Day games aren't supposed to end after night games are due to begin.

Four rain delays are three too many.

Nobody, not the most ardent fan in creation, wants to sit for six hours watching three hours of baseball and three hours of rain that add up to a 1-0 final score.

When the highlight of an entire day is an obtuse argument over a misunderstanding that a congressional subcommittee with full powers of subpoena couldn't dope out, that's a bad day at the old ballpark.

On a drizzly Mother's Day that nobody would wish on the worst stereotypical mother-in-law, the Baltimore Orioles labored for nearly six hours before losing to the Oakland A's, 1-0, on a home run over the right field fence by Wayne Gross in the eighth inning off reliever Tippy Martinez.

"Utterly bizarre," said home plate umpire Nick Bremigan, summing up a day game, scheduled to start at 2:05 p.m., that didn't end until 7:47--a dozen minutes after the time the Orioles normally schedule their night games.

In the end, the Orioles, who got a dozen men on base but moved no one past second, were frustrated by this homely game that had four rain delays totaling 164 minutes.

The Orioles (15-11) wasted six shutout innings of two-hit pitching by starter Storm Davis. They couldn't score off a rookie left-hander, Bill Krueger, who shut them down for seven innings. Oakland pitchers walked two in the eighth and two more in the ninth, but all four were left as no clutch hits appeared; twice, reliever Dave Beard, who got the final four outs for a save, worked out of two-on jams with the game on the line, striking out Cal Ripken Jr. to end the eighth, then popping up Rich Dauer and Joe Nolan to end the game.

Don't mention to the Orioles that they got three leadoff men on base, then never advanced any of them. Don't remind Eddie Murray of the two double plays he grounded into, or mention to Dan Ford the two times he got adventurous and was thrown out to kill rallies.

Above all, don't remind Manager Joe Altobelli of the charges made against him by rookie Oakland Manager Steve Boros, who protested the game before the ninth inning, claiming that Altobelli had ordered the grounds crew not to put the tarpaulin on the field even though the umpires had ordered it.

Told that both Boros and the umpires said that he'd waved the grounds crew off the field after a raging argument between the Orioles and the umpires, Altobelli said, mischievously, "I'm Italian. Maybe I was just waving to somebody in the stands."

This affair was cursed from the outset. The first pitch was 33 minutes late. Then, after six pitches in the first inning, the rains returned, stopping play for another hour. The bulk of the crowd of 15,392 went home then. No more than 1,000 fans stayed until the end.

In retrospect, Joe Brinkman wished his umpiring crew had never pulled out a tarp. This 2 hour, 58 minute game could easily have been played straight through, ignoring this afternoon's sputtering showers. But that's hindsight. The weatherman told the umpires before the game that heavy rains were on the way, so, covering the field at the first sign of showers seemed like the better part of valor.

The sun actually came out for a couple of hours, permitting Davis and Krueger to stage an excellent duel. Davis struck out six in the first three innings, seven in all; Krueger faced only four men more than the minimum.

Then came the eighth, this game's showpiece, such as it was. Tippy Martinez, who'd worked out of a seventh-inning jam created by Tim Stoddard, was greeted by a leadoff homer by Gross--the first homer ever by an Oakland player off Martinez. Both Gross and Martinez agreed that the pitch--a decent knee-high fast ball on the outer half of the plate--was not the sort of offering that usually ends up clearing the fence near the 376-foot sign by 10 yards. But Gross swung hard, and caught the ball flush.

Asked why he let Gross bat in that situation, Boros said, "At that point, I didn't have any choice. I was running out of players."

One out later, rain returned and stopped play for 48 minutes. Everybody had time to debate and digest the boring nuances of the sport's new suspended-game rules. In this case, had the game been called after 7 1/2 innings, the teams would have had to finish another day.

Play continued, in the drizzle, and the eighth inning was completed, Ripken striking out to end it. Brinkman immediately called for the tarp for another delay. This incensed the Orioles, some of whom mistakenly thought the game had been called.

For a quarter-hour, pandemonium. An angry Cal Ripken Sr., in Bremigan's words, "went completely goofy." Both the umpires and A's left the field, giving the crowd the impression that the game was over. The umpires later maintained they just disappeared so tempers could cool, and there were plenty of tempers. Next, Altobelli did his waving routine and the grounds crew started pouring dust all over the infield to make the surface playable. When Boros realized the game wasn't over, he protested and maintained that Altobelli was hornswoggling everybody to make sure the Orioles got to bat in the ninth.

Fortunately, the rain stopped and didn't return. The ninth inning was played on a satisfactory, if cuppy, track. "Thank God it stopped raining and we didn't have to call it," said Bremigan an hour after the game, "or everybody would still be screaming and protesting and you'd really see some quotes flying."

This day ended on a typically weird note as Altobelli called Brinkman in his dressing room, to settle a few rule interpretation nuances and, as Altobelli said, "Just to let you know we got in our nine times at bat, which is all we wanted, so we've go no beef."

What might have happened had Earl Weaver been around for this one?

"If Earl had been here today," said Bremigan, "he'd never have made it to the eighth."