That was the profile of the two clubs before the series, and that is the way it still looks as the Orioles move into Fenway Park for three games in two days. The heat travels up the coast and drops on Fenway like a wet sponge, but nearly 28,000 push and shove their way into this misshapen slattern of a stadium. McNally starts the first game of the double-header for the Orioles, opposed by Dick Drago. Right away the action flares. While he tries to contain the lead of Tommy Harper, who opened the game with a single, McNally commits a balk. Weaver argues. Three hitters later McNally again balks. Weaver goes into a 10-minute rage, assisted by McNally.
McNally is thrown out of the game and Alexander is summoned. This time he stops the Red Sox. Baltimore's pitching tightens a little; Boston's unravels completely. The Oriole bats obliterate Drago, and then go on to bust up Reggie Cleveland in the second game. The offense is fearsome: Bumbry and Coggins hit and are in high gear; Powell's bat is more than a menacing shadow; every ball hit finds a hole. And the defense shores up. Boston drops two games, 9-2, 6-4. The fans move out of the park quietly.
The next afternoon—the Fourth of July itself—is brutally hot. Nothing stirs in downtown Boston, dreamlike catamarans move up and down the Charles River, the Common is crowded with dogs sleeping in the shade of trees, old men fanning themselves with their hats: life almost at full stop. But out at Fenway the organ bounces along patriotically and 13,622 fans are beside themselves with optimism. And why not? They have Luis Tiant, who has been artfully brilliant, going against someone named Jesse Jefferson, who had not started for the Orioles all year. Tiant loves the heat and he surely will halt the reviving Orioles. His record against them for the Red Sox is 10-1. But Luis does not have his touch. That lack, combined with intense Baltimore firepower that never seems to end, gives the Orioles a 10-6 victory and drops Boston to just half a game ahead of suddenly dangerous Cleveland.
After it is over, this is evident: the series has been one of the more sadistic prosecutions of pitching seen in a while. The two teams collected 119 hits (including 11 home runs; an abacus is needed to record the other extra-base hits) and 62 runs. Working 5? innings of the series, Oriole Reliever Bob Reynolds has given up 15 hits and 6 runs, ruining his fine ERA of 2.18. After his final appearance he rips off his uniform, throws it into a clubhouse trash can filled with tobacco juice and shakes the can violently.
Yet this has been a series that, if not of classic quality, certainly has had a character of its own. It has been wide-open baseball, the kind of baseball that provokes talk and emotion. "Let 'em boo," said Weaver after Baylor had trouble with the lights. "He doesn't deserve it, but I'd rather have 'em booing than home kickin' their television sets." The action around second base has been furious, so much so that even a balletomane would have appreciated the body control of Bobby Grich. The players have put up what they had, and nobody can ask for more.
Dumb and less than competent baseball has also infected the series: Bernie Carbo in a vital situation running right past Coach Zimmer at third, heading for home while Mark Belanger, holding the ball in deep short, looks again to make sure his eyes are not betraying him, and then throws Carbo out as if he were swatting a fly; Cecil Cooper taking a ground ball at first base and then stupidly chasing Grich back to home as a runner advances; the throwing to second of Catcher Williams—usually on two bounces—who could not stop Sydney Greenstreet on a steal.
No significant ground is won or lost after the series closes, but the Orioles have demonstrated once more their ability to break a good club in half like a twig, that despite their problems they may yet again slowly ride the hot summer wind successfully.
Fenway is empty and in its ancient bowels the managers talk. Johnson says he's going back to fundamentals, Weaver says he's going on to Oakland, and both of them, as they push on, would agree with Eliot's Prufrock: And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/And for a hundred visions and revisions,/Before the taking of a toast and tea.