They won't quit.
Night after night, the bad news is posted on the scoreboard in numbers too large to ignore, just as it was this evening in foggy Fenway Park. And again and again, the Baltimore Orioles pound out an impressive, desperation victory like their 15-hit 12-8 clubbing of the Boston Red Sox tonight.
This time, word arrived that the New York Yankees had a 12-0 fourth-inning lead over Cleveland on their way to a 17-5 slaughter. hAt that moment, the O's were tied, 3-3. Their reaction? Clobber. Dennis Eckersley. Bomb Bill Campbell. Blast Luis Aponte. And built a 12-5 cushion of their own.
"There's no quit in this team," said Terry Crowley whose three-run homer snapped the tie, proved the game-winning hit, and kept the O's a tantilizing 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees whose magic number is now a tiny 2. "This club is loaded with character, talent and pride. We're not giving the Yankees anything."
That, however, does not keep the Yankees from taking.
"I was standing in the outfield and we were leading by seven runs, but somehow, it felt like we were losing," said Ken Singleton, who had two singles, two doubles, and four RBI. "We didn't listen to the Yankee game on the radio in the dugout tonight, like we did last night. The scoreboard said enough.
"I know we can beat 'em (head to head), but it doesn't look like too many other people can."
This was the night when, at dusk, the Orioles were beginning to believe their own chatter about a Yankee demise. "I'm nervous again," said Manager Earl Weaver.
For three days, Weaver had been faking a belief that his O's were still breathing healthily. First, he needled the Yanks, saying that if they blew a 5 1/2-game lead with only nine to play, it would be the biggest choke and fold in the game's history. Then, when his Birds swept a doubleheader here on Monday, the Birds broke out champagne afterward, as though they had just clinched a pennant. Finally, when the Yankees lost on Tuesday, Goose Gossage giving up four runs in the eighth, Weaver really got Goose bumps. "If the Yanks lose, (owner George) Steinbrenner will build a boat, put 'em in it, take it out in the Atlantic and pull the plug," forecast Weaver.
But, now, Weaver does not have to feign his enthusiasm. "They gotta win two of their last four at home against Detroit," he said, "'cause we're not planning to lose anymore. Otherwise, they'll have to see us Monday in New York for a playoff.
"If the Yanks lose tomorrow (Thursday) to my good friend Sparky (Anderson)." said Weaver, "I'm going to be singing, Red Sails in the Sunset . . . (way out on the sea).
The most distinctive quality about the Orioles at the moment is the enormous pleasure they are taking in watching themselves lose the pennant. Other defending champs, watching the magic number dwindle, would be in a collective group. The Orioles are practically tittering with self-contentment.
"This has become a matter of pride," said Scott McGregor, who failed for the third time to win his 20th tonight against a Bosox lineup that owns him.
"We've had a helluva year and we're going to enjoy it."
"There ain't no sense in giving up," said Weaver. "And you can't feel bad if they win it. As long as you make them win it and don't give 'em nothing."
The Birds knew McGregor looked like tender meat to the Sox, so they came out winging, scoring seven runs off Boston ace Dennis Eckersley in less than four innings, dispite the fact that The Eck pitched a one-hitter in his last game. Bumbry doubled on the game's first pitch, and by the time cleanup man Eddie Murray had homered into the screen, the O's had a 3-0 lead. That was the motif all night. Whenever the O's needed a few more runs, they smashed another of their eight singles, four doubles and three homers. The killer was Singleton's bases-loaded three-run double off the top of the monster in center at the 379-foot sign for a 12-5 margin off Aponte in the fifth.
The Birds' final trump was Dennis Martinez who, after pitching a five-hitter here on Monday -- came back on one day's rest to get the last 10 outs to preserve a shaky relief win for middle-inning man Sammy Stewart.
"There just might be one more fox out there somewhere, so don't call in the dogs yet. said Coach Cal Ripken, playing off Doug DeCinces' injudicious comment of two weeks ago when he said the hunt was over.
The Birds now return home to finish their season in an almost odd mood of genuine contentment. They have won 70 of their last 101 games.They were 21-9 (.700) in September. "We're the best team in baseball right now," said Singleton. "We give the Yankees credit. But we're not going to short change ourselves by feeling bad about a season when we'll probably win 100 games."
"This so-called pressure doesn't bother us," said Crowley. "We have so many players with stable, even-keel personalities. We're all sort of sane, and Earl is very consistent. He goes crazy every night -- screaming for runs, screaming at umpires."
And, now, until that magic number is zero, he is defiantly singing "Red Sails in The Sunset," as he leads a team that just won't quit.