If the Orioles win their fourth straight game over Milwaukee and steal the American League East division crown from the Brewers on Sunday, there will always be a shadow of doubt about whether they truly deserved it.

The Brewers know about the shadow and it's already spooking them.

It's the shadow that wends its way across the Memorial Stadium playing field every afternoon starting about 3 p.m., just when 50,000 people will be singing the national anthem in preparation for Sunday's final regular-season game.

"With his experience, Jim Palmer (the Orioles starting pitcher) will find a place out there on the mound where his pitches will be coming out of the white house," said Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver with a wry grin.

The white house that Weaver mentioned is a townhouse beyond the center field wall that has long been the bane of day-game hitters in Baltimore. When the sun hits it it's bright, and the ball disappears in the brightness.

This year a huge green screen was mounted in the grass behind center field to shield batters' view from the house, but hitters say it hasn't made any appreciable difference.

When the problem of the white house is combined with October's lengthening afternoon shadow across the infield, the ball coming from blinding whiteness into deep shadow, it makes for tough sledding. The Orioles are familiar with the problem; the Brewers are dreading it. Weaver likes that.

After completing his dissertation on Palmer's penchant for finding a place on the rubber from which his arm rises into the white house, rendering the pitch invisible, Weaver winked and admitted, "This don't mean nothing except for the Milwaukee guys who'll read it. It's all bull . . ."

Where the sun and shadows do make a difference, said Weaver, is on little pop flies, bloopers and high flies that get lost and go for base hits. "If you just lose a step (looking for the ball), that's all it takes," he said.

But the Milwaukee guys, who have enough to worry about with their end-of-the-season fold on the verge of completion, are buying the white house, the shadows and every other spooky story thrown at them.

"It's gonna be tough Sunday, especially with Palmer comin' out of the white house," said Paul Molitor. "He knows that spot (on the mound), expecially in day games. He'll be awful tough to hit."