Using your head is one thing, but what Floyd Rayford did at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday morning in Memorial Stadium to help the Baltimore Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox, 5-3, was downright ridiculous.
Box score historians will note that the Orioles won their second sudden-death game, and their third come-from-behind within the last six days, when Cal Ripken hit a two-run, one-out homer off loser Kevin Hickey in the ninth.
That rising liner over the left field fence near the 360-foot sign brought the Orioles their sixth straight victory and gave a win to left-hander Tippy Martinez (5-4), who worked the last two shutout innings.
Nevertheless, it was Rayford, the rotund rookie, who inspired this win.
Rayford had been celebrating his 25th birthday when this rain-delayed game began, but he was well into his 26th year by the time the Orioles and White Sox slogged into the bottom of the ninth. Rayford opened the inning with a line single to left off Hickey (2-2).
Then Rich Dauer, on a hit-and-run, hit a potential double-play ball to second. The force-out toss to shortstop Bill Almon beat Rayford by inches, but Rayford, with an aggressive pop-up slide, stood in Almon's face as the shortstop tried to run a relay to first for a certain double play.
The ball wasn't six inches out of Almon's hand when it conked Rayford squarely in the batting helmet, ricocheting 110 feet into the Orioles' on-deck circle as Dauer raced to second.
Ripken stepped up and hit a low fast ball on a 2-1 count out of the park against the rattled Hickey.
The first man out to congratulate him was Rayford. Rubbing his head.
This was the night Manager Earl Weaver was allowed back in the dugout after his seven-day, six-game suspension for slap-punching umpire Terry Cooney in the face July 17. The superstitious Weaver was in the dugout before the game, but once the game startedvoluntarily stayed off the team bench, saying he wouldn't return until Baltimore's winning streak had run its course.
"Earl did this once before," said Coach Cal Ripken Sr., the acting manager. "He got a three-day 'vacation' during a road trip and, when we won all three games, he gave himself an extra day's vacation. But then, when we came home the next day, he said, 'I'm the manager again.' "
Needless to say, many Orioles, who agitate their manager at every opportunity (who knows with what varying degrees of seriousness?), loved this development.
"Maybe we ought to go on a 16- or 17-game winning streak," said Tim Stoddard.
"How many more games do we have?" joked Ken Singleton. "We might as well get used to it. He ain't gonna be here next year."
"Maybe we can keep him out of uniform the rest of the season," said Rick Dempsey, perhaps the most henpecked of all the Orioles by Weaver's perpetual dugout nagging, quizzing and bemoaning.
This evening, the Orioles, after a long rain delay, took a 2-0 lead.
In the first inning, Orioles starter Jim Palmer, on a six-game winning streak, gave up a single and walk, then looked like the Palmer of old as he struck out Steve Kemp and Greg Luzinski and got Harold Baines on a fly out--all on rising fast balls.
In the bottom of the inning, Britt Burns threw an apparent 0-2 pitch duster near Ripken's head, then struck him out. On the first pitch of the next inning, Palmer hit Carlton Fisk in the shoulder with a fast ball.
In their second, the Orioles scored two genuinely weird runs, courtesy of the White Sox's spectacularly inept defense. Eddie Murray lined a single off the center of the glove of leaping shortstop Vance Law. Benny Ayala hit a hard two-hopper over third, but managed to find the one gifted glove on the White Sox--that of Aurelio Rodriguez, who started a highlights film-quality double play.
That, as it proved, saved Chicago. Dan Ford's liner to left smacked Kemp's glove and fell to earth for a two-base error. Singleton's thoroughly catchable sliced grounder to first buffaloed the toppling Mike Squires for an RBI single. After a walk to Gary Roenicke, Dempsey hit an RBI double into the left field corner for a 2-0 margin.
It didn't last long. In the third, Rudy Law singled and, on a hit-and-run, Kemp--trying to hit to left--instead lofted a 325-foot fly into the bleachers in the left field corner for a discount two-run homer.
Palmer's time was running out. In the fourth, Fisk led off with a single, then took second on Vance Law's handle-hit bloop single to center that escaped Ripken (sprained ankle) by inches. Those inches meant a run as Rodriguez hit an RBI double into the left field corner, knocking out Palmer.
On came Ross Grimsley, who walked Rudy Law, then got Tony Bernazard on a fly to center that should have scored Vance Law but didn't because he never challenged Roenicke (whose throw came in on four hops and a trickle to the plate). Kemp then grounded out, leaving the White Sox ahead 3-2.
The Orioles had big, but fruitless threats in three innings, leaving a two men on each time. With men on second and third, Rayford drove Kemp to the wall in left for his liner to end the second. Dempsey ended a two-on fourth with a strikeout. The most exasperating moment came in the fifth after two leadoff walks; the heart of the order--Ripken, Murray and Ayala--went down on a fly out, long line smash to the warning track in left and a strikeout.
Finally, from the least expected of sources, the Orioles tied the game at 3 in the sixth on a leadoff homer by Dan Ford. Homerless in 20 games, he punched a 320-foot fly into the third row of seats in the right field corner.
Even in that sixth, the Orioles left Roenicke at second as Rayford, at midnight, struck out.