Inspired Orioles rally to end losing streak, 7-3 Pre-game hoopla gets team excited

October 06, 1991|By Kent Baker

The inspiration came before the national anthem, before the first pitch was thrown.

It came during the hoopla that is building to a crescendo on the historic final weekend of baseball at Memorial Stadium.

First, the uniformed members of the Baltimore Orioles traipsed to the stadium gates to surprise and personally thank some of the more than 2.5 million fans who have supported them faithfully this season.

Then, the greatest Orioles in history to play at the stadium were introduced to a rousing ovation, and the tenor of the afternoon was set.

The Orioles were ready to play, aroused by the events surrounding them, and despite a temporary detour constructed by Detroit Tigers starter Mark Leiter, they didn't disappoint.

By scoring in their final four at-bats, they ended a five-game losing streak with a 7-3 victory that whetted the appetite for today's grand finale.

"Somebody in the public relations department [Evelyn Ehlers] had this wild idea, the craziest idea I've ever heard, to have the players taking tickets before the game," said Orioles manager John Oates.

"Our guys enjoyed it. I know we were in a good frame of mind to play. Most of those fans' mouths just dropped seeing us there. I thought it really went over well.

"I'm not saying I'll recommend we do it every day, but it put us in a celebratory mood."

Chito Martinez, who hit a two-run homer off Leiter in the sixth to put the Orioles ahead for good, then was moved by the appearance of the All-Time Orioles Team.

"It was great just to meet them, Brooks Robinson, the best third baseman of all time, Boog Powell, all of them," said Martinez. "I had heard of them, but I never saw them play. It was an honor."

Leiter had beaten the Orioles with his first major-league complete game five days earlier and appeared en route to another commanding performance when staked to a 2-0 lead by homers from Scott Livingstone and Lou Whitaker against Dave Johnson.

The Orioles shaved the margin in half in the bottom of the fifth. In the sixth, Glenn Davis tripled, Pete Incaviglia failing to make a diving catch in left, and Martinez hit his second homer in two games off Leiter and the reversal was complete.

"He's just happened to make a couple of mistakes against me," said Martinez. "He got behind and had to come to me. I was looking for one pitch, and I got it."

With the opposing managers making pitching changes and substitutions as if it were the seventh game of the World Series, Jim Poole and Mark Williamson held down the Tigers to allow Brady Anderson to apply the knockout blow.

Anderson tripled in the eighth with the bases loaded against left-hander John Cerutti, giving Williamson his first save since June 15.

"Johnny said to hit a triple in the gap," said Anderson, who had entertained notions of an inside-the-park grand slam before stopping because "I watched the ball too long."

"It felt good playing in front of so many people. It doesn't feel like we're in sixth place. It feels like we're in a pennant race."

This is, indeed, the Orioles' own World Series, and the team "wants to play well because we knew we'd have three full houses," said Oates. "I'm glad we won because I didn't want to go into the last game with a six-game losing streak. I didn't want that hanging over our heads all winter."

Oates said he will play a lot of veterans in the ceremonial closer, including Joe Orsulak against left-hander Frank Tanana.

But no matter what happens, it will be difficult to match the interplay the players had with their adoring public yesterday.

"All we really did at the gates was hand out [Orioles 1992] calendars," said Anderson. "We talked to them a little while. You'd think players would be reluctant to do something like that, but I don't think any of us minds giving something back after all the support they've given us. There was nothing burdensome about it."

David Segui, who had a key run-scoring single, was in the unique position of being at the same gate as Cal Ripken before the game.

"There was a line back to 33rd Street on Junior's side and they had to drag people to come through my gate," he said. "The fans enjoyed it thoroughly, and it's the least we could do to show our appreciation."

Martinez said: "I didn't know what to expect from it. Something like that can get out of hand. But there was supervision there, and it was a nice thing. We met them personally and gave a little something back."

The big crowd also was invigorated, and then it received another present when the Orioles rallied.

"It's a lot more fun to play in this," said Segui. "It's not a matter of the standings. It's the energy level that gets you."

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