Of course, all those wins require more than mere good luck. "Jim never throws the ball down the middle," says Brooks Robinson. "He just goes inside and outside. And he works on the fine points of his game so much that I think he is the best fielding pitcher in the American League."
When they obtained power-hitter Earl Williams from Atlanta last winter it looked as though the Orioles might continue to rely on their old strategy of standing around and waiting for the home run. Then Weaver decided that the Orioles could feed young players into the lineup and go for speed. "That doesn't mean we start bunting in the first inning, try to score a run and play it safe from there," Weaver says. "We're just trying to get the most out of what we have."
Baylor, a 6'1", 200-pound speedster who has hit .466 since the middle of July, and Bumbry, a mite of a man who is averaging .310 and may well be the fastest player in the American League, have kept a cloud of dust hanging over American League parks with their base running. Outfielder Merv Rettenmund, dormant last season after an excellent .318 two years ago, is hitting again and so is Second Baseman Bobby Grich. The club's top batter in 1972, Grich has been at the bottom of the league with an average in the .220s for much of this season, but over the last three weeks he has looked more like the young Grich of old, raising his average 10 percentage points.
Although Baltimore has been as low as fourth at various times, opposing players always felt the Orioles were lying in the weeds, that even when they were down they were still the team being chased. Should they win the American League pennant, it would mark the fifth time in eight seasons the Orioles have done so—and only Yankees, Giants and Dodgers have ever gone five for eight. The sandpipers may be running their way right into history.