The Orioles' cup of schmaltz was running over. The strike that could have crippled them had been struck down; Wild Bill Hagy was enthusiastically making an S out of himself in Section 34; Robbie Belanger was ready to rhapsodize once again.
Robbie is 10, the son of Mark Belanger, hard-hitting labor leader and weak-hitting shortstop. And when the O's take flight, as they did Friday night, when they in fact seem just about ready to peck their way to the top of the American League East, Robbie grabs some Oriole stationery and writes for the heavens.
"Bullitin highlights," Friday's unedited version reads, the words sort of meandering over the page like a curling putt at Congressional. ". . . Singleton hit a beautiful 2-baser to score Dauer in the 3 inning. Singleton hit a homerun and knocked the cover off the ball!
"Steve Stone pitched a 3 hitter and pitched a tremendous game. That's all I know, great game Steve!!"
Editor, publisher, writer, printer and delivery boy, Robbie had his work on display in the Oriole clubhouse -- faster than some pros whose first-draft prose is no more deft but does pitch around blatent homerism a bit better.
This was exactly the time to be slightly Robbie-like about the Birds and baseball, both having been fluttering dangerously of late. For the 1980 O's, a three-game winning streak was worthy of a loud chirp because it reminded us of the 1979 O's.
"It's special when a curve ball pitcher has no curve and lasts through the eighth," pitching coach Ray Miller said of Stone. "There's a lotta thought about location going on out there."
Thinking?Jim Palmer's head snapped back.
"I told him (Stone) that (Tim) Corcoran was a fast ball hitter," Palmer said. "So he threw him 13 straight hooks. Finally, he adjusted and lined one off Stone's glove."
Terry Crowley glanced around the clubhouse and said: "Like the O's of old."
It surely was lots of kids and kidding bouncing around the room after a game that offered glimpses of why the Birds have been bad but might yet be beautiful this season.
They are well out of first place at the moment because the bellcows -- the starting pitchers and Ken Singleton -- have been off their feed.The team earned-run average is decent by most major-league standards, but almost dreadful by recent Oriole measurements.
Mike Flanagan, Jim Palmer and Scott McGregor have ERAs fitfully close to four. And Dennis Martinez's is a stratospheric 8.22. The relief pitching has been quite good, much better than the combined 0-3 won-lost record of Tippy Martinez and Tim Stoodard suggests.
"The big thing is to keep everybody healthy 'till the weather gets warm," Miller had said an opening day, hinting that the strong arms that carry weak bats might slip into just the sort of slump that has the Birds behind four teams and six games out of first.
But everyone except Dennis Martinez has shown signs of a warm-weather hot spell -- and the schedule ought to make the pitchers seem better than they might really be. The next five weeks, or 31 games, give the Birds a chance to fly back into contention, and possibly past the Yanks.
The Orioles never were under .500 after the 16th game of last season. After the 64th game, they were 20 games over .500; after the 94th game, they were 30 games over .500. They have a chance now to rattle off another wonderful streak.
For the rest of May and almost all of June, the Birds face the current dregs of the American League -- the Tigers and Indians, Seattle, California, Minnesota and two teams -- Toronto and Oakland -- probably ready to drift toward their accustomed low level.
Of all the games during that stretch, only the three with Milwaukee would seem to be against teams that have a realistic chance of winning a divisional crown. But the AL West is so weak the crippled Angels could rally repeat. Unless the Birds continue the hopeful signs of late and claw into this feast, they might be in deep trouble by the all-star break.
They have been losing games the way they nearly lost Friday, with say, an Eddie Murray, overthrowing second on a possible double play and allowing two runs to score. And with some of the quietest bats in baseball.
The Birds have been built on one of the essential letters of the sporting alphabet -- P. Historically, they have had an abundance of pitching and power. But until Singleton ripped that game-winning two-run blast over the left-center field wall in the eighth Friday, opponents had eight more homers than the Birds this season.
Before Friday, Singleton's six homers had been just slightly under his expected performance. But his .255 averge was pathetic when measured against his .299 average in five years as an Oriole and .289 in his more than nine years in the majors.
"I haven't been holding up my end," he admitted. "Other guys have been carrying me. But I've been out for early hitting the last few days and it's been paying off. I'll be out early for a while longer, too.
"There's no secret to ending a slump. It's just hard work."
And a good deal of luck, the kind that allows the team's best player at the moment, Al Bumbry, to play effectively with a troublesome left leg.
Bumbry felt a pull when he beat out a bunt in the first inning -- and was unable to hide the sustained aggravation by the time Singleton homered. The limp was distressingly obvious to the team 90 minutes after the game.
"It just hurts when I lift the leg or run," Bumbry said, mustering a smile. "But now's the time you have to play. Now is when you've got to bite the bullet."