The Pirates had been cocky.
"Wait till the Orioles see this field," Ed Ott crowed just before Game 3 of the World Series Friday night. "It's faster than anything they've ever seen . . . Dempsey'll be tested here . . . Balls they got at home, they won't have a chance on here . . . This series isn't going back to Baltimore."
He might be right.
"Do we have the shock troops? Do we have the shock troops?" the Orioles were chanting at dusk today. And how utterly appropriate for the day that shocked the brazen Bucs. Two unheralded bats struck the telling blows of a memorable comeback and an obscure arm preserved it -- with the final strikeout being Ott.
"About the third inning," said Terry Crowley, "I said to (John) Lowenstein on the bench: "I can see it right now. It's going to be you, me or (Pat) Kelly. One of us is going to have to win it for us.'"
It took two of the three during a six-run eighth inning, the familiar hero -- Lowenstein -- driving in two runs with a pinch-hit double and Crowley the tying and go-ahead runs with another pinch-hit double after Billy Smith had been finessed to give him that chance.
That chance is both a pinch hitter's dream and nightmare, a game of chance for a batter seeing perhaps the best relief pitcher in baseball for the first time in his career. We now take a look inside Crowley's mind as he walks toward his fate with Kent Tekulve:
"All this is more mental than physical," said the fellow the Birds call King of Swing. "I tried to compare him with somebody in the American League -- and came up with Quisenberry of the Royals. I'd gotten a hit off him.
"I pretty much know his bread and butter and I know what I can hit. Then I want to get a strike."
The strike came on the second pitch -- and Crowley fouled it. The next pitch Crowley saw as a ball but umpire Terry Tata saw as a strike. Advantage Tekulve.
"On one and two, he threw a heckuva pitch," Crowley admitted. "I was lucky to get even a piece of it. He really had me leaning over the plate. Whether it was mentally leaning or physical, I'm not sure."
The next pitch was so far outside even Tata saw ball two.
"He's as tough as they come," Crowley continued, "But the next one was up and in. It was a bit easier to hit than the other two strikes."
And it whistled over first baseman Willie Stargell and into the rightfield corner for the double that scored the sixth and seventh runs n an eventual 9-6 Oriole victory.
"The book on Tekulve?" Lowenstein said. "We know he throws hard -- and it sinks, but eventually he'll give you a ball to hit, probably on the ground." i
Not for Lowenstein and Crowley.
Lowenstein had won the first game of the American League playoffs with a pinch-hit homer; Crowley thought he had won Game 3 with a pinch hit, but Al Bumbry later dropped the fly ball that allowed the Angels to win. Neither could warm to the task here early today.
"Oh, no, I hate to do this," Crowley had said. He meant take batting practice. The temperature was in the high 30s and the wind nasty around the cage. But he took off his jacket and sprayed several balls about a Tartan field that seems as hard as the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
"This is better than the turnpike," Coach Cal Ripken advised, "because the turnpike has too many holes. But it seems about as dangerous."
The stadium emphasizes much of what the Pirates do right. But the Orioles adapted well. Only one Pirate tried to steal -- and reserve catcher made the most of its hits; the Pirates continued a remarkable flair for turning a seven-run inning into three runs.
The Pirates ran into outs again; they often fielded like Captain Hook again. Omar Moreno left another teammate stranded, his 12th in four games, suggesting he ought to be called Omar the Scent Maker.
When Crowley was trotting off the field and into Oriole arms after Rich Dempsey ran for him in that dramatic eighth, the smell was too much for Pirate fans to tolerate. They finally made some noise -- and it was ugly, the sort of sound the King of Swing likes to produce.
Crowley is not quite as ancient as Benny Goodman. But this was no fluttery kid Earl Weaver was sending up there with the game on the line. He has played with two World Series winners (Baltimore in 1970 and Cincinnati in 1975) and has worked his way into the top 10 among pinch hitters for average.
Somebody called him a journeyman. Weaver, in fact, agreed. At a time when his hero had helped certify his genius once again, Weaver said, yeah, journeyman sounds about the right way to describe Crowley. Crowley hardly could argue.
"You look around each spring training," he said, "and you count heads and see if you might get a chance."
After a pinch hit against Lius Tiante in the '75 Series, he was traded to Atlanta, where he lasted "seven weeks with six at-bats." He was released by the Braves, but not ready to quit.
"I called the Orioles and got a chance to come back," he said, though he spent much of '76 and '77 at Rochester. "This (pinch hitting) is what I've done my whole career, but it's something I didn't accept for two or three years.
"I used to go to Earl's office (during his '69-through-'73 years with the Orioles) and tell him I wanted to play. He really didn't put me down, but what could he do? The guys ahead of me were Frank Robinson (in the outfield) and Boog Powell (at first base).
"When I found out I might be able to last 10 or 12 years in the big leagues like this, I accepted it.
"Journeyman? I guess so, if a journeyman is somebody who's lasted nine years in the majors, had 80-some pinch hits and been on three world championship clubs."
Until the Orioles win one more game against Pittsburgh, Crowley is ahead of himself. But everything important had gone right for them this glorious day.
In case it has slipped your mind, Baltimore scored two victories today, in the a.m. and the p.m., a rain-delayed 8-4 and the 9-6 marathon in tolerable weather.
Weaver had come into Pittsburgh having to answer for a few moves during a Game 2 loss in the Baltimore Bog. Two hours before today's second game (should it be called a television doubleheader?), Weaver sat shivering in the Oriole dugout. He looked at the tippy-top of the stadium and saw a cameraman at work.
"I'd still rather be here gettin' second guessed," he said, "than up there." Six hours later he had the best seat in baseball.