When Cal Ripken Jr. arrived back in the clubhouse after the game, he found his chair in the middle of the locker room (next to the laundry cart), with three uniform shirts and a hand-lettered sign, saying, "Drink Your Milk, Cal."
The Orioles were going to milk this one as much as they could. The young rookie with the wholesome face and the bright blue eyes, who is currently starring in a milk commercial with his father, starred tonight. He hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie as the Orioles beat the Yankees, 5-3, for the second night in a row.
"The advertising agency ought to be pretty happy," he said.
When the Orioles and the Yankees play, you expect a rumble, not a tete a tete. For 7 1/2 innings, this was a game waiting for an epiphany. Ripken provided it. He hit the first pitch from loser Shane Rawley (4-3) over the 387-foot sign in center field; it was his sixth home run of the year. The 34,354 fans--who sought refuge under umbrellas and slickers from the soft, persistent rain that delayed the game 28 minutes--called him out of the dugout. The last time that happened was on opening day, when he hit a two-run home run. There was an agonizing time in between ovations. But in the last 35 games he has raised his average from .117 to .254.
Almost the only person in the stadium who didn't seem moved to applaud was Ripken's father, who maintained his stoic stance along the third base line. "My dad is so business like," he said. "He doesn't get excited or alarmed. It's the same thing all the time, no matter if we're winning, 10-1, or if it's the game winning hit. It might be a cover-up."
The Orioles were doing nothing to cover up their glee. They have won seven of their last eight games; the Yankees have lost seven of their last eight. Rawley, who had not given up a home run in 79 2/3 innings, said, "It was about time, but it was sure the wrong time. It just shows the way we're going."
The Yankees did not give up on this one easily. In the ninth, Tippy Martinez (2-4) gave up two cheap singles. "You hate to take a guy out after two gorkers," Manager Earl Weaver said.
"How do you spell that?" he was asked. "Any way you want," he said.
Weaver brought in Tim Stoddard, who along with other members of the Orioles' bullpen, has been much maligned of late. Willie Randolph bunted, but right back to the mound. Stoddard threw to third in time to get Butch Wynegar. The throw was not as good as the pitch, wide to the foul side of the bag. "He threw me a change up," Ripken said.
Ken Griffey flied to center. But with two outs, Lou Piniella bounced the ball over Stoddard's head (no small feat, he is 6 foot 7). Rich Dauer, the second baseman, got to it but could do nothing with it. The bases were loaded. The count went to 3-2 on Butch Hobson. The crowd stood. Hobson flailed at a slider. The Orioles went back to the locker room. There was no milk in sight.
The Orioles and the Yankee seem a study in contrasts. The Orioles, who relish their continuity, seem to be fitting the old parts back together. The Yankees have a new tradition: flux. Some of the Orioles think it is getting the better of them, but Weaver, who is not eager to ruffle anyone's pin stripes said, "The Yankees look like a good lineup." To everyone else, the Yankees looked out of sync just as the Orioles are just getting synchronized.
The Orioles led until the top of the seventh. They scored two runs in the second on singles by John Lowenstein and Al Bumbry, and walks to Gary Roenicke and Rick Dempsey, courtesy of Yankee starter Roger Erickson. They got another run in the fifth when Bumbry (who had three hits) led off with a double and Eddie Murray drove him in with a single.
Jim Palmer, the Orioles' starter, had the Yankees pretty much under control, and off balance, with an array of change ups and the occasional fast ball. He gave up seven hits, and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. "He may not have had his best stuff, or as least as good as last time, but he pitched a good, heady, brainy game," Weaver said.
The Yankees had the tying run in scoring position in the fourth and the fifth and did not score. But in the seventh, Palmer gave up a lead-off walk to Wynegar, the second walk of the night. Wynegar went to second on Dave Collins' bouncer to first, to third on Randolph's sacrifice fly, and scored on Griffey's double into the left field corner. The Yankees tied the score on Piniella's line single to center on an 0-2 pitch that seemed to float into the strike zone. The Bronx bingers.
Weaver brought in Martinez, who got Hobson to fly out to center to end the inning, and kept the Yankees docile through the eighth.
Then it was Ripken's turn. "It's still hard to erase the first three weeks of the season," he said. "I kept saying, 'how can I be hitting .117?' . . . I kept thinking, 'how long is it going to be before I get demoted?' I didn't think I would go down after 60 at bats, maybe 100. I was worried a little. Maybe frustrated is a better word."
And defensive at the plate. Worried about striking out. Scared he would look bad. "They kept saying I didn't smile," he said. "Now I can't take one off my face."