SI Vault
Ron Fimrite
October 22, 1979
It was Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, and both teams vs. the weather as the Orioles soared and the gallant Pirates rallied to stay alive
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 22, 1979

A Series Of Ups And Downs

It was Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, and both teams vs. the weather as the Orioles soared and the gallant Pirates rallied to stay alive

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

McGregor gave up only one run after the rain delay, but he came within inches of giving up many more. In the fifth, Singleton caught Parker's long drive with his back up against the 375-foot sign in right, and in the sixth Nicosia and Garner hit back-to-back shots that carried to the fence. "Zippo is what we got on all three," said Garner. The Pirates seemed disconsolate after this loss. They had beaten the Orioles in their home park and were hoping for a sweep at home. Instead, zippo.


With his team trailing 4-3 in the third inning, Oriole pinch-hitting ace Terry Crowley turned to fellow reservist Lowenstein in the dugout and said, prophetically, "I can see right now it'll be you, me and Kelly." It was. At least it was Lowenstein and Crowley. Pat Kelly did get an inconsequential, if disputed, infield pinch hit in the seventh inning, but Lowenstein and Crowley provided the ammunition for what Weaver calls his "loaded gun" bench. They and tall Tim Stoddard, a pitcher who rarely pitches and never hits, more than likely shot Pirate hopes to kingdom come in this, the first day game of the Series. At least it started out as a day game. When it ended three hours and 48 minutes later, the lights were on in chilly Three Rivers. It was the longest nine-inning game in World Series history and, therefore, joined the opening game of this Series, which, at three hours, 18 minutes, was the longest Series night game, in the record book.

No matter how long it took, it was a demoralizing loss for the Pirates, who saw a four-run lead evaporate in the early innings, a three-run lead disappear toward the end. Pittsburgh's first four runs were scored in the second on Stargell's homer to dead center, a single by Milner, consecutive ground-rule doubles by Madlock and Ott and singles by Garner and Omar Moreno. But Garcia, rapidly becoming the Bucky Dent of 1979, doubled home two runs in the third and scored himself on Singleton's double. The Pirates kept their distance with single runs in the fifth and sixth off Steve Stone, pitching in relief. Their own starter, Jim Bibby, had struck out seven in the first six innings. Then in the eighth, with one out, the Orioles loaded the bases off Reliever Robinson, and Tanner called cadaverous Kent Tekulve in from the bullpen. Tekulve had retired nine straight hitters in the previous two Series games, but this time Weaver was ready for him. He had intentionally withheld his star lefthanded pinch hitters in the hope that they would get a shot at the long-armed sidewinder.

Tekulve's whiplash delivery is anathema to righthanded hitters. Still, when he was in the minor leagues, he had been urged to switch to an overhand motion, the theory being that he would be prey for lefthanders who would have too long a look at his sidearm pitches. His remarkable success—31 saves in 94 appearances this year—pretty well silenced the theorists. All, that is, except Weaver.

Lowenstein, who won the Orioles' first playoff game with a pinch homer, was the first gunner. Batting for the right-handed Roenicke, he worked the count to 2-2 and then doubled past a groping Stargell down the rightfield line, to drive in two runs and reduce the Pirate lead to 6-5. Billy Smith, another Weaver pinch hitter, was walked intentionally to load the bases and set up a double-play possibility. Tekulve's fastball sinks naturally, so ground balls are common when he works. The next hitter, to Tekulve's ultimate sorrow, was, however, the fore-sighted Crowley, a .317 hitter in 63 at bats this season.

As Weaver would say later, Crowley was in the right spot at the right time. He took Tekulve to a 2-2 count, as Lowenstein had before him; then, just as his benchmate had done, he doubled down the rightfield line to score the tying and winning runs. The excitement must have been too much for Weaver, because he now let his pitcher, Stoddard, hit for himself, and Stoddard had never before swung a bat in the major leagues. But Weaver wanted Stoddard to stay in the game, so he might hold his two more heralded late-inning relievers, lefty Tippy Martinez and righty Stanhouse, in ready reserve. Weaver told Stoddard to take a couple of strikes and then shift for himself. In fact, Weaver hoped Stoddard would not make enough contact to end the inning with a double play. Stoddard borrowed a bat from Lowenstein and a batting helmet from Singleton and, disobeying all instructions, hit Tekulve's first pitch on a high bounce over Third Baseman Madlock's head to score the insurance run. It was his first hit in professional baseball. Bumbry knocked in one more run for good measure, and Stoddard put the Pirates, most definitely a subdued group of players, down in the eighth and ninth.

The game represented a personal triumph for Weaver, who has lately taken to brushing aside encomiums on his genius. "This ain't so hard," he will, say, blushingly. His players think differently. "Earl seems to pull everybody out of the hat at the right time," said Lowenstein, one of those pulled out this day. "I will go home tonight saying I didn't miss any moves," Weaver finally conceded. "At least I don't think I did."

He can rest assured that he did not. Not a one.


Continue Story
1 2 3 4