There were 52,034 people standing and applauding Oriole Manager Earl Weaver.

"I think Earl is on the level," Edward Bennett Williams, the owner of the Orioles, said as he watched his team open the season Monday in splendid, preening fashion. "I think he really thinks he wants to retire. I don't think he's realized he's not ready for retirement. He's 51 years old. He loved this today. He got that standing ovation. He's not going to get any standing ovation from those tomato plants of his.

"He knows he can stay . . . I hope he doesn't wait until after we have to go out to get a new manager."

Williams says facetiously if Weaver keeps his promise to quit after this season, he might just think about taking the job himself.

"I told them in Baltimore that the Orioles were entering their most dangerous era since 1954, because now I have a handle on every facet of the game," he said. "It took 2 1/2 years, but I now understand it perfectly. When I said it, all the color drained out of (General Manager) Henry Peters' face."

Weaver said: "If we get 13 runs, it don't make no difference who manages."

The Orioles, who are scheduled to play Kansas City again tonight, allowed their owner to relax when they scored six runs in the seventh to take a 13-5 lead.

With the game in hand, Williams was asked for an evaluation of the 1982 Orioles. "So far," he said, deadpan, "I like everything I've seen."

Williams likes his team. "It's a lot of fun, I'll tell you," he said. "This is the best part, when you see all the pieces you got over the winter working out."

He saw Cal Ripken Jr. hit his first major league home run. "I just met his mother," he said. "She's got another one at home, Billy, a super high school pitcher." He was practically rubbing his hands with glee.

He saw Dan Ford, his new right fielder, have "a sensational day, three hits, a great fielding play. They love him in right field. It's going to be a rebirth for Dan Ford."

And perhaps for the Orioles. "We've got a better team this year than last year, or the year before, or the year before that," Williams said. "I happen to think the left side of the infield is 100 points stronger offensively, though they're not so good at labor negotiations. We've got a better outfield and we've got better catching (with backup Joe Nolan) because (Dan) Graham deteriorated so badly. The pitching will be okay. I think we're going to have a race with the Yankees."

Still, Williams said, "I don't understand what he (George Steinbrenner) is doing. He seems to be stockpiling. What's he going to do with (Dave) Collins? They're so deep, so loaded, injuries mean almost nothing to that team."

Williams said he read that Casey Stengel once said things got so bad with the Mets, "They were selling hot dogs to go in the fifth inning."

That is an apt description for how bad things got last year in baseball. There was no better symbol of how much things had improved than the presence of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn beside his one-time adversary. Asked about their public reconciliation, Williams smiled and said: "It's a time for healing."

Kuhn said: "We have had highly visable disagreements but we've never been unable to talk . . . My being here is not meant to be a manifestation of a public reconciliation. I'm here with a friend, enjoying opening day, which is what I should be doing."

Williams, who became a member of baseball's Executive Council last December, said: "There are a lot of constructive things going on within the game right now . . . He (Kuhn) is being very constructive in the new things that are taking place."

Kuhn has told the restructuring committee how he believes his office should be redefined, but wouldn't say what he has suggested.

"It's fair to assume I didn't find the role of the commissioner as being diminished," he said.

Williams said: "I am for a strong commissioner . . . I hope he'll have much more power in labor negotiations, where he's been powerless before."