All the omens pointed toward a Baltimore victory celebration tonight.
It was on Sept. 24, 1955, that Joe Altobelli, the Orioles' manager, hit his first major-league home run. On Sept. 24, 1961, a homer by Altobelli was the only hit against Dick Donovan of the White Sox. It was here 10 years ago that the Orioles clinched their fourth of six American League East titles.
This season, Baltimore had won 10 of 11 from Milwaukee, and starter Dennis Martinez had beaten the Brewers five straight times. So when Detroit fell to Boston today, assuring the Orioles at least a pennant tie, visiting clubhouse attendant Jim Ksicinski was ordered to buy a case of champagne with every expectation that it would be put to quick use.
The bubbly stuff is still corked. Milwaukee pounded three Baltimore pitchers for 14 hits and rookie righthander Jaime Cocanower earned his first major-league victory as the Brewers made Martinez a loser for the 16th time this season, 5-2.
The only bright spot for the Orioles came when Cal Ripken collected his 200th hit of the season in the eighth inning.
It was not the stuff of which grand memories are made, since right fielder Charlie Moore slipped and Ripken's drive skidded off his glove, prompting many of the 48,659 fans to jeer the official scorer.
Nevertheless, it was Ripken's second hit of the night, his 28th in the last 14 games and his 12th in 17 at bats against Milwaukee.
"Two hundred is a number I never really thought I could get to," Ripken said. "That's an awful lot of hits. This has been a good season. A lot of things have been going right. The ball has been falling in when I've hit it hard and it's been falling in when I hit it not-so-hard.
"I don't know if I'll ever have a season like this again, but I sure hope so."
The fifth-place Brewers are hoping they don't encounter another year like this one. But for this game, on Fan Appreciation Night, they gave the home folks something to remember and something on which to base next year's expectations.
Robin Yount and Jim Gantner each had three hits and Ted Simmons knocked in two runs, for a season total of 107.
The victims, Martinez and Jim Palmer, could take small consolation that at least they weren't as bad as in Detroit on Tuesday, when they yielded 11 runs in the first inning.
Martinez lasted 2 1/3 innings, two innings longer than in Tuesday's start, and was tagged for seven hits and four runs. Palmer gave up six hits and one run in 3 2/3 innings. Bill Swaggerty replaced him in the seventh.
"This has been a tough year for Dennis and his last two outings have really been tough," Altobelli said.
Milwaukee had its first run before a man was retired. Paul Molitor walked and sped all the way in from first on Yount's ground-ball double inside third base. Yount scored on successive bouncers to second by Cecil Cooper and Simmons.
It became 4-0 in the third on Cooper's double off the fence in right center, Simmons' opposite-field double into the corner in left and Mark Brouhard's single to left.
Baltimore's only chance to make a game of it came in the fifth. Glenn Gulliver walked and Rich Dauer grounded a single up the middle. Rick Dempsey then sent a long drive to left center that Brouhard caught with his back against the fence.
"Dempsey hit that one enough, but the ball just wasn't carrying out there," Altobelli said.
Gulliver scored on Al Bumbry's double off the fence in right center, but Cocanower avoided further damage by snagging a comeback grounder by Dan Ford and slipping a third strike past the protesting Ripken.
Charlie Moore's double to right center, following two-out singles by Rick Manning and Gantner, made it 5-1 in the bottom half.
The Orioles concluded the scoring in the eighth on Ripken's 200th hit, an infield out and John Lowenstein's single to center.
Cocanower, a onetime decathlete who pitched Baylor into the College World Series in 1978, developed a blister and was replaced in the ninth by Pete Ladd, who retired the Orioles in order for his 23rd save.
"That youngster (Cocanower) pitched a good ball game against us," Altobelli said. "I'm not frustrated by waiting a day. I haven't been frustrated all season, except for a couple of arguments with umpires.
"Anyway, tomorrow's a day game. A smart club doesn't win on a night before a day game. They win on a day before a day off, and that's our situation now. Of course, we would have liked to clinch it tonight and get it over."
As for the omens, Altobelli said, "I was interested when they came up with that stuff. If it's any consolation, I hit my second homer the day after the first."