It started out weird and ended worse.

The Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers played baseball around two rain delays tonight, but at midnight they were right where they had started--with a tie score and the rain falling. The game was called off, to be replayed sometime when the leaves are golden.

After nine full innings and one 43-minute rain delay, the sky opened up with a deluge at 11 p.m. A half-hour later the downpour stopped just long enough for the Orioles' ground crew to remove the tarps, then began again so they could race out and put them back on.

At 12:05 a.m., 4 1/2 hours after the start of this marathon, the umpiring crew called a blessed halt with the score 2-2. By league rules the game goes into the record books as a tie, meaning all statistics stand, but it must be replayed in its entirety the next time these teams meet in Baltimore.

League scheduling being what it is, that turns out to be Oct. 1, when Baltimore hosts Milwaukee in its final home series this season.

It was an evening fraught with peril from the start.

Public address announcer Ron Weber set the tone when he announced that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would sing the national anthem, to the astonishment of the one baritone singer standing before a microphone in center field. The baritone looked around sheepishly and started singing.

Orioles Manager Earl Weaver had been at the park since 3 p.m., when he had to fake a temper tantrum for cameras making a promotional spot for major league baseball. It took something out of him. Even before the game Weaver admitted, "I'm bushed. That wasn't easy."

The Orioles came to the park early to have a team photo taken but the camera was broken. It was fixed just before the first rain arrived.

Batting practice was canceled because of the weather, so the Orioles hung around the dugout being bedeviled by a fan with a fake catsup bottle that shot out a red string. He'd call the players over one at a time and squeeze the bottle at them, to their horror.

The game was to be a pitchers' duel, with Pete Vuckovich (8-2) of the Brewers facing Baltimore's Dennis Martinez (6-4). They were among five pitchers tied for most victories last year, with 14 apiece. Martinez was working on a 13-straight victory string at Memorial Stadium and Vuckovich had won his last seven decisions.

But Vuckovich was done in early by his catcher, Ted Simmons. With one out in the third and Orioles on first and second base, Simmons caught a foul tip off the bat of John Lowenstein for a strikeout. But Simmons thought it was the third out and tossed the ball to umpire George Maloney, who dropped it like a hot potato, both base runners advancing.

Both scored on Joe Nolan's single, making Simmons the villain of this nondecision.

The Brewers picked up a run in the fifth on two singles, a walk and a sacrifice and tied it in the sixth on Robin Yount's homer, his ninth this year but second in two nights.

There it stood until the heavens opened after the ninth. By 12:05, only a handful of the 13,213 who had been watching remained and it was all over.

It was the ninth tie game in Orioles history and the first since 1964.