The Baltimore Orioles brought back memories of 1979 tonight: Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver had a fight.
Unfortunately for the Orioles all similarities between the American League champions of that season and the sixth-place team of 1980 ended there as the Cleveland Indians used an eight-run fifth inning to beat the Birds, 10-6, in front of 12,178 in Memorial Stadium.
It was during that nightmarish fifth inning that Palmer, the temperamental future Hall of Famer, and his manager resumed their long-running feud.
Palmer (4-3) had breezed through four innings with a 3-0 lead, provided for him on second inning doubles by Lee May and Rick Dempsey and a two-run third-inning triple by Eddie Murray.
At that point Palmer had given up just one hit, a bloop single by Rick Manning leading off the game, and had been touched for just one run in 20 innings since returning from a back problem two weeks ago.
All those nice numbers came down with a crash in the fifth. Indian rookie Joe Charboneau led off with a home run to left, his eighth this season, second in two nights. Cliff Johnson singled and Jerry Dybzinski walked.
Weaver visited Palmer. After he left Tom Veryzer moved the runners up with a sacrifice and Palmer struck out Manning. But Jorge Orta singled just past Murray's glove, tying the game at 3-3.
Orta promptly stole second. On the next pitch, Mike Hargrove punched a soft ground ball between shortstop Wayne Krenchicki and third baseman Rich Dauer.
As Orta scored to make it 4-3, Palmer stood, hands on hips, and glared at Weaver, who already had started toward the mound to call for Sammy Stewart.
"I didn't want to come out," said Palmer, still rumored to be on the trading block. "When I saw him coming I couldn't believe it. I was in shock."
Was there a confrontation?
"Yeah, there was," Palmer said."I don't remember what was said. I thought he made the wrong move. He did make the wrong move, we lost the game, 8-3, I mean, 10-6."
With that, having lost his first game to the Indians since 1976, Palmer departed, off to New York in a chauffeur-driven limousine to appear on the next morning's "Today Show."
"I don't remember saying nothing out there," Weaver said. "Jim wanted to stay in the game, I know that. He wanted to win. They all want to win. Right now, I wish I had left him in."
Weaver was wishing that because Stewart quickly made a bad situation worse. He gave up a single to Ron Hassey, then walked Toby Walker to load the bases, then walked Charboneau to make it 5-3.
Exit Stewart. Enter Paul Hartzell. The debacle continued as Johnson singled off Krenchicki's glove to make it 6-3 and Dybzinski tripled his RBI total with a two-run single to left. Now it was 8-3 and the faithful were booing.
Hartzell finally got the elusive third out -- seven of the runs had scored with two down -- when Veryzer grounded into a force.
But the damage had been done: 13 batters, eight runs, seven hits, three walks and one Palmer tantrum. Five of the hits were grounders through the shortstop-third base hole.
"Somebody's being punished," Weaver said, angrily throwing clothes into an equipment bag. "I just hope it ain't me. All I know is, we score six runs two nights in a row and lose to games.
"There ain't a blessed thing we can do about ground balls in the hole. What more can we do? Ask our pitchers to strike out 27 guys a night? We didn't have to do that last year. Those ground balls went right to our guys, we came into the dugout and scored more runs."
Not this year. Not tonight. The Orioles did try to rally in the last two innings. After Veryzer's bases-loaded single, through that left side hole again, made it 10-3 in the seventh, Baltimore came back in the eighth, to make it 10-6, Benny Ayala hitting a three-run pinch homer.
In the ninth, the Orioles loaded the bases with two out. Cleveland Manager Dave Garcia brought in lefty Sid Mongo to face lefty Dan Graham. Weaver, always playing percentages, went to Doug DeCinces, out for four days with a sore back.
"I asked him if he could hit and he said he'd try," Weaver said. "I guess it was the wrong move again."
It was. DeCinces went down swinging at a 3-2 fast ball that looked like ball four and the idyllic spring evening was just another nightmare for the Orioles.