"Like General MacArthur . . . ," said Floyd Rayford.

"I feel we can still win this, and I know Earl will do anything he can to win -- every game," said Dennis Martinez.

"I know it's only a third of the way through the season, but why wait for the wheel to keep turning, why not stop to fix it?" asked Sammy Stewart. "I think we need a new face and a leader like before to get us going."

The new face, of course, was an old face. The General, naturally, was Earl Weaver. The Orioles greeted today's news of his second coming as their manager at worst with a sense of relief that the week's uncertainty about ousted Manager Joe Altobelli was now resolved, and at best with the hope that Weaver would lead them back to first place in the American League East.

"They know he's a winner," said General Manager Hank Peters. "They've won under him. Each will have his own feelings. Earl never tried to run a popularity contest."

Catcher Rick Dempsey had his differences with Weaver before the manager's retirement after the 1982 season, but he said, "Even though we argued quite a bit, I learned a lot from him. Anybody who plays for him can learn a lot."

But Dempsey, like many Orioles, felt sorry for Altobelli. Dempsey said the "speculation" about the former manager's future "left him hanging."

Coach Elrod Hendricks agreed it had been a tough week for Altobelli, whose future had been the center of speculation since Monday, when Oriole owner Edward Bennett Williams said he was going to "review" the season. "When you have half your six-foot frame into the grave and you have people throwing daggers at you . . . " Hendricks put it.

"I felt the draft about a week ago," Hendricks said, "and it didn't get any better, it didn't get any easier for me as a coach because I saw the man die slowly."

But Hendricks called Weaver "a genius," adding, "I expect him to do the fine job he did before."

"Everyone felt something was going to happen," said Dan Ford. "It's unfortunate it had to happen that way. But Joe came in with Earl hanging over him. He always faced the second-guess: Would Earl have done it this way or that way?

"I think there'll be no question with Earl why he did something . . . . The front office believes in Earl. A lot of players believe in Earl."

Ford characterized the job Altobelli did as manager as "adequate." He indicated that when the Orioles won the World Series in 1983 the success was a carryover from the Weaver years, but that there have been a number of new players since then not familiar with Weaver's ways.

"He used everybody," Ford said. "Everybody felt comfortable. I think now everybody's going to look in the reference book, to see how we did things."

Gary Roenicke said, "I never felt like a platoon player under Earl. I played about two-thirds of the season with Earl. He went on statistics, how you did against a particular pitcher. I'm hoping he does that again."

Relief pitcher Stewart was the most outspoken Oriole in favoring Weaver's return. "It's definitely the right choice," Stewart said. He said Cal Ripken Sr. would have been a good choice "because he and Earl think alike, but EBW (Williams) wanted a big name and you can't argue with success when you mention Earl Weaver.

"In '83, we did things pretty much the same. In '84, we started doing things different. This year, it's time to hand it over."

Ripken, who served as interim manager in tonight's 8-3 victory over Milwaukee because of a prior commitment by Weaver, said, "I guess there's a slight degree of disappointment in anything," when asked if he wished he had gotten the managerial job. But pure organization man that he is, Ripken added, "I'm just tickled to death to go out and coach third base. I'm tickled to death to be here."

One principal who wasn't here was the subject of all the conversation. Weaver got no closer to Memorial Stadium than a phone call. "Hello, Earl. Congratulations," the switchboard operator said when he called in.

Friday he'll be here, and it was clear the Orioles of tonight were awaiting him.