That was the best, the very best, of all the superbly dramatic moments in the Baltimore Orioles' come-from-behind 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Memorial Stadium tonight?
Was it Cal Ripken's game-winning two-run home run off loser Tom Tellmann in the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie? That towering homer, which hung interminably against the black dome of night before dropping far beyond the center field fence, broke up this taut thriller.
Was it slump-plagued Rich Dauer's two-out, two-strike bloop single to center just moments before that tied the game and broke the Brewers' spirit?
Was it John Lowenstein's two-run insurance homer only two batters later? That finished off the Orioles' five-run eighth and gave them three home runs for the night and seven homers in two games--by seven hitters--off the shell-shocked Milwaukee pitching staff. "What a show," marveled Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams. "Seven homers off 'em in two nights."
Was it Ken Singleton's two-out, full-count, two-run homer in the seventh that tied the game, 2-2, and broke up what had been a masterful two-hit shutout by starter Don Sutton? After that, Sutton suddenly tired and took himself out before the next, decisive inning.
Was it Allan Ramirez, 26, who, in his major league debut, survived a wild-as-a-hatter first inning in which he allowed two runs, then settled down and shut out the Brew Crew through seven innings of five-hit power pitching?
Is it even possible that this night's most wonderful play was turned in by a losing Brewer? With Milwaukee ahead, 3-2, in that Baltimore eighth, Oglivie made a head-first face-in-the-cinder-track catch of a liner by Al Bumbry that looked like a certain game-tying RBI double.
Oglivie, on a full sprint, caught the ball one foot fair and inches off the ground. But for Dauer's gutsy hit moments later and Ripken's homer thereafter, this evening's crowd of 22,341 would be talking about how Oglivie's catch had made his own go-ahead RBI of the inning before stand up for a Milwaukee victory.
All these moments and feats had their claims as the Orioles won their sixth game in seven and ninth of 12.
Perhaps Ripken's 420-foot swat was grandest. After all, what's better than a titanic game winner by a 22-year-old who keeps getting better and icier every month? For spice, Ripken had struck out three times on three pitches in his previous at bats against Sutton.
Afterward, Ripken's mates presented him with the red plastic bat that any Oriole must carry with him to every city after he's struck out three times in a game. "Gee, just in time for a road trip," said Ripken sardonically, undoubtedly thinking of those plane flights with his toy in tow.
To the Orioles, however, Dauer's hit was the biggest because game-tyers are always considered tougher, in the dugout world, than game winners. When you're losing, that's real pressure. Dauer deserved extra credit because he was in a 1-2 hole after ump Russ Goetz had called what appeared to be a worm-killing sinker a strike. "An unbelieveable call like that can blow your mind for the whole at bat," said Singleton, "but Richie walked around and around until his mind cleared."
"I haven't been doing anything to help this club in a month and if there'd been a left-handed hitter left on the bench I would have been out of there. So it really feels absolutely outstanding, whether it was hit good or not."
And it certainly wasn't "hit good."
"A two-strike slider on the black and he dumps it into center off the very end of his bat. Breaks the bat, too," said Brewers catcher Ted Simmons. "I guess it's better to be lucky than good, although he's pretty good." Then Simmons admitted what is on every Brewers' mind and will be for the rest of this season. "I wish Rollie was here." But Rollie Fingers is out for the year. They cut his elbow on Friday. "Rollie is the key man on this ballclub," said Oglivie, accidentally speaking in the present tense.
Sutton had the guilts about taking himself out, especially because Tellmann, the Brewers' latest answer to Fingers, was hit worse than a batting practice pitcher.
"My back got stiff, due to 25 years of pitching. I've pitched 4,300 innings, probably thrown 50,000 pitches. It's too bad I couldn't get a real job," said Sutton tartly. "I'd like to be 25 again, but I'm 38. I regret that my best wasn't good enough."
The Brewers now trail the first-place Orioles by 4 1/2 games. The Orioles, who have now won seven of their last eight meetings with the Brewers, batting .333 in that stretch with 16 homers and 52 runs, are rolling.
Even their desperation moves, like giving an unknown minor leaguer like Ramirez--who walked 117 men in 124 innings at Rochester last year--a start against 262-game winner Sutton, are working. "Straight gas, straight change, no control," said a disgusted Simmons. "Didn't look like he had much of anything."
Simmons may have been annoyed because his two-run double in the first missed being a grand slam homer by a yard; he was thrown out trying for a double and that free out, according to Manager Joe Altobelli, was probably all that kept Ramirez, who was bouncing pitches 10 feet in front of the plate, in the game.
Pitching Coach Ray Miller said he told Ramirez, "You just faced the second best hitting team in the American League and you shut 'em down for the last six innings. How does it feel to be a major league pitcher?" "Real good," answered Ramirez.
Only one Orioles player was upset tonight. Lowenstein said after Tuesday's game that he tried to use a bat to kill a small black cat that ran into the Oriole dugout because Benny Ayala had said that he'd like to have the tail for luck. "I must have gotten 80 angry calls from animal lovers today and one from the Humane Society in Washington," said Lowenstein. "I just want to clear up one thing.
"I thought it was a panther."