The tasteless, utterly unsentimental Milwaukee Brewers said goodbye to retiring Earl Weaver and his Baltimore Orioles tonight with a titanic 15-6 demolition that was equal parts fearsome Brewer slugging, pie-in-the-face Baltimore defense and exhausted, shell-shocked Oriole pitching.
This entire evening was a sort of imperious rebuff to Baltimore from the affronted Brewers, who clearly do not believe that a team of the Orioles' modest pedigree should be pestering them at this late date in the pennant-race proceedings. In the eternal athletic war between brains and brawn, brains got another butt-kicking tonight.
Robin Yount, probable American League most valuable player, administered much of the punishment himself with two homers, a single and six RBI. However, every starter among Harvey's Wallbangers reached base at least once as Milwaukee had 22 runners reach safely in the first six preposterous innings.
This half-hilarious, half-macabre blistering, coming on the heels of 11-1 and 10-5 beatings at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, left the Orioles four games behind the Brewers with nine games to play.
Considering that in the last three games the Orioles have allowed 36 runs, 49 hits and eight homers, while also making nine errors, it might behoove them to think less about how to overtake the Brewers and more about how to get three outs in an inning before giving up gobs of runs.
"We have played some real horse-feathers baseball," said General Manager Hank Peters, who isn't generally moved to deletable expletives. "We've been so bad it's hard to tell if the pitching or the defense is more at fault."
If the Orioles had known that they would play in County Stadium tonight exactly as they played in Memorial Stadium the evening before, then it might have taken armed guards with cattle prods and machine guns to get them on the airplane to Wisconsin.
Any professional athlete would rather forfeit than put on the sort of amateurish donkey-baseball performance that the Orioles pulled out of their hats in this fiasco as at least five Brewer runs were gifts from the Oriole defense.
In all, Milwaukee equaled its season high in runs (set on opening day), and got 18 hits, four by Paul Molitor. By the time Ross Grimsley replaced Don Stanhouse who had already replaced Don Welchel -- all in a six-run sixth inning -- it became evident that, if the Brewer organization were properly merciful, future Oriole relief pitchers would be driven into the game by ambulance rather than Toyota.
As an amusing twist, the Orioles actually scored four runs in the first inning off winner Don Sutton before being inundated. For all it matters, John Lowenstein finished with a double, a homer, two walks and four RBI, while Eddie Murray went four-for-four.
"I kicked a field goal," said Lowenstein of his three-run homer, "but it's not often you need three touchdowns to win."
"We had a half-an-inning of real exciting baseball," said Singleton of the four-run Baltimore first.
That explosion, highlighted by Lowenstein's homer, seemed of considerable importance -- that is, for about five minutes -- until Molitor and Yount opened the Brewer first inning with a single and a 420-foot home run over the center field fence that bounced up the empty green bleachers until it approached the base of the stein into which mascot Bernie Brewer dives after all homers.
"I thought I had good stuff," said starter Mike Flanagan. "It just seems like you don't have any easy outs in that lineup."
Perhaps only a manager of Weaver's accomplishments and self-confidence could react to such a beating in so surprising a manner. Weaver couldn't have been more cheery, funny, self-deprecating and genuinely amused if he'd won 15-6. He knows the psychology of humiliation; if you kick a player when he's given his best for you and still been wrecked, then he'll quit on you. Stroke him when he's at his lowest, and that's when he'll appreciate it most.
"This is the way we like it. Tough as nails," said Weaver with a straight face, then broke up in laughter. Sure, every manager likes to have his pitching staff fall apart, likes to see his aging center fielder (Al Bumbry) misplay every third ball, likes to see his right fielder (Gary Roenicke) miss a routine fly ball by 50 feet, likes to see his second baseman (Rich Dauer) charge a dribbling grounder and let it go untouched between his legs into right field.
Yeah, right, tough as nails. Glad to see Glenn Gulliver kick a two-out grounder as a run scores. Delighted to call for Don Stanhouse and watch four runs cross the plate by the time he threw three pitches. Tickled to see rookie Don Welchel pitch excellently for 10 hitters, yet get sabotaged by defensive bungling that Rochester would be hard pressed to equal.
Has his team had a worse game defensively this season? Weaver was asked.
"Yeah, we had a worse one last night," chortled Weaver. "Two days ago, it looked like we were going to set the all-time record for fewest errors in a season. Now, that's gone, so I guess all we can do is win the AL East . . .
"A two-game winning streak and we're just two games out," grinned Weaver. "No wonder we're closin' in on 'em. We've won 27 of our last 35 games and I'm proud of these guys who have done it . . . We get a little pitchin' tommorrow (from Jim Palmer against Pete Vuckovich) and we'll be all right . . .
"Sometimes," said Weaver, "you have four aces, but a straight flush beats you."
The personal physician of Rollie Fingers said last night the injured Brewer relief pitcher would be ready for the series with the Orioles in Baltimore beginning Oct. 1.