By Day 10 of the streak the kid was a Baltimore cult hero. That night, five kids in Ollie-Do's walked down the aisle right past North, called to B. Ripken, doffed their caps and showed him their haircuts.
On Day 11, the hero went 0 for 4, but the Orioles won 4-3. Billy Ripken isn't the only difference in this team. "The pitching is finally back to normal," says C. Ripken, manager. The staff ERA in June was 6.36; over the 11-game streak it was 2.75. For much of the first half of the season the staff consisted of the dependable Mike Boddicker and a cast of thousands (the Orioles used nine different starters and 11 relievers in June alone). But Dave Schmidt, a White Sox castoff signed as a free agent last winter, has now gone 4-1 in 10 starts to bring his record to 10-2. Rookie Eric Bell "stopped worrying and started letting the ball go" and struck out 21 in two starts against the Royals. Flanagan returned from injury rehab and in two outings allowed four earned runs. During the streak Baltimore held opponents to one run or less six times. The bullpen even began to settle, with Tom Niedenfuer getting a win and three saves.
Nevertheless, only dreamers really believe the O's have returned to championship form. But it didn't matter on Saturday night as Murray smashed his game-winner and provoked the deafening cheers that hadn't been heard for so long. The string ended on Sunday when the Royals' Charlie Leibrandt shut out the O's 4-0 on 2 hits, but in Baltimore it had been fun while it lasted.
After No. 11, B. Ripken thought back to the '79 and '83 World Series. "I sat there in the stands," he said, "and was as caught up in the excitement as anyone. But I never knew it could be this exciting on the field. I may have grown up around the Orioles, but this is more fun than I ever imagined in my wildest dream."