Joe Altobelli could hardly contain himself as he savored his first victory as the manager of the Orioles.
So, how does it feel, Joe?
His eyelids lowered like a lizard's, and Altobelli answered: "I'm kind of glad we won our ballgame."
Great hitting, terrific pitching from Mike Flanagan, a nice 11-1 romp past the Kansas City Royals before 7,904 slightly frozen fans tonight at Memorial Stadium. Must be pretty gratifying after listening to all that jazz about ex-manager Earl Weaver.
"I feel better than I did the other day."
And with that the inheritor of baseball's winningest team since the Johnson administration lifted his can of diet cola and leaned back in his desk chair.
But the questions persisted. Didn't the victory take a little pressure off?
"You feel pressure, it's what the job is," Altobelli said. "I feel it but I know it goes with the territory. It's really very simple."
And simple it was as the Orioles did just about everything right in getting their first victory.
Opening day, as a vernal festival played out before a stadium filled with celebrants, is an occasion, but tonight was, in a way, the first game, the first workaday outing in the half-year season. As such, the Orioles showed themselves ready for the long haul.
Rookie third baseman Leo Hernandez, who still makes his home in Edo Miranda, Venezuela, earned a standing ovation as he had his first major league hit in the fourth inning. His double, with a full count, scored Rich Dauer to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
"I could hear (the crowd) call my name, and that was nice," Hernandez said.
Only Ken Singleton and Rick Dempsey, who struck out three times, went hitless for Baltimore. The Orioles had 14 hits, including five in the five-run seventh inning, while Flanagan pitched expertly, allowing only one run and seven hits before Tim Stoddard relieved him in the final inning.
Flanagan said Altobelli asked him how he felt before the ninth inning: "I said there's been a lot of breaks but my arm feels fine. I'll go out if you want. He said, 'There's no need to rush yourself. Give Stoddard some work.' "
The Royals scored first on Hal McRae's home run to left field in the second inning. Flanagan allowed Frank White a single and Jerry Martin a double before retiring the side.
But the Orioles tied it on Eddie Murray's double and John Lowenstein's first RBI, a single to right field.
From that point on, Flanagan's pitching was exceptional, as he held the Royals to just three hits from the third through the eighth innings. Flanagan won seven of his last eight starts at the end of 1982 and came into tonight's game having thrown 10 straight scoreless innings in spring training.
"It was a nice night to pitch," he said. "You come up from Florida, and you sure don't miss the humidity. This is one of the few times in my career that I haven't had to be in a pitching duel."
The Orioles scored runs in every inning but the first and last, taking advantage of four doubles and well-timed singles. Baltimore batted through the order in the seventh inning as Al Bumbry, Dan Ford, Cal Ripken Jr., Lowenstein and Dauer all had singles in the five-run rally that swamped the Royals.
Stoddard also looked sharp, as he allowed only a meaningless single to White in his ninth inning relief appearance.
Another offensive highlight was Bumbry's stolen base in the third inning. "My legs feel great," said Bumbry, who is battling John Shelby for the center field position. "Joe said I will be playing, but he didn't get specific about whether it's just against right-handers or anything."
Lowenstein, who was three for four, was cautious about writing off losing pitcher Dennis Leonard.
"I'd never had any exceptional success against him before," said Lowenstein. "Not too many people ever get the measure of a fine pitcher like him."