Grich endured a similar indignity. He was hitting .383 after 63 games with Rochester in 1970 when the Orioles called him up as infield insurance. He fully expected to remain on the roster for the 1971 season, but the Oriole infield of Robinson, Belanger, Johnson and Powell was impenetrable and he, too, was returned to the minors for additional, if unnecessary, seasoning.
"It was frustrating at the time," he can say now. "But in a way, maybe it was a good thing. I knew I had to have a super year at Rochester, so I pushed myself that much harder."
Grich had his super year, all right. He led the International League in batting (.336), home runs (32) and total bases (299). Like Baylor before him, he was named Minor League Player of the Year.
Baylor, black, and Grich, white, are roommates on the road and close friends. They have been together regularly since they signed with the Orioles in 1967, but despite the similarity in their records there is little personal rivalry between them. "We don't compete," says Baylor. "We help each other."
Since they can both hit and can play nearly every position on the field as well, they are obviously invaluable to this year's Orioles. Along with Crowley and Oates, they offer Weaver the maneuverability he seems to require.
"Our attack," says Andy Etchebarren, "has been a couple of walks and a hit batter. Take those four kids out and we'd be hitting under .200."
One player the Orioles have done without is Frank Robinson, and Weaver is forever being asked to speculate on how different the season would be if, The Charts or no, he could write that lost luminary's name in the lineup.
"I don't know if we'd be farther ahead or not," he says. "The way things are going, I'd probably have to use him at first base but, look, Crowley and Baylor, who have been playing there, have 11 home runs between them. Sure, Frank is a good ball player, but if Boog and Johnson were doing what they're supposed to do and Rettenmund was hitting his .320 we'd be out in front anyway. In years gone by I wouldn't trade Frank because I didn't know if we could win without him. I thought we could this year. It all balances out. If we win, we made a good trade. If we don't we didn't."
Doyle Alexander, the 21-year-old pitcher the Orioles received from the Dodgers in the Robinson deal, has been effective in relief and he is the only other pitcher on the staff who has started a game besides the Big Four. His ERA, too, is under three.
If the hitting famine continues, the Orioles will need all the pitching they can muster. On days when the pitching is not taut and tough, they can expect to lose. After Cuellar's five-hitter against the Yankees last week, Jim Palmer, who had won eight straight, lasted only an inning and a third and New York won 4-3. "Isn't it amazing," said Manager Ralph Houk. "One guy throws all that junk up there that you figure anyone could hit—and kills us. Next thing you know here comes this guy with lightning, and we get him for five solid hits in less than two innings." Crowley scored twice and Grich hit a solo home run for the Oriole scores and Baylor had a pinch-hit single, so at least youth was served. There was speculation as to why Weaver started the slump-ridden Hendricks as catcher instead of Oates, who is also a left-handed hitter and who has a batting average 175 points higher. Was there something in The Charts? Or was Wizard Weaver prophesying a Hendricks surge of power?