When your hometown ball team is struggling to avoid having the worst record in the majors -- as the Orioles are with Houston at the moment -- you have to look hard for silver linings. One of those is the performance of the pitchers under John Oates.
In the 17 games the club has played since Oates replaced FranRobinson as manager (the O's are 7-10 in that period), the staff's earned run average is a respectable 3.47. When Robinson was fired it was 4.96. Both managers, of course, have had to work with what baseball people call short staffs.
Oates, a former catcher who seems to understand pitching as only a former batteryman can, has used 61 pitchers in 17 games. Says Oates: "They're talking about putting down a carpet where I walk out to save the grass."
* People keep asking me about Horace Grant, of the Chicago Bulls. Doesn't he play for the Bullets? Was he traded? Can there be two of him?
The Bulls' Grant, Horace, is the twin of the Bullets' HarveyHorace is five minutes older. Reminds me of the days when Baltimore was in the NBA and the Van Arsdale twins, Dick and Tom, were playing in the league.
Speaking of the Bulls, they are so clearly superior to the Lakers that I look for them to wrap things up tomorrow night in L.A. Chicago has held the Lakers under 100 points four straight games. As everyone knows, you win with defense, no matter what the sport.
* One of the most admired men on the local sports scene, MounSt. Mary's longtime basketball coach Jim Phelan, lost his mother, Lillian, on May 22. She would have been 87 on July 4. Lillian lived with Jim and his wife, Dottie, in Emmitsburg for the last 10 years.
People tend to think all good lacrosse players come from Maryland, Long Island, or Central New York (Syracuse). The Lacrosse Classic held at Johns Hopkins last weekend featured players from 30 states.
Top lacrosse players are now coming from non-traditional areasuch as Detroit and Denver, thanks in large part to the missionary work being done by the Lacrosse Foundation, which now, presumably, can be done even better in the brand new Hall of Fame building at Homewood.
* If anyone was slighted by the selection of Brown's Dom Starsias men's college lacrosse Coach of the Year it may be Towson State's Carl Runk. Runk took the No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament and finished No. 2 to champion North Carolina.
Towson State, as you may or may not know, is by no means an easy recruiting sell for Runk and his staff. Says Runk, who has coached at Towson for 24 years: "I once had the coach at Dulaney High give each of his 40 players a sheet of paper and ask them to write down their top four college choices. Not one kid even mentioned Towson."
* Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but I'm offended by the Orioles' radio commercials claiming "it's the only game in town." Hey, O's, we all know you guys are the big cheese in our town, but there are lesser entities out there (Bays, Blast, Jacks, Thunder, etc.) who are working hard just to survive. You don't have to rub their noses in it.
* Loyola College soccer coach Bill Sento is no dummy. He loseight players from his 16-2-5 team of last year. So what did he do about it? He went out and recruited 12 new ones, including high school All-America Bill Heiser, from Bowie.
* The most surprising thing to me about Orel Hershiser's returto the Dodgers mound is not that he can still pitch after a layoff of more than a year, but that he can still hit. Hershiser, when he beat the Cubs, 6-3, in Chicago Sunday for his first win in 15 months, delivered key singles in L.A.'s two-run fifth inning and in the three-run seventh. He's 5-for-6 in his three starts.