An incorrect baseball score was published in Wednesday's late editions of The Washington Post. The correct score was Boston 4, Milwaukee 3.
After it was over, after they had lost, 11-1, to the Detroit Tigers, the Baltimore Orioles sat in their locker room tonight and waited by the radio.
Their mood was bleak. Their expectations nil. A pennant race, a whole season, was slipping out of their grasp and they could feel it.
Little did they suspect that their wish -- a Milwaukee defeat, just when they needed it most -- would be granted. Little did they suspect that, by midnight, they could forget their drubbing this evening -- revel in it almost -- because the Brewers had let them off the hook.
Above all, little did they know that they would end this tormenting day just where they had begun it: two games out of first place and much in the hunt in the American League East.
The Orioles were so silent, so unashamedly depressed, because, the night before, they'd waited, too. Waited for Milwaukee to lose. Then, their banter had been bright. Baltimore had just won with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. They listened as the Brewers, down a run to Boston in the ninth, made one out, then two. Down to the last hitter. Then to the last strike.
The Orioles, about to be just one game behind the Brewers, pulled out all their lucky charms. "Pop one of those balloons," snapped a coach. And one of the balloons in Coach Elrod Hendricks' locker had a pin jabbed into it; the final vodoo for the Brewers.
That's when Ben Oglivie hit, perhaps, the longest home run in baseball history. It left his bat in Milwaukee and landed a thousand miles away on the Orioles' heads in Baltimore.
"My jaw dropped three inches," said John Lowenstein, who sits, almost as transfixed as Melville's Quequeg in a trance, in front of his locker until the Milwaukee games end. "You can say that it's effects were felt here."
"When we heard Oglivie's home run over the radio," said Manager Earl Weaver, who was on his way home, "my brother-in-law almost drove us off the road."
By the time the Brewers, having escaped defeat by one strike, won in the 11th inning, the Orioles were long gone. They foresaw the outcome and flew.
Neither physics nor psychology can ever prove that Oglivie's game-saver in County Stadium had an effect a day later in Memorial Stadium. But anyone who saw the Orioles get obliterated by the Tigers' eight-run third inning had to suspect that Oglivie's blow landed like a blow to the solar plexus.
It seemed that the ominous "thud" here this evening was not the coming of the first chilling evening of autumn, but, rather, the beginning of the fall of the noble Orioles, who had won 27 of 32 games.
Surely, all their bad luck was piling up. The death of Dennis Martinez's father had deprived them of their scheduled pitcher. His replacement, rookie Storm Davis, looked nervous and rocky. When Davis left, trailing just 2-1 with men on the corners and one out in the Tigers' third, the Orioles still were in good shape, especially since the Detroit pitcher, Milt Wilcox, had a 1-10 career record against Baltimore.
But, then, more symbolic bad luck. Out of the bullpen came two green rookies, Mike Boddicker and John Flinn; both were crushed quickly. Where was the league's premiere long reliever, Sammy Stewart? Unavailable because he's now a short reliever. The reason? Tim Stoddard's season-ending knee injury. Try as you may, you can't hide the loss of a Stoddard or a Martinez. Somewhere, by the back door, it gets you. Like it did tonight.
All the Orioles' signs were bad after their drubbing. Moments before the game ended, the scoreboard had announced, "Boston and (Mike) Torrez cling to another 3-2 lead (in the eighth)." Exactly one minute later by that scoreboard clock, a new announcement read, "Molitor homers. Score tied."
The same scenario as the night before. Even Weaver was at his most resigned.
"Don't worry fellas," he said, walking through the clubhouse. "If we win 10 out of (the last) 11, it's all ours. Nothin' anybody can do about it."
True, of course. But desperate stuff. The reasoning of last resort. The kind Weaver uses in every pennant race when his team hangs by its fingernails.
And, so, the radio played. Bottom of the ninth, Brewers with the winning run on second.
"Pop one of those bleeping balloons," snapped Coach Ray Miller.
Nobody even bothered. The Orioles' necks were, if not ready for the axe, at least beginning to look a bit bowed.
Then, Don Money struck out.
"Didn't announce that quite as loud as Oglivie's home run, did you?" said Lowenstein to the voice of play-by-play man Bob Eucker.
A bit of bravado returned. When a Brewer hitter got knocked down, the Orioles yelled, "Way to go (Mark) Clear." When Uecker said the Milwaukee crowd was standing, the Orioles told them to save their energy and "sit down."
Finally, the moment of the night before repeated itself. Brewers, losing by a run, were down to their last out in the 10th. Then, a strange thing happened. Oriole players headed for the door. "I'm not stayin' for the last out tonight," said Ken Singleton.
Only the coaches remained to hear the last Milwaukee out.
When it came, no one said a word. But, as surly as the Brewers felt exalted when they topped the Orioles' home-run magic of Monday night with longball magic of their own, so the Orioles felt like they escaped this night.
Only in the bizarre world of a pennant race can a team find inspiration in an 11-1 defeat. Yet, as surely as the Orioles went to sleep demoralized after their sudden-death victory Monday, they went to bed this night with revived hopes and dreams of Brewer balloons to burst.