Maybe it was the comet.
If the moon can cause lunacy, can a comet produce comedy?
With newly discovered Iras-Araki-Alcock lurking a mere 3.1 million miles beyond the left-field light tower, all manner of foolishness transpired in Memorial Stadium tonight.
They call 'em "laughers" when you win 13-2, the way the Baltimore Orioles did tonight, thumping the pathetic Seattle Mariners. This game, however, was so giddy that it should have been called a knee-slapper.
How often does the game's hitting hero talk about how he did it all to avoid having to carry a plastic toy bat all over America? When was the last time that an ejected Orioles manager blamed Roy Rogers for his getting the heave-ho? And how often does the catcher berate the winning pitcher after he's battled through a 124-pitch complete game?
Yes, everything about this game was comet-crossed.
The winning pitcher, Dennis Martinez, gave up 13 hits--the most of any game in his career, win or lose. Losing Seattle actually outhit Baltimore, 13-12.
The often erratic Martinez, now 3-5, didn't walk anyone, started a double play himself and picked a runner off second; that happens about as often as science discovers a new celestial body. The Mariners, on the other hand, walked nine and hit one.
The game-winning RBI--the first of his career--went to rookie Leo Hernandez for doing absolutely nothing. Hernandez "drove in" the game's first run by keeping his bat on his shoulder and drawing a bases-loaded walk.
Not only was the third base coach, Cal Ripken Sr., ejected from the game despite his Orioles being ahead by 7-0 at the time, but the elder Ripken had the indignity of being cursed within hearing of the box seats by home plate umpire Drew Coble.
"Coble called Cal 'an old bleepity-bleeper,' " said the pitching coach, Ray Miller, an account confirmed by several other sources. "I don't think Cal minded the obscenity so much, but he's only 47 and that 'old' just drove him crazy."
Manager Joe Altobelli, defending Ripken's honor, was thumbed from the game moments later--his first ejection as Orioles manager. Altobelli then pointed an accusing finger at the famous cowboy singer who threw out the first ball. "I blame it on Roy Rogers," said Altobelli. "He gave me that white Stetson hat (before the game). I saw them guys (umpires) with the black hats and I chased 'em."
The game-breaking hit--a three-run triple by Al Bumbry--was motivated by the strangest of fears: The Bee's sheer terror at the thought of being forced to carry a red plastic bat all over America.
When Bumbry delivered his blast, he was just one strike shy of striking out three times in one game, an ignominious feat that the Orioles reward with The Hat Bat: a child's toy that the hat-trick whiffer must carry with him to every city and park in which the team plays until a new K King arrives.
So hated is the miserable bat that, earlier this season, Rick Dempsey, the current holder, swore that he would retire from baseball before he would carry the cursed thing.
Everything about this noncontest was bizarre. The losing pitcher, 6-foot-6, 235-pound, 19-year-old Ed Nunez--a Don Drysdale pitch-alike, was actually the most fearsome hurler seen in Memorial Stadium this season. "He got our (radar) gun higher than anybody else has all year," said Bumbry of the fast-balling right-hander who is the youngest player in the majors. "Sometimes you don't pick up the ball until it's almost past you."
Bumbry knew all about that. Before his triple, he'd swung at all nine pitches Nunez had thrown and gotten only four weak fouls and five misses for his pains. On the 10th swing, Bumbry hit a liner over the left fielder's head by a yard, emptied the bases, Baltimore took a 5-0 lead and the high jinks began.
"Oh, I was aware of that (toy) bat while I was up at the plate," said Bumbry, who was delighted to let rookie John Shelby replace him for the rest of the night.
On the next pitch, an offering from reliever Bryan Clark, Dan Ford launched one of the longer home runs of his career, a 425-foot blast over the centerfield fence to make the score 7-0. The Orioles, who have scored 161 runs in just 28 games, thus managed to send five runs across the plate, and break open what had been a close game, in the narrow span of two back-to-back pitches.
On a night when the Orioles farm teams at Rochester, Charlotte and Hagerstown won by scores of 11-3, 12-2 and 17-4--giving the organization a combined winning margin of 53-11 for the night, only two pieces of bad news blurred the picture.
Jim Palmer, on the disabled list until May 20, reports that progress in rehabilitating his injured lower back muscles has been slow and he and his physicians doubt that he'll be able to pitch before June 1st.
Also, catcher Dempsey continues in a bit of a tiff with Martinez. The two have patched up their long-standing differences, helped largely by Dempsey's discovery that Martinez is 46-23 when he catches and 42-39 when he doesn't.
Nonetheless, Dempsey maintains that, "Sometimes, the only way to get through to Dennis is just to make him mad. He's always complaining that I don't set a good target, that my legs aren't far enough apart. Well, he doesn't remember things about the hitters--what they did the times before. He can't run his own game and he should realize it. He needs everybody's help, like we all do, and he should accept his catcher's help, not fight it."
"Don't pay any attention to Rick," said Miller, passing by. "He's just mad that he's still got that little red bat.