Spring training has a gentle, amusing surface, and a harder, less compassionate core.
To the casual eye, the Baltimore Orioles' camp, thus far, has been dominated by the light-hearted exploits of Fat Floyd Rayford, Drungo Larue Hazewood and Peder White.
"Hey, Floyd," Jim Palmer says as the chubby catcher dresses, "only one body to a uniform."
"Where's Drungo? The fans are chantin' his name out in the bleachers," adds 6-foot-7 Tim Stoddard, just one of the veterans fascinated by the outfielder's name. "Can there really be a Drungo Larue Hazewood III?"
Whenever pitcher White is near, the O's pretend to dive for cover as if a bomb were about to explode. Calamity follows him. "The guy's a walking disaster area," says Ray Miller, the pitching coach.
Last week, White's stereo was stolen from his car. White, figuring the thief might return for a second helping, waited at a bus stop. The robber reopened the car and White, after a chase, tackled him.
Was the thief apprehended? Not with White's luck. A woman began beating the young pitcher with an umbrella while he was wrestling with the rip-off artist.
"Stop it, lady," pleaded White. "He's the thief."
"And I'm his wife," said the woman.
The Orioles tell such tales, in part, because darker thoughts are at the backs of their minds -- thoughts that go back to the final three games of the last World Series.
It is not Fat Floyd, Drungo and Peder who concern the Birds, but Sleepy Eddie, Dennis and Rhino.
Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez and Gary Roenicke -- the three youngest O's of '79, but all enormously valuable to the team's future -- each ended last season on brutally bitter conclusions.
Murray, the brilliant 24-year-old cleanup hitter who already has three Xerox-copy years of stardom behind him, began the postseason by going nine for 17 with seven runs batted in. Then, in one of the worst slumps in Series history, Murray finished zero for 21.
Martinez, with a 45-28 career record (.617) last Aug. 16, looked like the best young right-hander in baseball. Then Martinez, 24, finished the year 1-8, pitched a decent no-decision in the playoffs, but was bombed in the Series.
Finally, Roenicke, 25, after solving the O's left-field problems with 25 homers went three for 21 in the post-season, with a closing zero for 14. He had zero Series RBI.
The Orioles, though they naturally disguise the depth of their concern, have shown that they regard the psychological restrengthening of these three as a high spring priority.
"I've thought about the end of the Series every day all winter," says Manager Earl Weaver. "I think everybody was just too anxious to help. Each guy wanted to hit the homer to win it for us and we got over-anxious."
Weaver knows that if those final three defeats galled him, they must be tough for his youngest players to take.
"I haven't had no talk with Eddie," the manager says sharply. "Eddie Murray don't need nobody to talk to him. He's too good for that. It'd be an insult."
However, Weaver says, "I thought for months about changing our lineup and batting Ken Singleton fourth and moving Eddie up to third.
"You want to find a way to get Eddie more strikes so they can't pitch around him and make him anxious," says Weaver."We'll have to see how it goes. One thing for sure, it's an experiment that doesn't mean anything unless you do it during the regular season."
In other words, the O's want that zero for 21 exorcised as fast as possible. If the best way to get Murray a hot April is to put Singleton behind him for a few weeks, then do it.
"I know Kennedy," says Weaver, "Nothing's going to make him swing at bad balls."
When other Birds were anxious, Singleton just kept spiking out singles and drawing walks, hitting .375 in the playoffs and .357 in the Series, reaching base 21 times.
Murray is probably the least of the O's worries. If he has not embarked on one of the game's formidable long careers, then the entire Baltimore franchise is fooled.
"If we are concerned about anyone," says superscout Jim Russo, "you would have to say it is Martinez and Roenicke."
The O's think Martinez was simply exhausted, so they convinced him that, for the first time, he sould bypass playing winter ball in his native Nicaragua.
Nevertheless, the Birds understand how important it is to Martinez to be his country's only major leaguer, just as the Yankees' Ed Figueroa is acutely aware that he was Puerto Rico's first 20-game winner.
These are matters of national pride and racial responsibility. It is no accident that the O's and Yankees this weekend will play two exhibition games in Nicaragua. In part, it is Baltimore's way of thanking Martinez for disappointing his Latin fans who wanted to see him play winter ball.
Who won the O's Grapefuit League opener? Dennis Martinez. Who got hits his first two times at bat? Murray. And who hit his patented solo homer in his first at-bat? Roenicke -- the guy the O's call Lindbergh because his homers are solos.
"With Lee May getting older," says Russo, "it is especially important that Roenicke and (Doug) DeCinces continue to give us home-run power, because our offense is built on homers. DeCinces is a veteran.
"With Roenicke, how can you know for sure? Those 25 homers were as many as he had hit in any two minor league years."
To help Roenicke's confidence, Weaver says he plans to play the 210-pound Rhino every day, as opposed to '79 when Roenicke's remarkable production came in just 376 at-bats.
The World Series sword has two edges and the O's are happy to think about its other cutting implications.
"It took me a month to realize that I'd actually played in a World Series," says shortstop Kiko Garcia, who hit 400 in the Series. "Then it took me another month to realize that the best streak of games in my whole big league career were in the playoffs and Series.
"If that doesn't help your confidence, what would?"
For optimists, and spring training allows no other point of view -- it's a rule -- Singleton gives the verdict.
"Being in the Series helps almost everybody," he says. "Those who do well are reinforced by it. Those who don't -- and we have some of those, too -- are twice as determined to get back and have another go at it."