As the baseball slapped into the leather webbing of Cal Ripken's glove, bringing silence to Philadelphia, the Baltimore Orioles came dancing from all directions to share the joy, jumping into each other's arms in the ritualized madness of a World Series victory and shouting hosannahs that rang hollow here in the loser's sullen ballyard but must have been heard, loud and clear, a hundred miles down I-95.
Down there in "the jewel of the East" (as the Orioles' elder statesman Ken Singleton calls Baltimore) . . . down there where the original Orioles won the city's first championships in 1894-95-96 with men named Boileryard Clarke and Phenomenal Smith . . . a hundred miles down I-95 where good work by good people is done without the wretched excess of less hospitable places (no names, please)--down there in Baltimore, they now have their proud hands on baseball's nicest piece of gold, the world championship trophy.
"I am proud to take this great trophy back to Baltimore," said Edward Bennett Williams, the Orioles' owner who started the American League playoffs captive below floors in a busted elevator after the first-game loss and ended the World Series floating high around his team's clubhouse.
The "happiest moment of my life in sports," he called it.
The Orioles won the 80th World Series tonight with a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Philles. Scott McGregor's five-hit pitching and Eddie Murray's two home runs gave the Orioles a fourth straight victory. That was right and good, for such work by them is the truth of this team, but in a touch of poetry truer than true, the Series' most valuable player (by a media vote) was catcher Rick Dempsey.
How perfect. Sometime this summer he became, by his failures at bat, one of "The Three Stooges," a clubhouse barb created by Singleton, who decided he was left on base too often by Rich Dauer, Todd Cruz and Dempsey. "I'm Moe, because I'm the more intelligent one," Dempsey said when he could laugh about it two months later.
And there was Moe tonight, on the phone to the president who once spoke movie lines to a chimpanzee named Bonzo, while a national television audience listened as Dempsey accepted congratulations from Ronald Reagan.
"You tell the Russians," Dempsey said to Reagan, taking charge as always, "that we're having an awful good time over here playing baseball."
Dempsey told reporters later that the president replied, "Well, it's a lot more fun playing the Phillies."
After winning their first World Series in 1966, the Orioles now have won two more. Only the Oakland Athletics, burning brightly through the mid-'70s, have won as many world championships in that time. The Yankees and Dodgers, to name lesser outfits, have won twice. Only the Orioles, with a common sense blend of ordinary and extraordinary players, have sustained success across three decades.
"This is one of the better teams I've been on here," said Jim Palmer, 38, whose shutout victory against the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax was part of a four-game sweep in '66 and who was the winning pitcher this time in Game 3. "A team is a team--all 25 players--and we got the maximum out of our 25. There really wasn't an MVP, and that's no knock on Rick, but in every game we had two or three guys who were the MVP."
"We have everything," Singleton said. "We have great pitching. Long relievers, short relievers, great starters. We led the majors in home runs, we were up there in defense. We have a lot of situation role players, and if you add up all the situations, you find out we have a great team."
As Williams sailed around the clubhouse hugging everyone in an Orioles suit, he told interviewers he loved the character that carried his hired hands through rough adversity. Mike Flanagan's bad knee, Palmer's trip to Class A, Tippy Martinez's appendectomy, Sammy Stewart's arrest--all in a season that began with a new manager, Joe Altobelli, replacing the sage Earl of Baltimore, Earl Weaver.
Murray and Ripken were extraordinary all year, a rookie pitcher named Mike Boddicker was spectacular, reinforcements from the Rochester farm team did heroic short-term work and Altobelli, by winning it all, did what Weaver had failed to do since 1970.
How perfect, yes, that Rick Dempsey came to be the MVP, for while they had gifted men such as Ripken and Murray and all those supranatural pitchers, the Orioles won this championship not with genius but with craftmanship raised to its highest level.
Dempsey had four doubles and a home run in this Series, the homer coming in tonight's third inning to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Murray's home run in the second inning was such a sure thing that he did a hero's swagger to first base, drawing out the pleasure. When Dempsey cracked a line drive toward left, he sprinted toward first in his unfamiliarity with such stuff. He had only four home runs all season.
"In 11 years, I've never been hot at bat," he said, laughing. Not that it matters. Dempsey pays the rent by being a wonderful defensive catcher, smooth behind the plate blocking errant pitches, quick into the field for bunts, relentless in his determination to throw out anyone so brash as to think he could steal a base. The single play that defined the craftmanship of these Orioles ended with Dempsey, Horatio at the bridge, denying the enemy access.
It happened in Chicago when the White Sox, on one play, made two base running blunders and four Orioles handled the ball perfectly. A throw home to Dempsey gave him time to lower his shoulder and turn the Chicago runner upside down. "I want a picture of that," Dempsey said, and he said those words again today as he stood near the championship trophy, a bead of champagne clinging to his eyelashes.
"I want a picture of this in color," he shouted.