Someday this wonderful foolishness will end.
Someday, the Baltimore Orioles won't win doubleheaders from the Boston Red Sox, 7-4, 7-1, as they did this evening, just by tossing their little orange, white and black caps on the Fenway Park grass and watching the local inhabitants bend their reverent knees.
Someday, when Jim Dwyer comes up in the 12th inning of a tie game with the bases loaded, he won't smack the ball off the Green Monster to clear the sacks as he did in this night's opener.
Someday, when an outfielder leaps for that game-deciding drive, as Jim Rice did tonight, he won't bang into the fence and watch the ball fall out of his glove and trickle away.
Someday, when Gary Roenicke walks to the plate with the bases full and the Orioles ahead by just 3-1 in the nightcap, he won't hit the ball over the wall, over the net and into Lansdowne Street for a sweep-icing grand slam.
Someday when the Orioles send rookies like Bill Swaggerty to the mound in long relief, as they did out of desperation in the second game, those green kids will be hit hard instead of looking like young All-Stars.
Someday, when the Orioles bollix up one defensive play after another as they did in the late innings of the opener in sudden-death situations, they'll be made to pay for their sins by a home team that knows how to accept a gift.
Someday, when the Baltimoreans make mental errors, as they did rather often this evening, the other guys will capitalize instead of rolling over with their Carmine Hose in the air.
Someday, when the Orioles have an injured pitcher, like Allan Ramirez, who pulled a rib muscle tonight, the chap who's hurt will be a vital cog in the team. The casualty won't always be the fellow, like Ramirez, who's ineligible for the postseason.
Someday, when the Orioles play just fair-to-middling baseball in a twinight doubleheader, they'll only get a split, or perhaps even lose the whole thing.
But not now.
Now, whatever the Baltimore Orioles do is right, even when it's wrong.
The Orioles' magic month, which began on Aug. 13 with Swaggerty on the mound in Chicago, reached its zenith--at least so far--with Swaggerty on the mound tonight for 5 2/3 victorious innings in Boston.
The Orioles have lived a blessed baseball life ever since the 13th of last month. That day, they escaped from a seven-game losing streak by beating the White Sox in Comiskey Park when Swaggerty made his major-league debut. That inspirational win helped kick off a lucky 13th-to-13th month in which the O's have now gone 25-6--a sprint which has taken them from the middle of a five-team pack to a 5 1/2-game American League East lead.
So lackluster was the Red Sox play, and so lucky and inspired was the Orioles' effort, that, by the final innings, Fenway Park was almost the private property of several thousand Oriole fans who cheered each new Bosox tragedy with glee.
"We're playin' such great ball. Nice and calm, then we erupt," said Sammy Stewart who won the opener with 2 2/3 shutout innings. "I just love to sit on the bench like I got to in the second game, and listen to everybody picking each other up. You can tell we're just waitin' to spew all over the other team.
"When Roenicke was up, we were all looking for a grand slam. Must have been five guys yelled, 'I got a call.' When that ball went over everything, we were just looking at each other shaking our heads, sayin', 'It ain't this easy.' "
But it certainly feels that easy.
"The only way we're going to lose is if we play badly," said Ken Singleton, who reached base six times. "And I don't see us playin' bad, not with our pitching. Not with guys like Swaggerty just out there waiting for a chance."
Perhaps it's giving the Red Sox too much credit to say that this doubleheader had a turning point. However, this cool night had one fulcrum of a play--Dwyer's game-winning blow in the 12th inning of the opener.
Good luck attended the Orioles throughout every twist of the opener. In both the ninth and 11th innings, Boston had the winning run at third base because of errant Baltimore fielding. But, both times justice was not done and the Orioles survived. The 12th-inning uprising against Boston relief ace Bob Stanley, who replaced rookie Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd after 11 innings, was the most fortunate Baltimore frame of all.
With two out, Dan Ford singled. Cal Ripken hit a chop to short. Third baseman Wade Boggs, trying for a lunging grab, flashed in front of shortstop Glenn Hoffman.
That distraction, plus a tough hop, was too much for Hoffman. The ball ricocheted off his right check and rolled into foul ground as Ripken got a weird double to short.
After Eddie Murray was walked, Dwyer lined a high slicing drive toward left. In any other park, the ball would have been a warning-track out, at best. Here, the monster was lurking. Just as Rice leaped to catch the ball, he slammed into the tin travesty and the ball, and the game, fell to earth.
The second game was Swaggerty's show. Last year, he had his cheek bone shattered by a coach's throw ("One inch higher and I'd have lost the eye"), broke his pitching hand while skiing and had such a tired arm and bad stats that the Orioles didn't put him on their 40-man protected list.
Anybody in baseball could have had him for $25,000.
But, like the rich, the pitching rich just get richer, too.
"I was figuring maybe I'd get into one game this month," Swaggerty said. "I wanted one more chance to show I could do it again . . .
"Joe (Altobelli) told me, 'Throw strikes and have fun.' And I had a lot of fun. Especially against Rice and Yaz. When I struck Yaz out, I couldn't believe it . . . Being up here is a blast. It's utopia for a minor leaguer. I don't feel like I'm a rookie because they don't treat you like a rookie. They make you feel like a part of the team, not some flunky who's up for the ride."
Grand slams on command. Bases-loaded doubles in the 12th. A game-turning double off the shortstop's face. A rookie who wins only on the 13th of the month. Someday, all this will stop.
Probably after the World Series.