Back in 1901, when Boston played on the old Huntington Avenue Grounds, it graced the charter season of the American League with a fabulous inning in which 10 consecutive batters reached base.
Today, playing in Fenway Park, that new-fangled gewgaw of a ballpark that's only 70 years old, the descendants of that team almost equaled the feat of Cy Young's old crew.
In an eight-run seventh inning that broke up a scoreless game, the Red Sox got nine consecutive batters on base against the inept pitching and buffoonish outfield play of the Baltimore Orioles. Of the first dozen batters in that inning, 11 reached base as the Orioles were beaten, 8-0, before 30,639.
In fact, with two outs, eight runs in and the bases still loaded with Red Sox, catcher Gary Allenson hit a drive to left that, on a normal day, would have been off the Green Monster with ease, scoring a ninth and 10th run and leaving the marathon rally alive.
However, a strong, inward, left field-to-right field wind knocked the ball down so that it could be caught on tiptoes against the wall. As Old Testament scholars well know, the Lord tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
To say the least, the Baltimore lambs were thoroughly shorn today.
Losing their fifth game in six, ninth of 14, and 13th of 19th--masochists may take their pick -- the Orioles were at their most dubious.
Starter Scott McGregor had a stylish one-hit shutout through six innings, but got no offensive support as his mates managed just five hits off Mike Torrez and relief winner Bob Stanley (five shutout innings). "Imagine, getting shut out in Fenway Park," moaned Manager Earl Weaver, whose bedraggled troops remain seven games behind Milwaukee, but now drop 2 1/2 games behind Boston.
McGregor (12-11) now has a 2-8 career record against Boston (6.02 ERA), a five-game losing streak against the Red Sox and an 0-4 record this August. But his outfielders helped sabotage him this time around.
"We've got to go for some balls in the outfield and we've got to hit the cutoff men," said Ray Miller, the pitching coach. "Twice in that inning, we had to back up to let balls fall in, then short-hop them. If you're that close, why not go for the catch? And twice we missed cutoff men, then had to give intentional walks because first base was open when it didn't have to be."
In all, Weaver called for three intentional walks and all three men scored.
"We kept playing for the one (double-play) ground ball that would get us out of the inning," said Weaver, "but when the ground balls keep goin' to the outfielders, that ain't good."
The inning's two key hits were emblematic of the new, all-fields hitting Red Sox, who listen to batting guru Walt Hriniak, a Charlie Lau disciple. Twice, on textbook fast balls low and away on 1-2 counts, Glenn Hoffman and Dwight Evans hit liners high over Rich Dauer's head for two-run, bases-loaded hits to right that made the score 3-0 and 5-0.
The Boston Over The Wall Gangs of the past, like the one that scored 11 runs in the second inning off the Orioles here in '77, never created chaos so deftly.
"This was like a flashback to that 11-run inning," said Weaver. "I still remember it. Second inning and I'm down to one reliever . . . Thought we might never get home." Of course, before Weaver's time, the Red Sox once scored a dozen runs in an inning off the Orioles here in '65.
The inning's hardest hit victim was Tim Stoddard, who entered with the score 3-0 and, as has often been the case in '82, turned a small inning into a huge one.
As an added cruel twist, the Orioles couldn't even score off the pitcher they usually own above all others -- Mike Torrez, who is 0-7 over the past four years against Baltimore. To boot, the aging right-hander entered the game with the worst ERA (5.97) of any starter in baseball -- by 50 points.
The Orioles knocked out Torrez, but not the usual way. Ken Singleton hit a terrifying liner off Torrez's head that ricocheted all the way to the left fielder.
"I hit him in the right place," quipped Singleton, who has been one of Torrez's closest friends for 10 years. More seriously, Singleton admitted, "It all seemed like something awful in slow motion . . . It takes your breath away . . . The pitcher is always the most vulnerable player 'cause the ball can come back at him twice as fast as he throws it . . . and that liner was scorched."
Torrez, who staggered but never fell, finished the inning. But, in the dugout, his eyes began watering uncontrollably. That precipitated the first ambulance ride of his life as he was rushed to a hospital for X-rays. Torrez returned to the Boston clubhouse after the game in good, if groggy, spirits. "I'm just happy and lucky," he said of the ball that struck just above and behind his ear, perhaps three inches from his right temple. X-rays showed no fracture.
"I've seen pitchers who were my roommates wake up in the middle of the night and sit straight up in bed shaking after having dreams about liners back through the box," said Torrez. "I've had those dreams myself. It scares the hell out of you. I've been hit in every part of my body because my follow-through is off-balance. But I'd never been hit in the head . . . At first, you're so stunned you don't feel anything. Your first thought is, 'Where is the pain going to start?' "
For the Orioles, who left Fenway this afternoon with a collective headache almost as bad as Torrez's, the pain started immediately after the seventh-inning stretch.