The 1971 World Series, at least the first two games' worth, was scarcely a triumph for those who consider baseball to be a tactical exercise. Rather, it proceeded a bit more along the lines suggested by the Pittsburgh Pirates' Roberto Clemente on Monday after his team was disassembled 11-3.
"You hit him hard," said Clemente, speaking of the Orioles in a collective sense—which is the way the Orioles always seem to be coming at you, "and he hit you harder. And you say, 'This fellow want to kill me.' "
The Baltimore Orioles may not exactly have had homicide in mind, but there was no doubt that the Pirates were on the verge of extinction. Those who were looking forward at all could only hope that the escape from Baltimore to their carpeted home field would offer them a chance to recoup, or at least to die less ignominiously.
The opening loss was by a reasonably dignified 5-3 score, although all of the Oriole runs were a result of home runs. The second was something else, however, an inartistic shambles in which the Orioles inflicted many indignities. Oriole Pitcher Jim Palmer twice walked with the bases loaded, scoring Brooks Robinson each time. Merv Rettenmund singled twice in one inning—the six-run fifth. And Pirate Catcher Manny Sanguillen was felled at the plate by a near-perfect block thrown by the Orioles' Dave Johnson. Johnson was out on the play. So, nearly, was Sanguillen.
"I'm sorry," said Johnson on his next turn at bat. "That's O.K.," said Sanguillen. Later he qualified his acceptance of the apology. "That's no fair baseball," he said out of Johnson's hearing. "But what can I say after he says, 'I'm sorry'?"
In all, the Orioles reached Pirate pitching for 14 singles in that second game, three of them by Frank Robinson (see cover), a home-run hero in the first game, and three more by Brooks, who also walked twice. Frank entered the third game in Pittsburgh hitting a robust .625, Brooks .571.
All of this—the heavy hitting, the roughhousing, the bases on balls (15 in the second game alone)—negated what both managers seem to count upon as a forum for the expression of their tactical genius.
Danny Murtaugh has the prototypical baseball manager's face—a masterwork of seams and pouches, all drawn downward to a junction with his protruding jaw. But he is no curmudgeon, and he has great respect for his trade. Asked how important a manager is to a team, particularly one that hits .274 for the season, Murtaugh replied in depth.
"The leader of any team in professional sport has to play an important part in its success. Every manager must realize what his ball club needs. We are all equal in this knowledge. We all make about the same moves. Eventually it is a question of strength."
Murtaugh's team has its strength; it also has its weaknesses, one of which—pitching—may prove competitively fatal against a club as abundantly talented as the Orioles. As the clubs headed for Pittsburgh, Murtaugh's best hopes for survival seemed to be in praying for rain. At least the Pirates did not lose on Sunday.