An ulcer has festered in Earl Weaver's office in the bowels of Memorial Stadium this season.
The little room, repository of all the acid and aggravation in Oriole life, has been ominously quiet.
The room's small proprietor has forgiven his players' sins, paraised umpires and acted the sage, as befits his ego.
"What's wrong with Earl?" Baltimoreans have asked.
Today, the ulcer finally burst. The old Weaver returned.
Weaver's curses, his beer and even pieces of his uniform hung in the air simultaneously this afternoon in the wake of Baltimore's 1-0 loss to Boston.
Weaver's finest rages are never directed at an individual player or questions, or even umpire. They are aimed at the whole world -- whatever gets in his line of fire.
"You're all a bunch of idiots," Weaver informed a dozen mild-mannered reporters in his office. "But I'm not mad at you guys. I'm mad at my guys . . . We do such stupid things . . . We try so hard and then we shaft ourselves . . . time after time."
Pray tell, what particulars reduced Weaver to a small lump of a man sitting in his chair with his head in both hands?
This was no ordinary defeat. This was water torture.
For starters, Jim Palmer pitched unquestionably his most overpowering game since 1978, yet lost because of a second-inning opposite-field bloop double (by Carl Yastrzenski), a ground out and a humble sacrifice fly (Dave Stapleton).
For the second time in three days, the Red Sox winner here was a rookie who had won one previous big-league game in his life. Thursday, it was Win Remmerswaal. Today it was lefty John Tudor.
Only one Red Sox got to third base all day -- and he scored. Twice, the O's got a man to third with one out and couldn't score him.
While Palmer was masterful, the Orioles hit scorchers off Tudor throughout his six innings and got nothing. Once, with two men in scoring position, Kiko Garcia hit a bullet up the middle that Tudor never saw. But it stuck in his glove.
"Waste a great pitching job like Plamer's," fumed Weaver. "Get beat on a routine (fly ball) out.But we can't make two easy outs to win the game."
If it seems that Weaver doth protest too much, that's probably the case. Many among the 28,251 here today left convinced that, at the game's crucial juncture, Weaver overmanaged. When he had the gun, he loaded it with blanks.
With a man on third and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Weaver had a choice: let right-handed Rich Dauer batting .432 in his last 11 games, hit against righty reliever Bob Stanley, or go through a whole bunch of hocus poscus while Don Zimmer made some moves of his own and end up with Lenn Sakata batting against lefty Tom Burgmeier -- perhaps the hottest reliever in baseball.
Weaver become enmeshed in the toils of his two favorite theories -- lefty versus righty and his private pitcher-versus-hitter stats. Dauer was one for 12 career against Stanley, so Weaver pinch-hit Terry Crowley. Zimmer, of course, called for Burgmeier, so Weaver had to send up Sakata for Crowley.
Weaver had the "percentages" on his side. But he had also given up a hot hitter against a slumping pitcher (Stanley), in favor of a practicaly rookie hitter against a torrid pitcher.
So -- with the infield in -- Sakata dribbled to second. The rally died.
What about that, skipper.
That's the dumbest second-guessing question anybody could ask," said Weaver, give or take a few adjectives. "I did what I wanted to do, just like I been doing since '68. I know in my heart what's right. Anybody who wouldn't have done what I did isn't a baseball person.
"I do it and Sakata hits a homer and nobody asks me nothin.'
"I do what I want to do and that's why there are 1,100 (Weaver) wins around here. That's why we can go the next three years without winning one stinking game and I'll still be over .500," he said, correctly.
Then, Weaver smiled. "You guys don't have to be so quiet, 'cause I ain't that mad. Now, I can go home and be pleasant to my aunt and my grandmother and my wife 'cause I've yelled at enough people."
What may, in the long run make the memory of this game pleasant to the O's is the thought of a happy Palmer, a beamish lad of 24 made suddnely young by a new million-dollar contract. In a blatant quid pro quo for the extension of his contract. Palmer has now unveiled his slider, dormant throughout two years of negotiations.
"I won't throw the slider because it endangers my elbow," Palmer said last summer. "If I had long-term security, then maybe I wouldn't have to worry about my elbow so much."
If Palmer pitches like that the second half -- throwing that slider for strikes -- I guarantee you there'll be a pennant race," Weaver growled.
"Palmer is just a great pitcher, as good as ever," said Yastrzemski, who not only scored the winning run, but at 40, and in only his 12th game of the year in left field, made a splendid backhanded sprinting catch to prevent a bloop double by Eddie Murray to lead off the ninth.
"Palmer never gives in to you, always makes you hit his pitch." said Yastrzmeski.
Around Yastrzmski, Red Sox heads were nodding in in another kind of admiration for a man with 3,000 hits who would risk a near-miss full-speed head-on collision with shortstop Rick Burleson to make the ninth-inning grab.
"It's a good thing Carl can't play the game anymore . . . just too old," Sox catcher Carlton Fisk jibed.
Slowly, one Red Sox after another walked quietly past Yastrzemski's crowded locker, slipping in a hand for an instant of pressing the flesh.
They all muttered something as they shook Yastrzemski's hand. None knew what the other had said, but they all murmured the same word: h