Emphatically, crushingly, the Baltimore Orioles told the California Angels the truth today.
No, you can't.
By a count of 8-0 in the fourth game of the American League playoffs, the Birds moved into the World Series opening Tuesday night in Baltimore, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. They dealt the Angels the sort of, "Here's one to think about" thrashing the O's wanted badly after being upstaged by the Californians Friday night.
By the time Wild Bill Hagy made his way to the locker room, the Orioles were deep into their second round of champagne and beer. They were ready for him.
Manager Earl Weaver joined the hacker from Dundalk, Md., in the center of the clubhouse, cigarette jauntily in the corner of his mouth, beer in one hand, his hair full of champagne and shaving cream.
"One more time," bellowed a dozen Orioles, knowing that the only proper way to celebrate their trip to the World Series was to act like kids and spell out their team name just like they did in Little League.
As Hagy went through his familiar gyrations, spelling out "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" with his body, Weaver tried to keep pace in the pantomime. The only letter he got right was the "I."
No sooner had Hagy, the bearded giant with shoulder-length hair under his cowboy hat, and Weaver, the banty manager, brought tears of laughter to many eyes with their ludicrousness, than Coach Ray (Rabbit) Miller jumped on the stage.
"Yes, we DID," he bellowed, mocking the hackneyed slogan of all Southern California which has been screaming, "Yes, we can," at the Orioles since they landed.
And, so, the O's were off and chanting again.
The Birds moved into the Series Tuesday night in Baltimore against Pittsburgh by dealing the Angels the sort of "here's-one-to-think- about" thrashing that the Orioles wanted badly after two long days of being upstaged by the Californians.
"This game was over before it started," said Miller. "On the bus back to the hotel last night, Scotty McGregor guaranteed us this win. He said, 'It's over. I guarantee it.'
"When they cleared the press out of the locker room before the game today, suddenly everything got very solemn and quiet. About half the team went over to Al Bumbry and told him, 'Forget your error last night. We're winning this for you. . .today.'"
Finally, Weaver took the platform for 30 seconds and told the club that the pressure was on the Angels, that they had a world of time, that they were much the better team and would win because of it.
Thus motivated, the Orioles took the field and administered an old fashioned whipping. Though the score of this last AL game for the pennant was merely lopsided, not humiliating, it was a contest full of undisputed finality.
McGregor's six-hit shutout was a masterwork of cunning and gall as he tempted the Angels' right-hander power with his curves and change-ups, then tied them in knots.
"I wanted to end it with a Frisbee (change up) if I could,' grinned Mcgregor. And he did, fanning Brian Downing to end the game. The only sound was silence. The Big A, with its screaming 43, 199 had long ago been turned into the Big Q -- as in Quiet, very Quiet."
Baltimore's conclusive show of force -- a five-run seventh-inning that ended the scoring and finished the Angels' season -- had its skyrocket crescendo on Pat Kelly's 430-foot home run with two men on base.
The 35-year-old born-again outfielder could not have walloped the ball a foot farther. This preacher, to be sure, was not on the side of the Angels.
Above all, however, this game had one crucial juncture. If so onesided an affair can have a key play, then Doug DeCinces made it in the fifth inning with the bases full of Angels and Baltimore ahead, 3-0.
Angel Jim Anderson hit a one-hop smash over third base -- fair by inches and marked for a two-run double with Rod Carew (who hit .462 in this playoff) the next man due to the plate.
Suddenly, Brooks Robinson was playing third again. Or, at least, that is the finest compliment that could be paid DeCinces, his successor.
"I've seen that play 100 times before," said Mark Belanger, "but by another guy."
DeCinces, with a 6-foot-2 physique similar to NFL flankers, dove full length and snagged the ball inches off the ground. While still wallowing in the dirt, Decinces kicked third base with his leg. Bouncing to his feet, he pegged to first for the inning-ending double play.
"I came up with a hand full of dirt along with the ball," said DeCinces. "I didn't know where it would go.
"If you give Scotty one big play, that's all he needs. I knew after that, that's all he needs. I knew after that, that we'd win."
