their status as important wives of the Angel players.
For the tickets alloted them, in the outer reaches, they had only scorn. Most vocal in the stampede into the front-row boxes was Mrs. Don Baylor, spouse of the Angels' leading home run hitter, base stealer and run producer.
The overwhelmed ushers finally gave way, some officials made some discreet decisions, and the women were at last ensconced in front-row comfort. But it was the most ill-fated charge since the Crimea. From close up, they were subjected to watching their husbands brutalized and humiliated by the Orioles in the first two innings. Four Baltimore runs in the first inning. Four more in the second, and a ninth run in the third.
For the Angels, it was all over. Realistically, the time of game was 42 minutes.
The Angels did narrow it down to 9-8, in the last two innings, and they even put the possible winning run on second base in the ninth with two out, and that was heroic, but there was no recovery from the early battering they took from the Orioles.
What the Angels did bring off was a powerful lesson in humility for the cheering, gloating Baltimore fans, who had been on a season-long diet of Oriole heroics. But now, in the ninth inning, they were reduced to a pleading, prayerful gathering, beseeching the Orioles to hang on to that last one run that meant victory.
The city that had become so used to seeing the Orioles win now was being given to understand in that ninth that every day isn't Christmas, perhaps. One more California hit and that big 9-1 lead the Orioles had would be all gone, and the Angels would be out in front. Hooray, though. Brian Downing grounded into a force play and the Orioles were safe. But it was a squeaker.
The Angels had built character, though, by demonstrating that even Mike Flanagan, the American League's leading winner, wasn't safe with a 9-1 lead after three innings. The fact is that the Angels mauled Flanagan for five runs in the sixth-seventh-eighth to get back into the game, and also that the Orioles got only one hit after the third inning off Angel relief pitching.
It was getting sticky for the Orioles in that ninth, after Flanagan departed under fire in a three-run eighth. Don Stanhouse, their premium relief pitcher, began to fare no better than Flanagan, their premium starter, and pretty soon, with two out in the ninth, the Angels had the tying run at the plate. And Stanhouse had a Ford in his future. This was Dan Ford, who had homered in each game, and if he could get another homer in this spot the Orioles would be out of the lead, with the score tied. But Ford could manage only a single, and ultimately Downing hit into that decisive force play.
A record was set before a ball was pitched today, one that will probably make the Guinness Book: The National Anthem was sung, for the first time in playoff history, by a Hebrew cantor, Ann Zibelman, who went the route splendidly.
The first change of pitchers occurred in the Orioles' second inning when Manager Jim Fregosi thought better of his man, Dave Frost, who had given up four runs in the first inning and was in the middle of a bad second inning. His successor was Mark Clear. It began to sound like a satellite weather report: Frost, succeeded by Clear. (FOOTNOTE)ord, who hit that first-inning homer for the Angels to give them the most temporary kind of one-run lead, undid it in his own fashion in the Orioles' second. He fielded Doug DeCinces' single to right decently enough, but then unleashed a throw best described as aimless if it can fit any description. It sailed over the cutoff man's head, into short left field, to the surprise of his teammates, and when the confusion had ended, Pat Kelly had raced all the way home.
Flanagan was shaken up a bit in the first inning when Ford swatted his most recent delivery far over the left field fence to put the Angels in front. But he made them pay for that impudence by not allowing another hit until the sixth, by which time he had his 9-1 lead.
It was a near-thing for the Orioles in the Angels ninth, and the binoculars fixed on Edward Bennett Williams told his agony at this sudden threat to the team he shortly will own. He relaxed, with the last out, now certain that his Orioles had a 2-0 lead in the playoffs, and newly convinced he had made a heckuva deal.(END FOOT)