Great baseball teams announce themselves to each other dramatically -- leave a calling card, deliver an inedible psychological message.
Today, after two days of painful introduction to the Baltimore Orioles, it was the Pittsburgh Pirates' turn to show the Birds that there are, in fact, two superb teams in this 76th World Series.
The Bucs did it thumpingly with a 7-1 victory that cut their Series deficit to 3-2 and sent this gradually tightening classic back to Baltimore for a sixth game on Tuesday night.
"This is the first time you've seen the new Pittsburgh Pirates," said shortstop Tim Foli. "For four days, we were just awful. . . no excuses. . . when your're bad, you're bad. I don't know who was in my uniform. It didn't feel like me.
"Until today, we were the old Pirates, just the way they've been for 10 years -- knock the cover off the ball, field terrible, made base-running mistakes and lose the big games.
"That was the old Pirates, but it's not us," said Foli, the first-year Buc who is given more credit than anyone for soldering together the once-wild Bucs. "Now people will see the new Bucs."
The Orioles don't want to see a great deal more than they did today. led by Bill Madlock's four for four and Foli's three RBI, the Pirates lashed out 13 more hits, defeated the O's ace Mike Flanagan and raised their team batting average to .339.
"How many hits do these guys have? About 60?" asked O's Manager Earl Weaver, blowing his nose and wiping his eyes from the cold he has caught in this dank Dristan classic.
Actually, Weaver missed a hit somewhere. The Pirates have 61. Their infield -- Madlock (.500), Foli (.333), Phil Garner (.500) and Willie Stargell (.381) -- have hit a combined .423. Just to uphold the honor of the outfield, Dave Parker is batting .429.
The Orioles cornerstone is pitching and the Pirates are chipping away at it with every available jackhammer.
"We're thankful that we're only down 3-2," said Foli. "The way we've played, it could be over already."
Another strong undercurrent -- unspoken and unseen -- ran through this game. Perhaps it did not effect a single pitch, but it left a sense of proper decorum in its wake.
It would have been too much if, on the day that his 70-year-old mother died, Pittsburgh's dignified and popular Manager Chuck Tanner also had to watch his Pirates lose the Series.
The only moment of silence in Three Rivers Stadium today came before the anthem in memory of Anne Tanner, who died at 7:40 a.m. after suffering a stroke two weeks ago.
"I know I'm doing what she would want," said Tanner, who learned of his mother's stroke on the morning of the day his team clinched the penant. "She knows this is my life.
"Your're supposed to cry when you're born and be happy when you die, but we humans all do it backwards.
"No one has more faith than I do," Tanner said. "I can be strong, because the people around me are strong."
"Chuck didn't day anything about it to the team," Jim Rooker, the last-ditch southpaw who was forced to start today out of desperation and left after five brave innings with a mere 1-0 deficit. "All he said to me was, 'I (Tanner) have to pick up the things that are broken and carry through.'"
This game that began in afternoon and ended in pitch-black night was not a broken thing. It was the contest that put this Series back together and gave it a sense of genuine theater.
Whatever magic spell the Orioles had woven, whatever mantle of special good fortune, was destroyed today -- by the Birds themselves. In the late innings, they came apart.
Flanagan was exemplary early -- fanning six in his first five shutout innings. But he was tired -- burned out from 138 pitches on Wednesday and stiff from today's 46-degree game-time chill that got colder after sundown.
The radar gun told the truth -- Flanagan had lost several MPH off his fast ball by the time Weaver pinch hit for him in the seventh, Baltimore trailing, 2-1. "I'd have taken him out anyway," said Weaver of the lefty who now completes his startling year with a record (counting postseason) of 25-10.
The nominal game-winning hit in this affair will go to the scrappy Madlock, who now has five consecutive hits, including the RBI single off Flanagan that broke a 1-1 tie.
The more telling blows, however, were the ones the Birds dealt themselves as the Pirates scored five insurance runs in the last two innings.
Relievers Tim Stoddard and Don Stanhouse each made a wild pickoff throw to first. The Bucs still have no thefts, but the psychic effects of the threat of their speed have finally been felt.
O's third baseman Doug DeCinces, who is running neck-and-neck with the Bucs' Omar Moreno for the distinction of being the most flustered and almost frightened player in this Series, butchered two more grounders at third; neither was scored an error.
At least, for the sake of DeCinces' baseball sanity, he got two hits to snap a zero for 13.
Just as unsettling for Baltimore, the Bucs scored their final two runs on an infield hit -- two Pirates speeding home on a two-out full-count chop behind second by Foli.
By the end of this 2-hour 54-minute contest, the Birds and Bucs had done a good job of symbolically changing uniforms, Baltimore looking shaky afield while Garner and Foli turned a fabulous, if pressureless, double play to end the eighth.
The Pirates are now bubbling with that gung-ho, one-for-all spirit. Rooker, who had just two complete games the last two seasons (45 starts), set the tone. The four-game winner couldn't wait to battle the Birds.
"Rooker had to start," Tanner said. "He was the only guy left."
"I was honored. . . and shocked," said Rooker, the blithe-spirit who hides in Pirate soda coolers, then leaps out to terrify his mates. "In a spot like this, whatever you need seems to come forth from inside you. If I had to start the seventh game, I could."
Who should rush into the breach today to pitch four final shutout innings of relief but the least gung-ho of all Pirates -- Bert Blyleven, the only Buc who does not wear any gold stars (no one knows why) on his hat.
"I just found myself in the game, then all of a sudden I had a 7-1 lead," said Blyleven, who got the win in his first relief appearance since 1972. "I'm ready to do it again. If nobody else can pitch, I'll always be ready." "
The lines are now drawn for a grand finale. "We hit the ball all over the park against them but don't bust the inning open on them," Madlock said. "They bear down when they have to. That's the mark of a good pitching staff."
All the standard baseball measurements stack up on the Oriole side.They have Jim Palmer, and if necessary, Scott McGregor, ready to start the final games with proper rest. They will be playing on their own field, and, after all, only three teams in 75 previous Series have come back from being down, 3-1.
In addition, the Birds have already kayoed John Candelaria, Tanner's only possible choice for a Game 6 start.
Yet the Orioles are properly wary, perhaps remembering how in 1971 the Bucs trailed the Birds, 2-0, and came back to win in seven.
"Things could still get very tight," said Rick Dempsey.
Even before this game, Baltimore was acutely aware of the overconfidence curse.
"You better humble yourself, Crow," preached old Pat Kelly jovially to old Terry Crowley, who was being interviewed on TV about his game-winning hit on Saturday. "Be not proud, lest you stumble."
This day's defeat, the sort of clearcut beating that causes players little or no insomnia, had few key moments worthy of remorse. Only one rally worth the name died aborning -- in the fifth when Rich Dauer's double play grounder killed an inning but scored the game's first run. Nothing worth the name of strategy foiled the O's. As Foli said, the Pirates just "hit the ball all over the yard."
This was the day that a curse of pressure was lifted from the Pirates. Foli and Garner -- the Pirates' keystone kulprits -- were most conspicuously reprieved.
As the Orioles threw away pick-off throws, as two Bucs scored on a ball that never left the infield, as Foli and Garner turned their magic double play, the crowd of 50,920 finally caught the Series feeling -- forgetting the larger reality of what had been a vastly successful Baltimore weekend here.
Before the ninth inning, the crowd was on its feet -- hips swaying and black and gold pompons waving -- singing along with Sister Sledge.
When the night's final fireworks display was bursting overhead, they were still singing, still celebrating the reappearance of the New Pirates.
For the time being.