On a night when Baltimore iron man Eddie Murray, suffering with an eye injury, missed his first game in nearly three years, his Oriole teammates played as if they had his blurred vision.
They looked terribly ragged in losing an 8-4 slaughter to the Kansas City Royals, the American League West runaway leaders.
Kansas City bombed Oriole loser Scott McGregor (9-5) and reliever Dave Ford for 17 hits. Each Royal had at least one. The Birds, usually one of baseball's best fielding teams, made three errors and could have been charged with at least three more on misplays, overthrows and mental lapses.
"Did you ever see such a bad game?" asked Oriole Manager Earl Weaver.
It is doubtful even Murray could have helped tonight.
It won't be known until Tuesday how long Murray, Baltimore's leading home run hitter and RBI producer, will be out. He needed 10 stitches to close a cut above his right eye after being popped by a crazy-hop ground ball off the bat of George Brett on Sunday.
Murray was rushed to a nearby hospital where it was diagnosed that he had suffered a fracture of the orbit (the bony cavity of the skull which holds the eye) and some swelling in the right retina.
Murray rested at home tonight. He said he felt fine but had slightly blurred vision.
He had played 44 consecutive games, longest streak extant in the American League and second in the majors to Los Angeles' Steve Garvey (754). Murray had missed only game -- Aug. 20, 1977 -- in the 563 games of his four-year Oriole career.
Baltimore's 37-year-old Lee May performed admirably at first base in place of Murray. He gave his team a short-lived 2-1 lead in the fourth inning with his fifth home run of the year -- a towering drive to left center, his first four-begger since June 2.
The O's had tied the game, 1-1, in the third on a walk, sacrifice and run-scoring single by Rich Dauer. The only other Baltimore runs came in the eighth on Mark Corey's two-run homer after an Al Bumbry single.
Otherwise Corey had a disastrous night. He looked as if he had never played a game in left field as he misjudged three fly balls that went for hits and two more that he eventually caught for outs.
After McGregor had retired the Royals easily in the second, third and fourth innings, he was kayoed in the fifth.
The Royals had already scored a run in the first on three singles, and they posted four in the fifth (only one earned). Willie Wilson scored one of his four runs as U. L. Washington stoked the big inning with a two-run homer. Hits by Brett, Hal McRae and, Willie Mays Aikens, combined with a walk and Mark Belanger's error at shortstop, produced two more runs and an early shower for McGregor.
He had won eight of his last 10 decisions but lasted only 4 2/3 innings tonight. Even so, he threw a high number of pitches -- 109 -- in the 88-degree heat.
Kansas City tallied three runs off Ford in the sixth and seventh, the lowlight being Corey's misplay of a routine fly ball into a triple. The official scorer spared Corey an error, reasoning that he lost the ball in the lights.
Corey was roundly booed when he batted in the eighth and the usually faithful Memorial Stadium partisans were restless watching their O's drop two of three games to the Royals. They have lost six of their last nine games.
What's worse is that the Orioles had numerous chances to score in the early innings but couldn't. They obviously missed Murray.
Without the 24-year-old former rookie of the year in the lineup the Orioles have almost no power. The starting nine tonight had only 36 home runs and the team as a whole, without Murray, has just 51.
Weaver was talking on the phone almost the entire game tonight. Either he was constantly monitoring his bullpen or pleading with Murray to hurry and get well.