oday in Memorial Stadium, history and drama lost. But, perhaps, justice and generosity won.
The fates of fairness swayed their scales back into balance this afternoon. The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Baltimore Orioles, 10-2, to win the American League East championship by one game on the final day of a season that had the feeling of unfolding legend even as it was in progress.
All the breaks and blessings that, mixed with talent and grit, had enabled the Orioles to beat Milwaukee three times this weekend suddenly switched their allegiance and came to the rescue of the gifted Brewers.
A day ago, the Brewers' next stop seemed to be oblivion. Now they have a date in Anaheim, Calif., on Tuesday night to begin the American League championship series against the California Angels.
On this winner-take-all afternoon, it was the Brewers who played as the Orioles had in their five straight head-to-head victories (from Saturday to Saturday) over the previous eight days.
For the Orioles, who cut the Brewers' 7 1/2-game lead on Aug. 20 to nothing on Oct. 2, this afternoon was like watching a mirror image of themselves in the previous 48 hours. The sight of this perverse inversion was doubly bitter since this defeat was Earl Weaver's last game as manager of the Orioles.
"Can't be many left. Two-pack day," said Weaver, digging for the last cigarette in two crumpled packages on his office desk. Then, trying to light his smoke, Weaver couldn't start a fire. "Guess I can throw away this 'lucky' lighter now," he said. "It's run out of fluid."
While the Brewers gathered in their locker room to drink champagne, sing, "California, here I come," and even spell "B-R-E-W-E-R-S" at the top of their lungs, the Orioles were reduced to assuaging their sorrow with lasagna and beer. "I feel terrible," said Terry Crowley. "But I feel proud."
This time around, it was the Brewers, not the Orioles, who slugged their way to the lead in a peremptory and muscular hurry. The True Blue Brew Crew, whose four home runs today gave them 216 for the season and whose 888 runs this season are the most in 29 years, took a quick 4-1 lead as Robin Yount hit two bases-empty homers and Cecil Cooper one to knock out Jim Palmer in the sixth inning.
Every time the Orioles threatened, Milwaukee responded with fresh runs on the board or spectacular defensive plays.
In a final release of tension and celebration, it was Milwaukee that scored five runs in the ninth to ensure victory, including a two-run double by Cooper and a two-run, show-closing homer by catcher Ted Simmons.
It was the Brewers who got the foul-line breaks as the Orioles' bloops and liners twisted foul by a ball's width and Milwaukee's stayed fair.
It was the Brewers who, after an early case of the shakes, played with poise; it was the Orioles who, as their allotted outs bled down to nothing, seemed cursed by that paradoxical paralysis that overtakes worried teams, making them seem overanxious and tentative at the same time.
It was the Brewers who came out winners on almost every breath-holding play. Whether it was rookie Glenn Gulliver killing an Orioles' rally with a base-running blunder; or Cooper lunging to the foul line to catch a smash by Eddie Murray with the bases loaded; or outfielder Ben Oglivie making a sliding catch on the gravel in the left field corner to end the eighth inning with two Orioles steaming for home and the score just 5-2, it was the Brewers who found inspiration.
Above all, it was the Brewers, not the Orioles, who got a marvelously gutty pitching performance -- the surest cure for a team with a tight collar. Don Sutton, acquired from Houston by General Manager Harry Dalton on Aug. 31 at a cost of more than $1 million in future contracts, proved to be an insurance policy in the truest sense: life insurance. The 258-game winner battled the Orioles for eight jam-filled innings, allowing only two runs despite watching 13 Orioles cavort on the bases around him.
"They bought the golden goose," said John Lowenstein. "And today he gave them the golden egg."
Sutton's performance was doubly brave because of two bizarre hardships.
"I got up this morning and took a penicillin shot to get rid of a sore throat," he said. "Then, (after having a reactive rash to that shot), I took a cortisone to get rid of the penicillin. Then I drank a glass of water to get rid of the cortisone. Pitching made better through chemistry."
Also, before the third inning, Sutton discovered a new adversary, home-plate umpire Don Denkinger who gave him a formal finger-wagging warning for marking the ball.
