By game time, the temperature had dipped into the high 30s, about 800 brave souls were scattered around Cleveland Stadium and a light, steady rain was falling on a soggy field.
The setting was perfect for what happened to the Baltimore Orioles tonight as an announced crowd of 3,012 watched the Cleveland Indians beat them, 7-0, on knuckleballer Tom Candiotti's three-hitter and a disastrous debut by Orioles third baseman Floyd Rayford.
As excellent as Candiotti (1-1) was, zipping through the Orioles on a career-high 10 strikeouts and nine groundouts, what many people will remember is that this was the night the Orioles achieved some remarkable bits of baseball embarrassment.
*They had more errors (four) than hits.
*Rayford, just off the disabled list today and playing for the first time this season, made all four errors, two each in the third and sixth innings. His errors could be connected to only two of the Indians' runs, but set a tone for the night.
"They were all errors," Rayford said, offering no alibis. "I should have handled 'em all, especially the grounder in the third inning . The cold and rain didn't help, but they were playing in it, too. I didn't feel that bad, rusty or anything."
Rayford made only six errors in 78 games at third base last season, but tonight became the 20th American League third baseman to make four errors in a game.
The major league record is five, accomplished June 11, 1906, by Dave Brain of the Boston Braves. The last third baseman to make four in a game was Detroit's Tom Brookens, who did it Sept. 6, 1980.
The Orioles will have to research this dubious deed further, but they believe Rayford to be the first Baltimore infielder to commit four errors in a game.
He made them quickly. In the third, Joe Carter's grounder bounced off his chest for one. He got another by throwing the ball wildly to first base.
In the sixth, he made an error on third baseman Brook Jacoby's leadoff grounder, and another when he tried to pick off Tony Bernazard after Bernazard had singled and rounded the bag too far.
Rayford missed the final two weeks of spring training and the Orioles' first 12 games with a chipped bone in his left thumb. He was activated today after playing two games at Class AAA Rochester this weekend.
"Rayford might have needed one more day, huh?" Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "He had to go out there sometime, and let's hope he's ready tomorrow. He might be the hero of the game tomorrow. That just shows you what rust and inactivity does, and the wet ball and ground didn't help."
None of this helped starter Mike Flanagan (1-2), who was in enough trouble anyway, allowing the Indians nine hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Cleveland rookie catcher Andy Allanson had three singles, a triple, three RBI and stole a base as the Indians got 12 hits off Flanagan and reliever Dennis Martinez.
Candiotti, who went to the minor leagues two years ago and learned a knuckleball that has resurrected his career, got his first major league victory since September 1984, and that, too, was against the Orioles.
The three hits for the Orioles (7-6) were singles by Fred Lynn in the fourth inning, Rayford in the fifth and Eddie Murray in the ninth.
"It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen," Weaver said of Candiotti's performance. "We know what he is going to throw and we still don't hit it. He throws one pitch for a strike -- a slow curveball -- but we can't hit it. It's got to be a mystery pitch. It's a mystery we don't hit it."
Candiotti basically showed the Orioles two pitches -- that very slow curveball and a knuckleball.
The Orioles' best chance to score came in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases on Rayford's single and walks to catcher Rick Dempsey and right fielder Lee Lacy. Shortstop Cal Ripken worked the count to 3-2, before striking out on a curveball.
"He seems to be able to throw that for a strike anytime he wants to," Ripken said. "It's not like facing [Phil] Niekro or someone like that, a guy you know is going to stick pretty much with the knuckleball."
Other than the fifth, the Orioles had only three base runners as Candiotti threw his first shutout since Aug. 25, 1983, when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"The last time out, against the Yankees, I had good control, but I kept getting in trouble," Candiotti said. "Tonight, I only got in trouble once. I really had good control."
The Indians got all the runs they needed in the second inning when they took a 3-0 lead on Flanagan. Jacoby singled to center, and Pat Tabler singled to left.
Carmen Castillo was safe on a fielder's choice, with Tabler getting forced at second and Jacoby going to third. Bernazard's squeeze bunt scored Jacoby to make it 1-0, and RBI singles by Allanson and Brett Butler made it 3-0. Flanagan got out of the inning by getting Julio Franco on a flyout to center.
The Indians got three more runs in the sixth, helped by Rayford's third and fourth errors and RBI singles by Castillo, Bernazard and Allanson.
Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez was unable to pitch for a second straight game and may be sent back to Baltimore Tuesday for more tests on an inner-ear problem that has left him with headaches and dizziness. He is in the second day of medication, and if that doesn't work, doctors have told him he may need a minor surgical procedure.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have only eight pitchers, and Weaver said: "We've got to find out about Tippy and if we need to bring someone up from the farm system."