The Baltimore Orioles threw inthe gloves, the masks and the batting gloves tonight.
Only time, particularly the next two days, will tell if they also threw in the towel.
The Orioles went down to defeat, 4-1, in an important rage this evening, losing for the second straight night to the New York Yankees, who rebuilt their American League East lead to 4 1/2 games.
The Yanks were splendid this evening. Gaylord Perry, ecstatic at being a Yankee, got his 286th career victory with seven strong innings marred only by a Terry Crowley homer. Rich Gossage showed the aged Perry what a real bullpen can do with two perfect relief innings.
The New Yorkers kicked in home runs by Oscar Gamble and Eric Soderholm off Dennis Martinez and treated the crowd of 51,649 to a once-in-a-lifetime catch far above the center field fence by Ruppert Jones.
However, it was O's Manager Earl Weaver who stole the show with what might have been the finest ejection trade of a long career distinguished by insolence and disrespect of blue-clad authority.
The bone which Weaver picked was minor -- a close checked-swing inning-ending third-strike call. But his reaction was sublimely ridiculous.
First, he threw everything within reach out of the Oriole dugout onto the field. Then he threw his hat, stomped it, and began swatting umpires with it at random. After he finished kicking dirt on three of the four availalbe umpires, he made the long march to second base, stood atop the bag and refused to budge.
"He figured that was the only way he could be as tall as we are," said home plate umpire Steve Palermo, "but it didn't work. They don't make bags that tall."
Finally, as Palermo, back turned to Weaver and bent over, was dusting off home plate, the furious 50-year-old Oriole fireplug (ispired by the crowd's chants of "Weaver . . . Weaver") raced from second base to home plate, pretending that he was going to do mischievous harm to Palermo's exposed hindquarters. As Palermo, anticipating the attack, started to turn, Weaver switched at the last instant from the swat-him-in-the-rear-with-the-hat tactic, to the old kick-dirt-on-home plate-between his-legs ploy.
To an ovation of laughter, Weaver retired for the night in a mood of exultantly self-satisfied release.
"That's a '10', no doubt about it," said Gossage. "I'd pay to see that."
"Definitely in Earl's top three," said vet Lou Piniella.
"Loved it . . . just loved it to death," said Reggie Jackson.
"That's a '10,'" retiterated Perry, who was more a 41-year-old power pitcher than he was a nibbling old codger. "That's how Jackson and (Bobby) Murcer used to act when I struck them out years ago. Reggie threw his glasses at me once in Texas."
Only Yankee Manager Dick Hoser, wearing a "Boss 34" T-shirt, was a harsher critic. "That was about the best," he said. "But I saw Ralph Rouk sail his cap farther once. And Earl really missed a good chance when he didn't steal second base and take it with him."
"I feel much better now," said Weaver, whose birthday was Thursday. "You just gotta let it out sometime."
Oriole fans here, however, have no reason to feel better. Weaver's greatest surrealistic performances are almost always the surest sign of a plummeting team barometer. Weaver only makes a fool of himself after his team has finished making a collective fool of itself. Weaver's expeditions, at least now in middle age, come only when he tears desperately that his team is gong down the drain and he wants to attract attention to himself, rather than it.
What Weaver wishes everyone, including his Orioles would foget is the confident way the Yankees grabbed this game and held it as the O's were losing for the fourth time in five outings. All the Orioles' brave work of the last eight days is draining away. They are only one game closer to New York now than they were when this great crusade began.
The Yankees began the first inning with a Jones single, a Jones steal of second, and an RBI hit by Murcer.
That was a strong opening chord, but the real trumpet blast of this blissfully balmy night was Jones' vindicating catch against Eddie Murray to start the second inning and keep the Orioles from tying the score.
"That was the key play," said Jackson. "It was the second-best catch I ever saw after one Billy North made back in '73."
"I've seen guys race back to the fence," said Howser "I've seen Paul Blair go three feet above that seven-foot high fence out there. But I've never seen anybody reach two feet beyond the fence and snatch the ball back in the park."
Jones, who was the fielding goat of last week's Yankee Stadium sweep by the O's was in heaven when a photographer showed him a finished print of his catch at the apex of his leap.
"Is that me tonight," said Jones, disbelieving. "How can it be developed so soon."
"Man, that picture's going all over the world right now," said Jackson to Jones. "That's going to be in Khomeini's newspaper for breakfast."
Not unless he gets extrememly good home delivery.
Just two nights ago, the Yankee clubhouse was a dungeon. Now, it's a party.The Yankees praised first baseman Jim Spencer for a classy fielding gem. In the fifth he went far to his right for a John Lowenstein grounder, knew he could not make the spinning across-the-body southpaw throw in time, then flipped the ball underhanded to a stunned second baseman Fred Stanley who barehanded the ball, and fired to Perry lumbering to cover first for the out by inches.
It saved a run since Crowley homered two batters later.
"It's great to be a Yankee," said Perry, making his New York debut and joining a pennant contender for the first time since 1972. "I never thought it would happen. You saw the defense behind me, and Gossage coming out of the bullpen. Us old guys can use a little help."
The veteran Yankees have five players who were born during World War II, but Perry is the crowning glory of their age movement. He was born before the war -- even the European phase.
"What a boost he gives us," said Howser. "This (getting traded to the Yankees Wednesday) may crank him up.Deep inside, it's got to thrill him."
The Orioles were far from thriller. "I'm tired of those guys bumping me all around," said Weaver who, both last year and this has gotten as good as he had given in the finger-pointing and grabbing bouts with Palermo and Rich Garcia. "When they blow a call, they can except somebody to get excited. If anybody even mention my getting suspended for this, they're crazy. This is the United States and Ive got 51,000 witnesses."
The Orioles are wise in the ways of Weaver. they know that when they go bad. Weaver acts as lightning rod to district criticism and pressure from the team.
"Maybe Earl is an actor. Maybe he's trying to pump us up," said Mark Belanger. "And maybe he just likes to be on stage."
"Shakespeare said that all the world's a stage," said umpire Palermo, "but Weaver thinks he's the only actor."
"This is the biggest baseball series you will ever see," said umpire Dale Ford, "and Weaver takes away from the players and the game."
Some of course, would say he adds.
"This is a tense, and an intense time," said Belanger. "These next two games are very important."
What will be the Orioles' regrouping plans?
"Let's see . . . tomorrow's Sunday . . . got a game at 2:05," said Belanger. "John, will you be here?" he asked Lowenstein.
'Yeah, I'll make it," said Lowenstein.
"Damn, how about you," said Belanger to Dan Graham.
"Okay, okay, I'll come," said Graham.
"Well, that's three of us," said Belanger. "I think we'll be able to round up a few more."