The Baltimore Orioles went off like firecrackers on the Fourth of July today, throwing tantrums all over Tiger Stadium. In the end, the Orioles' explosions may have cost them an important victory.

When thunderstorms arrived, raining out this game, the Orioles were leading, 5-4, with two out in the top of the fifth inning. All the Orioles needed was one more out of their own, then three outs by the Tigers to have an official game and, perhaps, a victory. The 10 minutes or more that the Orioles squandered in argument, with Eddie Murray, Manager Joe Altobelli and Coach Cal Ripken Sr. all getting ejected in the fourth as storm clouds rolled in, might have been enough time to get those outs and a victory.

Or, of course, it might have been enough time for Baltimore starter Dennis Martinez to give up the losing runs in the Tiger fifth. At any rate, it was the Orioles who left for the All-Star break with the suspicion that they'd gotten the short end of the stick while the Tigers grinned about their luck.

The Tigers scored three in the first inning, opening with three straight doubles, and added one in the third. The Orioles scored one in the third (on a homer by Todd Cruz) and four in the fourth on Jim Dwyer's two-run double off Jack Morris and a two-run single by Rich Dauer off Aurelio Lopez. All that, however, was forgotten as this game ended in a welter of curses and accusations.

Murray said that home plate umpire Mike Reilly, after calling him out on strikes, had cursed at him, thus igniting their argument. "Get . . . away from me before I throw you out of the game," was Murray's account.

Altobelli backed up Murray, saying that, "If an umpire had said to me what he said to Eddie, he'd have had his hands full with me, too . . . The umpires are doing the cussing these days and throwing the players out for the same things that they (the umps) are saying themselves."

Reilly called that "a complete lie . . . I didn't curse at anybody out there." However, Reilly said he might have used "common baseball language" in telling Murray to " 'get away from me before you make me throw you out of the game.' There's all the difference in the world in baseball between saying, 'That's a horsefeathers call,' which everybody says, and saying 'You're horsefeathers,' which will always get you ejected." (In fact, that was Ripken's sentence of choice for his ejection.)

"Murray just stood there and challenged me over and over. I gave him three warnings. I didn't throw him out. He threw himself out," said Reilly, who'd never had a "hat trick" (three ejections) before. He testily added, "If Earl (Weaver) had been here today, not much of this would have happened. Earl would have gotten himself thrown out to save his player. He always did that." Altobelli never left the dugout until Murray, who'd had an argument with Reilly in the third, had been thumbed.

"Oh, that's a nice rip," responded Altobelli. "Always find a way to lay it all on the manager." Altobelli was also angry that the game was called after only a 97-minute delay (90 minutes is the minimum). Asked if it were possible that the Orioles might have completed five innings if there hadn't been an argument, Altobelli said, "Maybe, and it's also possible we'd have waited more than an hour and 37 minutes, too."

Fact: less than an hour after the game was called, the sun was out, the field was playable and no more rain fell this afternoon.