WASHINGTON -- The day was beautiful, but the picture o crowds at the ticket line outside the park was ugly.
An estimated 4,000 fans were waiting to receive their tickets at the will-call windows in the fourth inning of yesterday's exhibition game at RFK Stadium.
Many of them missed almost half of the Boston Red Sox's 4-1 victory that denied the Baltimore Orioles their first winning preseason record since 1984.
The problem was rectified when officials hand-dispensed a stack of tickets and bypassed the windows, which were primarily for advance orders charged with a credit card.
Stadium general manager Jim Dalrymple conceded that the arrangements were planned poorly.
"We blew it," said Dalrymple. "We got egg on our face. But it'll be improved tomorrow."
A performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the adjacent D.C. Armory did nothing to ease the traffic congestion, with an estimated 10,000 people attending the noon performance.
"You can only move so much traffic in the area," Dalrymple said. "But we had people picking up tickets today for tomorrow, and we'll have nine windows [as opposed to three] open tomorrow [today].
"It's not like we do this day after day after day. Some people are rusty."
Still, the crowd of 37,458 was the third largest of the spring, ranking only behind the two games the Orioles and New York Yankees played at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium last weekend.
"That's a significant statement," said John Akridge, chairman of the group attempting to bring baseball back to Washington.
The park's baseball configuration prevented a rerun of last year's 11-home run game between the Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals when the left-field fence was 265 feet down the line.
But the park still had its detractors.
"I don't think this is really a good baseball stadium," said the Orioles' Randy Milligan, who botched a first-inning line drive by Jody Reed in left field.
"The sun is right square over home plate, and that affected all the outfielders," Milligan said. "The grass is slow in the infield and outfield, and they definitely need some new sod."
Orioles starter Dave Johnson said: "The mound is hard. It almost ripped my toe off. It was just too firm. But the fences play like a real park. It could have been a lot worse."
Manager Frank Robinson agreed that the grass was a little too long and soft but said "there were no major problems. It's nice to play here on a regulation field.
"Seeing the fences back made for legitimate home runs."
Mike Devereaux provided the Orioles' only run with a homer off winning pitcher Danny Darwin, and Boston's Jack Clark connected against Mark Williamson in the eighth inning to help put away the Red Sox's 21st victory of the spring.
The Orioles (14-15-1) will have to settle for their first non-losing exhibition record since 1985, when they finished 14-14.
They produced only six hits yesterday and had only one runner in scoring position until Devereaux hit his fourth exhibition homer in the sixth.
Darwin, who has a 5-1 record in six starts this spring, retired the first 12 batters before Glenn Davis singled to lead off the fifth.
Darwin has a 3.00 ERA.
Of the four Orioles' pitchers, Williamson was treated most rudely, allowing two runs and three hits in his single inning.