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SMILE FOR THE BIRDIES
Douglas S. Looney
June 18, 1979
Guided by baseball's shrewdest manager, Earl Weaver, Baltimore is again a power in its division—a frugal power at that
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June 18, 1979

Smile For The Birdies

Guided by baseball's shrewdest manager, Earl Weaver, Baltimore is again a power in its division—a frugal power at that

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When Brooks Robinson faded, young Doug DeCinces was, after a brief period of adjustment, ready; with Belanger perhaps on the slide, Kiko Garcia seems to be equal to the task of replacing him one day. On the other hand, the Orioles don't want to lose Palmer, and they pay him accordingly—about $260,000 a year.

"My one problem is I've got too many good pitchers," says Weaver. With a straight face. That explains why he could remain calm, even affable, when Palmer flew off to L.A. last Thursday to have his elbow examined. Promising young Sammy Stewart once sat for 22 days before he was called on. Reliever Tim Stoddard has waited 15 days between stints.

The infield, with Eddie Murray at first (he hit 54 homers his first two years with the team, 1977-78), is very strong. The outfield is adequate. Leftfielder Gary Roenicke, who wears a face guard to protect a cut mouth that required 25 stitches and plastic surgery earlier this season, is fielding well and hitting .298. Al Bumbry, who broke his left leg and dislocated his left ankle a year ago, a disaster that sunk the Orioles, is back in center and hitting .281.

In rightfield is Singleton, perhaps the best player on the team. His arm has recovered from 1977 surgery that hampered his throwing last season. The one Oriole weakness could be at catcher; both Dempsey and Dave Skaggs can throw well, but their hitting is so-so.

One night last weekend, after another win, the players were hovering over a crab feast in the clubhouse and DeCinces was explaining, "On this team we all need each other." True. On Thursday night Palmer was scratched, and Stewart promptly stepped up and pitched his first complete major league game. It was a two-hitter, and the Orioles beat Kansas City 3-1. On Friday night Flanagan emerged from a slump and went the distance, beating Texas 3-0. On Saturday night Roenicke scored a run on an all-out sprawling headfirst dive to the plate as Baltimore won 4-3. On Sunday, losing 4-2 in the ninth, the Orioles rallied for three runs to beat the Rangers and give Dennis Martinez his ninth victory.

It's a we team, not a me team. Ron Shapiro, a local sports attorney, recalls when Reggie Jackson was on the scene. "Observing Reggie was like observing an island," says Shapiro. "He just didn't tie in with the land around."

No one could ever say that about Dempsey—or the other Orioles.

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