If and when the Baltimore Orioles are eliminated from the pennant race in the American League East, they may remember tonight's sloppy, silly, soggy, 11-8 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers as a sizable steppingstone toward that end.
Even Earl Weaver's ejection midway through the eighth inning -- third heave-ho of the year for the Oriole manager -- availed them not. The Orioles sank 2 1/2 games behind the now first-place Brewers, having lost two of three in a series during which Doug DeCinces had said, "We've got to win two of three."
But, as Weaver said, "Nobody knows what you had to do till the season's over."
The Orioles tumbled tonight when they gave up four runs in the eighth inning, allowing Milwaukee to regain the lead the Orioles had taken at 8-7 with three in the seventh. Eddie Murray brought in the last two of those with a pop-fly double, giving him a five-RBI game.
Weaver will tell you, as he told plate umpire Dale Ford, before Ford told him to get lost, that bad umpiring had a lot to do with it. The Orioles thought they had Cecil Cooper, the second man up in the eighth, struck out on an 0-2 curve. Instead he singled, sending Robin Yount, who had singled before him, to third.
The Orioles thought they had Ted Simmons, the next batter, struck out on a 2-2 pitch. And, seemingly, the pitch from loser Tippy Martinez was as solidly down the middle as the double yellow line on Interstate 95.
Weaver could no longer restrain himself. He probably told Ford something like what he told reporters later: "I hope they're (the umpires) cheating because I don't want to think they're that bad."
Catcher Rick Dempsey said, "Both (pitches) were strikes. The one on Cooper, the one on Simmons was a joke. There are just a few umpires who don't want to see the Orioles win."
Simmons flied out gently to left. But Ben Oglivie, capping a three-hit night, lined the ball off first baseman Murray's glove, for a game-tying single. Tim Stoddard relieved Martinez and promptly gave up the game-winning RBI single to Gorman Thomas. They added their 10th and 11th runs when the Orioles failed to turn over a double play on a ball hit to second by Roy Howell, then Jim Gantner lined a double off Bumbry's glove in left field.
Bad calls and outfield pratfalls because of the sodden turf aside, as the Oriole pitching coach, Ray Miller, said, "It was a very poorly played game. When you're not playing good, you can't make a big deal out of bad calls, 'cause it looks bad . . . You can't give Cooper and Simmons extra pitches to hit. Still, we didn't make the plays we had to make. We didn't make the double plays and and we didn't catch the fly balls."
And, something else. "We didn't hit," he said.
Dennis Martinez, the starting Baltimore pitcher, gave up three runs in the first inning, putting the Orioles in a lately familiar position: behind early. Weaver was miffed at him for walking leadoff man Paul Molitor after being ahead, a ball and two strikes.
Murray eased things a bit with one on in the bottom of the first with his 18th home run, which dropped over the right-field wall like a firecracker falling out of the sky.
But many of the eight Oriole hits could have been taken as tax deductions, surely charitable donations by the turf and the Brewers.
"There were a lot of funny hits out there on both sides," Milwaukee Manager Buck Rodgers remarked. "The one where Molitor fell down (in center field in the third when the Orioles caught up, 4-4), and (Murray's) pop fly that fell in for a double (in the seventh). They came back like hell, and then we came back like hell."
Certainly, it was a devilish finish for the Orioles, who did indeed come back, once to tie, and later to go ahead off Milwaukee's indomitable reliever Rollie Fingers, the winner of the game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Orioles trailing, 7-5, pinch hitter Jim Dwyer walked, Bumbry got a bloop-and-splash single, and Fingers arrived on the mound. Dwyer went to third as Terry Crowley forced Bumbry at second. Ken Singleton -- struggling to escape his slump -- got an opposite-field single to left, scoring Dwyer.
"It's a start," Weaver said. "I'll be back tomorrow," Singleton said.
Then, the coup de grace, temporary as it proved to be. Murray lifted a powerful pop fly to left that plopped in front of Thad Bosley and two runs scored: 8-7, Baltimore. General Manager Hank Peters could be seen laughing his head off in his box. Perhaps, the Orioles would win one of those ugly-duckling games that you have to win sometimes if you are going to win it all. But, the Brewers had other ideas, like how to score four runs in the eighth.
You know what they say about he who laughs last. Peters was not laughing as he left the stadium.