For a moment today, you almost forgot about the baseball strike.
Here were Ken Singleton, Jim Palmer, Rick Dempsey, Al Bumbry and Gary Roenicke walking into the Memorial Stadium locker room at lunchtime. The schedule posted on the wall read: "Texas, 7:30."
The schedule lied. There was no baseball in Memorial Stadium, or any other park in the major leagues, tonight. And the striking players were only stopping by for the afternoon to read mail and to get medical treatment. By evening, they would be gone.
"I'm keeping myself pretty busy," said Singleton, whose gray three-piece suit seemed more tailored for labor negotiations than for playing right field and hitting .340, third best in the American League. "I'm doing some work for WBAL (radio station) in Baltimore. I'm spending two or three days a week with my family, too. The world hasn't stopped because of this.
"I haven't picked up a bat since our last game (June 11). I'm glad the Baltimore management was kind enough to let us get medical help here."
Indeed, Ralph Salvon, Oriole trainer, was in mid-season form today, even if no one else was. He was treating Roenicke (ankle) and Bumbry (leg) during this season. Other players were due in later.
How are the Orioles staying in shape?
"I'm throwing every day," said Palmer (3-4), who, like Roenicke, Bumbry and Dempsey, was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and shorts. "I threw some with a friend of mine on an Arizona golf course. I've thrown some with Scotty McGregor, too. I have also thrown some with a 15-year-old kid.
"I'm used to going eight days between starts on Mr. (Earl) Weaver's schedule anyway," said Palmer, standing a sacrifice bunt away from his manager's darkened, vacant office.
"I don't worry about my arm," said Bumbry, the center fielder. "There are kids around my block who are dying to play catch with a Baltimore Oriole. I worry about running, trying to keep in shape physically. I have been running maybe two, three miles every day."
Bumbry looked more eager to sprint the 90 feet required to steal a base than to trudge a few miles on a roadside. Still, he said, "I have accepted the strike and the way it is. I just got in from out of town. I was looking over some investments."
Roenicke has kept his arm limber in a more domestic manner. "I have been throwing with my wife and my 17-month-old son. He throws both left-handed and right-handed," Roenicke said, with an occasional wince caused by trainer Salvon's twists and turns of his injured ankle.
Dempsey wasn't worried about losing any effectiveness in the arm that has made him among the most difficult catchers to steal on in the league. "I've been throwing some with Ken Singleton. He lives next door."
Dempsey was more concerned with his hitting. "I have got my own batting machine that I brought in from California," he said. "I'll tell you, the strike won't hurt my hitting. I was only hitting .200 (.197, actually). I don't think I can get much lower than that. I can only go up."
While these five players seemed somewhat at ease on Day 7 of baseball's midseason strike, there was a strong, but slightly concealed undercurrent of dismay.
Said Dempsey: "I'm losing about $1,000 a day because of this. I don't like that idea, especially when they (the negotiators) are taking two to three days between negotiations."
"The financial aspect is okay now," Roenicke said. "Another couple of months, though, would make it tough."
In a matter of one hour, the players were gone. Palmer headed one way, Singleton went another. Roenicke and Dempsey hopped into a brown van and drove off. Bumbry revved up his white covertible sports car and quickly he, too, was gone. Salvon was left with his liniments and assorted elixirs.
Inside Memorial Stadium, groundskeeper Robert Washington leaned against a fence. He was one of the three members of the seven-man crew who escaped being laid off during this strike.
"Tell everyone that we miss the Birds and we want them back soon," said Washington, the only man in Memorial Stadium wearing a uniform today.