After these last three Orioles losses to Minnesota, there's some skepticism now at the All-Star break regarding the O's ability to hold up over the rest of the season.
Some of the most interesting comments come from the 6-foot-6 man in the yellow sport shirt who was distributing umbrellas to fans at Camden Yards over the weekend.
He's Dick Hall, who pitched well enough for the O's between 1961 and 1971 to be elected to their Hall of Fame. Hall is a Swarthmore College-educated thinking man.
Hall is president of the Maryland Professional Baseball Players Association, which is holding a golf tournament fund-raiser July 27 at Eagles Nest to benefit the Johns Hopkins Hospital Children's Center. Former big-leaguers rarely accept responsibilities like this.
Hall is also active with the Oriole Advocates, the volunteer organization dedicated to stimulating and promoting interest in Orioles baseball. It's in this connection that he's on duty at the ballpark entrance on giveaway days. Dick is the only ex-Oriole in the ranks of the Advocates.
"The Orioles are only four games out of first place, and that's better than anybody thought they'd do," Hall said. "I'm sure the new park has something to do with that with 45,000 people in here for every game. But I wonder if they have the pitching depth to stay in the race.
"Mike Mussina looks like he's for real. He has good stuff and a good temperament. He goes right after hitters.
"Rick Sutcliffe works fast, and I like that. If you know what you're doing, it's smart to work fast. That way, the batter doesn't have time to think about things.
"I'm afraid Bob Milacki doesn't quite throw hard enough. Ben McDonald's ball doesn't rise like Mussina's. Ben needs to get better control of his breaking ball. Instead of coming through the farm system, Ben was put right out there. That's hard to do. It takes time to learn control."
Hall, who co-stars with former teammate Boog Powell on a new Valvoline commercial, is one pitcher who's qualified to lecture on control. He was in the big leagues for 19 years and made only one wild pitch.
Hall was asked about Arthur Rhodes, the 22-year-old lefty who had such an auspicious '92 Orioles debut against Minnesota Thursday night. Won't he help?
"If he can pitch," Hall said. "You can't tell by one game. You just don't know what he's going to be like."
* During the third inning of Saturday night's 6-5 Orioles loss to Minnesota, when the Twins and O's were still scoreless, something important to the club's future was being finalized inside the club's offices:
The Orioles were signing their first-round draft pick, Stanford's Jeffrey Hammonds, to a minor-league contract worth nearly $1 million.
"I'm a little surprised we were able to sign him so early," scouting director Gary Nickels said yesterday. "We were afraid it would take longer. We've got our first nine picks signed now, so we're happy."
Before Saturday's Orioles game here, Hammonds had two hits and stole a couple bases in the U.S. team's 10-4 victory over South Korea. Last night, Hammonds hit a homer in a 2-1 U.S. victory over the Koreans. Hammonds will play for the United States in the Olympic Games in Barcelona.
"We're not planning to assign Hammonds to one of our minor-league teams after he gets back," Nickels said. "Stanford played its first game on Jan. 27. Jeffrey has been playing ball ever since."
* Larry Cooper, a well-known and popular Baltimorean who played football at the University of Maryland in the '40s, died of cancer last week. He was 67.
Cooper, who played football and lacrosse at St. Paul's before enrolling at Maryland, was on the practice field at College Park on a day in 1945 when Terps football changed forever.
Up to that time, Maryland's football team was made up largely of players from within the state such as Cooper, the big tackle.
But, on that day, a bus pulled up at practice, and off stepped Bear Bryant, Maryland's new coach. With him were 20 or so players, all of whom had been playing for Bryant's wartime North Carolina Pre-Flight team at Chapel Hill. Cooper loved to describe the scene.
"We're in the middle of practice," Cooper would recall, "and Bryant tells us, 'All right, you fellows go over there on that other field. These players with me are going to be the Maryland football team.' And Harry Bonk and Vic Turyn and a bunch of guys we'd never seen took over the field and they were the Maryland team."
And soon Jim Tatum would come to Maryland, and the Terps would be on their way to successes Larry Cooper and the local guys had never imagined possible at Maryland.