A black-and-orange festival reserved for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, disco, Wild Bill Hagy and between-inning cameos by former players also featured the Orioles' ultimate 1970s staple -- the three-run home run -- as three blasts and an airtight bullpen performance were enough for a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on throwback night at Camden Yards.
Last night's remembrance of the 1970 and '79 world champions came off complete with a return of the cartoon bird, sans-a-belt pants and an offense out of Earl Weaver's playbook. Playing an increasingly familiar role, third baseman Cal Ripken sent a crowd of 38,545 home happy with a sixth-inning home run that proved the difference in the Orioles' sixth win in eight games.
"That is what we're trying to do now -- add to that history and maybe in 30 years or so they'll bring back some of these guys," said manager Mike Hargrove.
First baseman Jeff Conine, right fielder Chris Richard and Ripken homered to account for the Orioles' five runs, while starting pitcher Jose Mercedes (7-13) dropped leads of three runs and one run before leaving with a third advantage after six innings.
Willis Roberts capped three innings of shutout relief with a scoreless ninth inning for his fourth save, and third of the homestand.
The Orioles initially had scheduled the retro promotion for the night of July 18, but it was postponed due to that afternoon's Howard Street tunnel derailment, sending several players, including Ripken, home in their orange "Halloween" jerseys. The rescheduled game lost little of its power while also featuring a command performance by former catcher Rick Dempsey during the third inning.
Doug DeCinces and Boog Powell stepped on field between innings. Mike Flanagan and Jim Palmer donned wigs in the broadcast booth, with Flanagan resembling the Fifth Beatle and Palmer looking like Mrs. Palmer.
Second baseman Jerry Hairston jogged before the game sporting an Oscar Gamble Afro wig beneath his cap. Hawkers sold popcorn by the dollar in cardboard megaphones. Unfortunately, the Turn Back the Clock theme didn't extend to ticket prices, but it did bring out assorted period costumes complete with tie-dye, hoop earrings and bell bottoms. The bases were swept after the fourth inning and sepia-tinted teasers were shown of players before their plate appearances.
"There were some pretty good flashback moments tonight," Ripken said. "It gave some reminders of Orioles past, and that was a very special time."
The Orioles wasted little time getting into the mood. With one out in the first inning, Conine hit a three-run homer off Royals starter Kris Wilson (6-3) after Brady Anderson reached on an infield single and Melvin Mora was hit by a pitch.
Mercedes lost the lead in a third inning that began with Donnie Sadler's double, continued with a one-out walk to Brent Mayne and turned on cleanup hitter Joe Randa's three-run homer on an poorly placed off-speed pitch.
A night of nostalgia also found time for the unusual when 1983 World Series MVP and current Comcast broadcaster Dempsey took the field with a towel, a microphone and some attitude before the bottom of the third inning.
After reminiscing at length about the days when he would climb the Memorial Stadium bullpen and stoke the crowd by whipping a towel, Dempsey brought typically restrained Camden Yards to its feet by spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S Hagy-style not once, but twice.
By the end of Dempsey's command performance, plate umpire Jerry Crawford stood hands on hips glaring at him. Wilson appeared to fume but later dismissed the incident.
"I thought he was going to stand on the mound and make the pitcher wait on him," Hargrove said. "There's only one Rick Dempsey."
Dempsey's "moment" was scripted as part of the night's ceremonies, but his extended ad lib caught even organizers off guard.
"I didn't know if it was a planned thing, and I needed to wait. [Dempsey] moved out of the way, actually, which I thought was pretty cool. I didn't even think about it, really," Wilson said.
"Baseball has always been full of distractions," said Royals manager Tony Muser. "Some are planned. Some are unplanned. Adjust."
Wilson's frustration only multiplied when Richard drilled his second pitch of the third inning for a tie-breaking home run. Hagy, sitting several rows behind the third base dugout, had reached the second "O" when Richard connected.
Oriole Magic, indeed.
Asked if he thought Dempsey's antics may have contributed to Wilson's lapse, Muser said, "Rick didn't come out before the others."
Mercedes hurt himself again in the sixth inning, nearly costing himself a decision. A two-out single festered when Mercedes balked Raul Ibanez to second base and immediately surrendered a flared hit to center field by Luis Alicea. Surprised by Hargrove's decision to lift him, Mercedes lashed out at a pair of water coolers before storming to the clubhouse.