It was not what Oakland Manager Billy Martin will remember as a fine day. First his pocketbook was lightened by American League President Lee MacPhail for a June 8 run-in with umpire Dale Ford. Then he watched his A's drop their 12th one-run decision in 17 as Lenn Sakata's ninth-inning single lifted the Baltimore Orioles to a 3-2 victory.
A few minutes earlier, Martin was prepared to savor victory. Tony Armas led off the top of the ninth with a line drive that skidded out of third Baseman Doug DeCinces' glove. DeCinces picked it up and threw wildy past first, with Armas stopping at second because a fan touched the ball.
"They got a break when the fan grabbed the ball," Martin said. "Armas would have got a triple. You tell them and tell them but they still grab it. It should happen to Baltimore."
Instead, what happened to Baltimore was purely heavenly. After Mike Heath fanned, Mario Guerro lofted a fly to medium right. Armas tagged and was sliding into third when Ken Singleton's throw hit him in the back. The ball bounced straight to pitcher Mike Flanagan, backing up the play, and Flanagan's quick, perfect throw nailed Armas in a close play at home.
Singleton ripped a single through the legs of relief pitcher Jeff Jones leading off the bottom of the ninth. It was his 13th hit in 25 at-bats over over the last seven games. Singleton took second on a wild pitch and Eddie Murray, with a 1-2 count, was intentionally walked. Mark Corey forced Singleton on a poor bunt and Martin signaled for left-hander Bob Lacey.
Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver countered with the right-handed batting Sakata, in place of Dan Graham. Sakata, whose last at-bat on home turf produced a game-winning homer over Milwaukee, drilled a single to left. Rickey Henderson charged it and reached the ball before Murray rounded third. It went right on through him, however, and the A's had suffered their fifth defeat in the last six games.
"He had chance," Martin said. "He charged it right. He did the right thing. We're executing well. It's a matter of getting the hits when we need them."
The A's found themselves struggling from behind after Terry Crowley blooped a two-out, two-run single to left center off starter Brian Kingman in the first innning. Kingman, who needed 41 pitches to survive the first, lasted until the seventh, by which time he had thrown 125.
The game was tied by then, too. Randy Elliott's double and Heath's single scored a run in the second. Guerrero made it 2-2 in the seventh with his first home run in two years, his sixth in 2,065 major-league at-bats.
Martin avoided any confrontations with the umpires, but Weaver seemed to come dangerously close to his first ejection of the season in the sixth inning. cRich Dempsey was struck in the left arm by a pitch and was at first base before he learned plate umpire Vic Voltaggio had ruled the ball had hit his bat first.Weaver did not like it.
If Martin did not like the game result, it was at least not as heartbreaking as the 2-1 loss to New York Satruday, on Bobby Murcer's two-out homer in the ninth.
"That was tough to take," Martin said. "The kid (Rick Langfore) hung one curve ball in the whole game and it cost us."
What cost Martin dearly in the pocketbook was his June 8 argument with Ford, in which Martin claimed the umpire challenged him to a fight. Martin is appealing MacPhail's fine, but is not hopeful.
"I'm not saying anything against the umpires, but there's no way the umpires who work for Lee MacPhail will be proven guilty," Martin said. "The head of the umpires shouldn't be the judge in something like this.""
As Martin spoke, he removed his uniform shirt, to reveal a T-shirt with one character, captioned "McPhail" (sic), holding by the leash a dog captioned "Feeny" (sic), which was jumping on the shoulders of another character captioned "Kuhn." Underneath were the words, "He likes you."
It is doubtful whether either the T-shirt or Martin's words will earn him any admiration from MacPhail or Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
"I think tthe whole thing is unconstitutional," Martin said. "Are we in Russia now? I haven't had a hearing yet. I don't know how you can get fined without a hearing.Guilty now and appeal later? That ain't right. Our laws say someone is innocent until proven guilty. Here your're guilty until you prove you're innocent.
"I have about 20 witnesses. You're not going to tell me you're going to listen to one umpire and make a decision. Naturally, he's going to try to defend himself.
"First, he wrongly threw me out of the ball game, because he thought I was on the field when I was on the top step of the dugout. Then later it was the umpire who was doing all the swearing. It was the umpire who was out of line, the umpire who lost control and wanted to fight. There are about 20 witnesses who heard him say it.
"I'm not trying to get the umpire suspended and I don't want to get him fined. All I want is the truth to be told to Lee MacPhail for a change. If the umpire made a mistake, admit it. When the umpire is wrong, he should be reprimanded -- not quietly reprimanded, either. I think I should get a copy from the league."
Asked if he was surprised, considering his reputation for winning fights, to be challenged by Ford, as he claimed, Martin said, "Why should he be afraid of me? He knows nobody can punch an umpire. He's on sacred ground."