Birds give Oates late-inning gift for anniversary Oriole homers give Oates just gift he wanted

August 13, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

Andy Oates, 15, walked into the Orioles manager's office, shook his father's hand and said, "Mom says she's proud of you."

Because the Orioles broke a five-game losing streak? Because the manager stuck up for his players only to be ejected?

Probably neither of the above. Probably just on general principles, the way he has handled disappointment in his first months on the job.

"I had a dream we'd win my first 20 games," John Oates said.

On their 24th wedding anniversary yesterday, Oates and his wife Gloria went out for lunch. When he seemed to drift off, she asked why. He admitted he was thinking about the night's lineup.

"Give me an hour of your time," Gloria Oates urged.

Oates never thought he'd become so engrossed in his job. He never thought the Orioles would lose so many games, either, and maybe that's why he has been so absorbed.

But for one night at least, Oates was released from defeat when Leo Gomez hit a home run off Donn Pall with one out in the bottom of the 11th to edge the White Sox, 5-4, last night before 25,975 at Memorial Stadium.

By the Orioles' standards this season, it was a huge win. They came into the game with a 1-6 record on the homestand and just one defeat shy of their longest losing streak (six) of the year. They were a game away from being swept in a four-game series at home for the first time since 1986.

"We needed a win bad, whether we did it in the bottom of the first or the bottom of the 11th," Oates said.

Gomez needed a hit just as badly. He was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats and hadn't homered in the last 15 games.

"All I was thinking was base hit," Gomez said. "The way I've been struggling the last few weeks, I was just trying to get a hit somewhere."

"It was starting to get him mentally," Oates said. "This is a tremendous shot in the arm."

Pall took the pitch -- and the defeat -- philosophically.

"He called a breaking ball," Pall said, referring to catcher Carlton Fisk. "I threw a breaking ball and he hit it. I was thinking Gomez was probably looking for the pitch, but I have to go with my best pitch."

Gomez's home run helped serve as redemption for the pop foul that fell between him and Cal Ripken in the second inning. Given new life, Warren Newson hit a home run two pitches later to trim the Orioles' lead to 2-1.

It appeared third base umpire Jim McKean might have distracted Gomez because he was so close to the third baseman in case he had to make a call near the stands.

"The umpire was right there," Gomez said, meaning he was distracted. "It was between me and Junior. He [the umpire] almost caught the ball."

Oates had no beef about McKean's position on the play: "The umpire was there to watch for fan interference. He was where he was supposed to be."

It was catcher Chris Hoiles who put Gomez in position to win the game. Ben McDonald appeared headed for a one-run defeat until Hoiles hit a home run with one out in the ninth to force a 4-4 tie.

Six of Hoiles' seven home runs have tied the score or put the Orioles ahead. It snapped a string of 32 1/3 scoreless innings by the White Sox bullpen and was the first run in 13 1/3 innings allowed by ace reliever Bobby Thigpen.

"Nobody's perfect in this world," said Chicago manager Jeff Torborg.

Hoiles went to the plate not thinking home run, desperate as the Orioles were for one at that point, but simply with the intent of getting on base.

"That's how big innings start," Hoiles said.

The Orioles' late home runs overshadowed Oates' fourth-inning ejection by McKean. The dispute centered on whether Hoiles' bouncer toward third base was fair or foul and whether Randy Milligan, who was on third at the time, retreated to the bag before White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura tagged him. The rulings were that the ball was fair and Milligan was out.

Uncharacteristically, Oates went into a rage, kicking dirt and throwing his cap. It was his second ejection, the first coming a week ago today.

When asked if he used profanity to McKean, Oates admitted he did, "But nothing I wouldn't say to my wife."

In retrospect, the controversy was of little significance.

"All that mattered was that Ben pitched well and we got a few big hits from the kids," Oates said.

And now maybe Gloria Oates will get an hour of her husband's time.

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