Said Sutton: "He told me that a scuffed ball had mysteriously appeared in the game and he would appreciate it if I would call any such balls in the future to his attention; otherwise, I would be watching the remainder of the game from the clubhouse."
To many, certainly to thousands who were in Memorial Stadium on a crisp and beautiful day, when the three-game total attendance reached a franchise record 150,760, this denouement will seem an awful waste of a grandiose moment.
To be sure, it would have been gilt-edged baseball history if Baltimore had swept a four-game series on the year's last weekend to steal a pennant. As Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams said, with both hope and trepidation before the game, "It feels like it must happen . . . Does that mean it's going to happen?"
Also, it would have been sentimental drama of a high order if one of the greatest eleventh-hour comebacks of all time had been presented to Weaver as a retirement gift.
For the crowd of 51,642 that shook this ballyard with their imploring chants and cheers, this day may have seemed as star-crossed and inconclusive as the three losses in 24 hours had seemed to the Brewers' partisans. Who will believe them when they say this 10-2 game was hair's breadth close until the ninth? Who will resist a smirk when they talk about how the inches in this "game of inches" turned against them?
"I'll always remember three plays," said Sutton.
So will everyone else.
For starters, in the first inning, two on and two out, Lowenstein singled to right. Gulliver, on second, ran head down, like the rookie he is, and, by the time he looked up, was knocked for a loop at seeing Coach Cal Ripken Sr.'s belated "stop" sign. Gulliver stopped in his tracks and was tagged out by catcher Simmons. Instead of having the bases loaded with Jim Dwyer, the man who'd reached base 13 consecutive times, at bat, the Orioles had let Sutton out of the inning.
The next crisis came in the Baltimore fifth. Milwaukee led, 3-1, on Yount's two homers and an unearned run built around a two-base error on Palmer's pickoff throw; the Orioles' run had come on Gulliver's attempt at atonement -- the first home run of his big league career.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Murray stepped up. Perhaps overanxious, he swung at a fast ball high and away and hit a respectably hard grounder fair by inches over first. Cooper's backhand stop was nice, but hardly spectacular. Except to Murray.
"Normally, I thought it would be a double," said Murray. "but it surprised me that he was so close to the (foul) line."
On the first pitch of the next inning, Cooper homered into the Brewers' bullpen, then threw his arms above his head in joy as he ran the bases.
The final piece of the Brewer puzzle came in the eighth. After two walks and an RBI pinch single by Crowley, Joe Nolan sliced a fly ball down the left field line with two outs. The ball hugged the line all the way.
"At first, I thought it would go foul, then I knew it would stay fair," said Sutton. "Benjy (Oglivie) looked like he had a shot, but I knew if he couldn't get it, then two men score, it's 5-4, and their tie run is on second or third."
Oglivie, hardly a distinguished outfielder, made a wonderful blood-and-guts catch a foot off the cinders. Replays showed the ball was inside the foul line. "No question, it was fair," said Sutton.
After the inning, umpire Rich Garcia, in response to press queries, said he called the ball foul. Since only Garcia's opinion matters, the importance of the catch diminishes from enormous to merely significant.
Oglivie's catch, on top of his two-out, opposite-field RBI single in the previous inning, hurt Baltimore severely. When, with two outs in the ninth, Paul Molitor blooped the umpteenth hit that went inches beyond an Oriole glove for an RBI single and a 6-2 lead, the hosts' will to resist seemed, finally, to die.
Cooper hit his double, and, on the next pitch, Simmons, the most symbolic Brewer, homered, both off emergency reliever Mike Flanagan.
"I'm drained. These last three days have been filled with apprehension, full of tension," Simmons said. "I thought there was a real good chance we'd be going home (as losers) tomorrow."
What won't be forgotten in this city is the glory of a 33-11 Orioles comeback that left the team with the second-best record in baseball.
The crowd, in a frenzy of generosity, pulled Weaver and his Orioles out of the dugout after their defeat for nearly 15 minutes of teary, chills-up-the-spine curtain calls. "Very classy," said Lowenstein.
Then, Weaver spoke to his team. "He told us," said pitcher Sammy Stewart, "that we couldn't have thrilled him any more if we'd won the World Series. Then he said, 'Win 105 next year for the other guy.' "