Tonight was a night made for baseball, and the Orioles and Cleveland Indians responded with a stirring battle of the long ball.
In the end, the Indians prevailed with a two-run top-of-the-ninth rally to steal victory, 7-6, from the Birds and 10,092 fans.
Six home runs exploded into the mild, still evening. Said Joe Charboneau, the Indians' rookie sensation who as designated hitter cracked a homer early, then doubled and scored the winning run in the ninth, "Some nights it's like this. The pitches were throwing good. It just seemed like the ball was jumping off the bat."
It makes for great baseball in power-starved Baltimore.
Oriole Manager Earl Weaver was grinning before the game. "My guys are starting to hit the ball," he said.
His guys went out and promptly proved him right, rocking Cleveland starter Dan Spillner for four runs in the first inning on homers by Pat Kelly and rookie Dan Graham.
Charboneau in turn rocked Oriole starter Steve Stone in the second. He stroked his seventh homer this year, a two-run blast far beyond the left field bullpen.
Terry Crowley made it 5-2 with a liner over the center field wall in the fourth.
Stone checked the Indians until the sixth, when Miguel Dilone reached on an error, Rick Manning doubled to deep right and Cleveland strongman Mike Hargrove sent a drive over the right field fence, tying the score.
Weaver contends it is normal for the ball to travel well early in the evening, before the damper air sets in. Nonetheless, he replaced Stone with Dave Ford, who held down the Tribe until the final uprising.
Meantime, the Birds picked up a run in the sixth on a single, two forceouts, a walk and Rich Dauer's RBI single. It gave Dauer his second straight three-hit night.
It was up to Ford to hold on, and he did until the long ball did him in.
With one out in the final frame Toby Harrah, the ex-Senator, drilled a slider into the left field bleachers to tie the score, 6-6.
"It was a good pitch," the Cleveland third baseman said. "You see 500 breaking balls in a row, eventually you hit one." Harrah was hitting a rousing .204 at game time.
The exuberant Charboneau followed with a double into the corner in left and Weaver called on fireman Tim Stoddard to relieve Ford.
Stoddard got pinch hitter Cliff Johnson on a falling-down checked-swing tapper back to the mound, but Tom Veryzer brought Charboneau home with a single.
The loss went to Ford, lowering his record to 1-3. Cleveland reliever Victor Cruz (2-2) took the win.
It was a delightful game for the impartial but it did not please Weaver, who was grinding his teeth at the continuing fact of having an under-.500 baseball team.
"We don't have the killer instinct," he growled in the dressing room. "Sure, Ford pitched well, but he lost. I'd rather have him pitch lousy and win than pitch good and lose.
"Somewhere along the line our guys are giving games up. I'm talking about hurrying up and getting the game over with when you get four or five games ahead. You stop running, you stop stealing; you stop bunting for base hits.
"I'll tell you one thing. If your bullpen guys aren't doing it for you, you get new ones.
"If each individual says, 'I'm not giving up one run, not one hit,' that's when you start going 10-1 instead of 1-10."