The white sporty convertible in the Miami Stadium parking lot had the tape deck on loud at 9 a.m. this hot, breezy morning as the Baltimore Orioles started blowing in for the first day of spring training.
The lyric that poured out into the morning air, funky and lush, hands clapping and Pointer Sisters singing harmony in the background, said, "Somehow the wires got crossed, the tables were turned. Never knew I had such a lesson to learn. Now I've tightened up my point of view. Oooo, oooo, oooo, I got a new attituuuude."
The Orioles' pitchers and catchers, sobered up after a fifth-place finish last season (worst since '67) arrived here today all tightened up, lessons learned and vowing a new attitude.
The 30 Orioles, including a few everyday players, also came here full of fresh February frolic, ready to play a kid's game for big bucks, big glory and big fun. Determination and delight seemed ideally blended.
At the level of serious business, the team's two main bosses were holding court today and talking bluntly.
"Last year was a nightmare; we should be a little angry," said Manager Joe Altobelli. "Sure, we won 85 games. We were better than 19 teams. But that's just not good enough for us.
"When you win it all, like we did in '83, there's gotta be some magic. And there was -- 36 come-from-behind wins. And when you finish fifth, there's gotta be some tragic. And there sure as hell was . . . "
"We didn't look good playing the game last year," said General Manager Hank Peters, who held a four-hour Now-Hear-This meeting with Altobelli and the coaches Thursday.
"You can't control injuries, slumps or age. But you can play the game properly. That's within your control. Especially when you have the proven talent that we have. I think there will be a more serious approach this spring. Last year, we were still flushed with success . . . .
"Joe Altobelli is not on the spot. The ball club is."
While the Altobelli-Peters State of the Union Message was stern, the general mood of the club was absolutely familiar. Ken Singleton and Al Bumbry might be gone from the clubhouse, but Frank Robinson and Terry Crowley are back as coaches. As veteran Scott McGregor put it, "There'd have to be some drastic things happen around here for me ever to worry about this club.
"Even if we hadn't spent all that money ($12 million for free agents Fred Lynn, Lee Lacy and Don Aase), I wouldn't worry about our morale. But with them, we're pumped. We're going to be great," said McGregor, before catching himself and amending, "We'll be very good."
The subculture of fellowship that makes a clubhouse so addictively vital exists whether you're a defending world champ who's baskin' or a fifth-place team on the rebound that's just askin'.
That private world is what makes the players itch to get here. That's why Cal Ripken Jr., who makes a million bucks a year, arrived today, a week ahead of schedule. "You start sniffing the game," he said, laughing at himself. "I was on the plane down here and this guy next to me said, 'What's spring training like?' He asks me one question and I must have talked for 15 minutes. Told him everything."
"I had a bad winter of huntin'," said nonhunter Floyd Rayford today the instant he saw ardent hunter Mike Boddicker, the American League's only 20-game winner. "Almost shot my foot off."
"You don't hunt, Sugarbear," muttered Boddicker.
"Do, too. You're just jealous. Prob'ly wanna hear one of my rabbit stories," said Rayford, feigning hurt.
"You don't hunt. You just ramble through the bramble," said Boddicker.
"I thought we buried the hatchet," said Rayford, who agitated with Boddicker for years in the minors when it looked like neither would ever stick in the majors.
"I didn't bury my hatchet," said Boddicker, straight-faced.
"Awwww, man, now we got to start all over," said Rayford with a grin at the thought of another year of insults.
"You have an appearance down here? Or did you forget your clothes?" McGregor said as soon as he sees Ripken, hitting on Ripken's habits of accepting every charity speaking engagement and having a wardrobe consisting almost exclusively of sweatsuits and tennis shoes.
"Too early," says Ripken, refusing to acknowledge the quips. "Wait till I'm supposed to be here before you get on me."
Ripken's father, coach Cal Sr., tried to shake hands with Rick Dempsey but the catcher wouldn't respond. "Oh, is this your official welcome?" Dempsey asked. "You looked right at me yesterday like I was a sack of manure and didn't shake my hand. I guess you don't say hello to players until they report."
A search is instituted for "a pair of size 5 1/2 shoes" for Tippy Martinez's tiny feet. Sammy Stewart is praised for being early to a practice for the first time. Walk-on pitcher Dave Rajsich tells about pitching last year for the Hiroshima Carp. Dennis Martinez creeps toward the door so, after the team meeting, he can be the first player to set foot on the field ("My year of opportunity.")
Once on the field, it's like the previous season never ended. When a dozen balls clutter the front of the batting cage, Ripken, imitating his father, yells, "Balls ain't got no feet, boys. You got to pick those balls up."
Dempsey jumps in the cage and begins hitting home runs, just as he did the last six weeks of ("I've found a new stance") 1984. As soon as his power is noted, he institutes new policies of 1) making no predictions and 2) no longer talking to the press during BP "because concentration is my biggest problem in this game."
His old roommate, batting coach Crowley, tries not to fall to the ground with laughter at hearing this. Dempsey is the man who has taken 3 a.m. batting practice over the head of his sleeping wife when he's in a slump.
"Don't anybody wake Demper up," he says. "Don't even say, 'Slider,' where he can hear it. Let the man dream."
The first practice ends, the players go to the shower. But the coaches, average age about 50, don't leave yet. They talk or play catch, examining the remains of long-dead arms. Ray Miller yells to his catch partner, "Is my ball just sinkin' or is it falling?"
In the parking lot, the white convertible is ready to leave. That same song comes from the tape deck. "Feeling good from my head to my shoes. Know where I'm going. Know what to do. I'm in control, worries are few . . . oooo, oooo, ooooo, I got a new attituuuude."
The sticker on the rear bumper says, "I Love Baseball. Don't Mess With My Reality."