When the O's reached the dugout, McGregor shook DeCinces' hand and said one word, "Thanks." Then, he sought out his buddy Mike Flanagan and gave his capsule analysis of the most crucial inning of his career: "Boy, they (the crowd) sure got loud."
Imperturbability -- that is the first requisite for living the life of a slop pitcher in the big leagues.
"Scotty's the gutsiest I've ever seen," said Miller. "It's like he has a string on the front foot of the hitter and he just jerks that string a little, and, suddenly, these big brutes are totally off balance."
Before the game, McGregor asked Flanagan, "How nervous were you before your start (Thursday)?"
Told "pretty nervous until I went to the bullpen to warm up," McGregor answered, "Good, so am I. I'll just let the emotion ride and go with it."
No hurler could have been more stoic than McGregor, the Whitey Ford look-alike who walked only 1.18 men per game this year, won 10 of his last 13 starts and now has allowed the angels (the highest scoring team in 15 years) only one run in 25 innings this season.
"Scotty defies," said Flanagan. "What does he defy? Hell, he defies everything -- logic, conventional thinking, even your eyes. Nobody's so sneaky.
"What did he throw Don Baylor (the 139-RBI man) today?" Flanagan asked rhetorically. "I charted the game. He threw 16 consecutive fast balls, got him zero for four and struck him out twice. You'd swear he couldn't do it, but Scotty defies."
That thread of elegant defiance runs throughout this Oriole team, from Ken Singleton who began the game one for nine, but had three hits and drove in two runs today, to DeCinces, who after his "career" play in the fifth, made a duplicate stop on a Carney Lansford smash in the ninth and almost threw out the speedster.
"Dempsey calls me bullheaded," said McGregor. "Maybe I'm just more at home on the mound than anyplace else," said the native Angelino who had 50 relatives in the stands. "I refuse to give anyone a walk -- it strikes me as ridiculous. I consider even a .300-hitter an absolute failure because, as long as I don't walk him, I'm going to get outs from him 70 percent of the time."
That bullheadedness showed when, after the O's explosion in the seventh, Flanagan offered McGregor a victory handshake. McGregor refused. "I'll take it now," he said afterward, grabbing Flanagan's hand.
"I had one thought all day," said McGregor. "I refused to let the crowd take over."
And they didn't. Where was that Angel pizzazz?True, the now familiar "Never Give Up!" sign behind home plate was back again. But Richard Nixon, who had it made by a San Clemente sign maker, was not in attendance.
Perhaps he knew that another banner here was right: "Heaven Can Wait. Angels Can't."
Little doubt exists that in playoffs a wave of cresting emotion seems to wash across the field from one side to the other like a ripple in an enclosed basin.
That high tide peaked with John Lowenstein's sudden-death homer in Game 1, then ebbed as the Angels made a seven-run near-comeback in Game 2, and scored two in the bottom of the ninth to salvage Game 3.
Today, the tide came back in for Baltimore. Five Angel pitchers, the dregs of a battered staff, were cuffed about, starting with Chris Knapp who never survived the third inning. DeCinces' play was the crashing of that wave and the five-run outburst that followed it the rolling to shore of the surf.
By the end, although Angel Manager Jim Fregosi vowed, "We'll be back," the only emotion left was Oriole delight.
As a huge wagon of equipment was wheeled out of the Oriole locker room to the waiting airplane, Dave (Bags) Skeggs, the team's sweet spirited jester, sat perched atop the mountain of trucks, crowing, "Make way for The Bags.
The afternoon sun, under that blank California sky as faded-blue as the eyes of a Raymond Chandler murderer, washed the silent Big Q in a draining, all-exposing light.
The true relative abilities of these teams, disguised by the Angel hustle of the previous two days, was clear again. The O's, for the 12th time in 15 face-to-face meetings this season, had won.
The end of an obvious baseball justice was accomplished today. The Orioles escaped the potluck season's conclusion that would have come from a prove-nothing fifth-game against California's Nolan Ryan in the twilight.
And for the first time since the Birds 'n Bucs last met, in October, 1971, the teams with the two best records in baseball will meet in the World Series.