Sometimes the most singular happenings in baseball, such Ken Singleton's feat tonight of extending his hitting streak to 10 consecutive at bats, are appreciated, but not necessarily in proportion to their true uniqueness.
On a night full of rain, thunder, lightning and delays at Memorial Stadium, in a game won by the White Sox, 8-6, the Baltimore switch-hitter ripped a single to center in the first inning and a home run into the rightfield bleachers in the third -- both off Chicago's Richard Dotson -- before ending his streak by smashing into a 4-6-3 double play in the fifth.
A sparse crowd lingered loyally until 10:52 p.m., when Singleton's streak -- accomplished over three games -- was ended just two hits short of the major league record, held by Mike (Pinky) Higgins (1938) and Walt Dropo ('52).
While the crowd was thrilled, it perhaps was not moved quite in proportion to the genuine rarity of the occasion. For instance: the NFL record for consecutive hits is 10, the same as Singleton's, accomplished by eight men. In other words, while the 20th century has seen well over 100 no-hitters, it has had fewer than a score of men who have had a double-figure hit streak.
Best estimates of the likelihood of a .291 career hitter (Singleton) generating a 10-for-10 skein are believed to be on the order of 232,558 to 1. (Graduate students in probability and statistics who believe this computation to be in error are encouraged to correct our shortcomings.)
At the conclusion of his torrid stretch, Singleton's major league leading average had reached .535 (23 for 43) and his big league leading slugging percentage was 1.093 (47 bases in 43 at-bats, wlith six doubles and six homers).
The end of Singleton's streak, all accomplished while batting southpaw, came in ironic fashion.
Ever since the White Sox had scored six runs in the second inning, after a 63-minute delay that seemed to swamp Steve Stone -- he had looked sharp and held a 1-0 lead before the deluge began -- fans had rooted for more precipitation and a Bird-aiding rainout.
However, after Singleton homered, the small and wet gang remaining apparently decided that their slugger's streak was at least as important as avoiding a loss and started to cheer for all events that contributed to getting in the five innings necessary for an official game.
When Singleton came to bat in the fifth with one out and one on, he cracked a grounder that was a routine double play ball for second baseman Tony Bernazard. The twist was that the very play that ended Singleton's streak also was the play that made the game, and all its statistics, official.
As soon as Singleton's streak, and the end of it, were in the books, the storm subsided and the late evening became calm and dry.
Another oddity of Singleton's binge, which included three doubles, two homers and 19 bases, was that while he entered this game hitting .512, the rest of the Orioles, who had given him no support, had batted .207 this season.
Bernazard's double, followed by singles from Wayne Nordhagen, Greg Luzinski and Lamar Johnson, plus a run-scoring wild pitch by reliever Dave Ford, finished the 10-batter Chisox inning. When Weaver yanked Stone, who gave up hits to the first four hitters after the rain, one man was absent from the mass mound conference: Doug DeCinces, who had shaved his moustache during the rain delay, then watched a Bill Almon screamer get by him for an RBI double.
The Orioles mounted a three-run rally in the sixth, cutting the margin to 6-5, as Eddie Murray (three for four) doubled, Dan Graham singled in a run, DeCinces walked, Jim Dwyer (three for four) singled in a run, Bennie Ayala walked and Bumbry drove in a run with as force out as Oriole nemesis Bernazard made a great sliding stop of his bases-loaded grounder.
The White Sox pushed their margin back to 8-5 in the seventh as Johnson singled home that man Bernazard, who had doubled, and Harold Baines' fly plated more insurance.
Dwyer homered off Ed Farmer to start the bottom of the eighth, making the Chisox margin 8-6. However, a bigger O's power gun failed. After Bumbry doubled and Singleton walked, Murray, two for 26 before this game, took three mighty swings trying to produce a three-run homer. He produced only a dribbler to first to end the rally.
"I hope my wife was listening to the game so she knew where I was," joked Singleton at 1 a.m. after the sometimes exciting, sometimes interminable marathon that ended five hours after it was scheduled to begin. "I have accomplished some things as a hitter in my career. I'm not sure exactly where this ranks among them, but maybe this time I'll get a little recognition for it."