Ah, yes, the World Series of 79. That was the year it snowed, right? Well, close. In spite of miserable weather, Doug DeCinces' home run put Baltimore one up, but the next night Eddie Murray was nailed at the plate by Ed Ott as the Pirates evened it at a game each. Ken Singleton met a similar fate, Pittsburgh's Steve Nicosia making a diving tag, but the Orioles won anyway to move ahead 2-1. And then 3-1, as big Tim Stoddard was tough in relief and with a bat. But Bill Madlock kept the Pirates alive when he rapped out four hits to send the Series shivering back to Baltimore.
It had rained so fiercely and so long on the scheduled opening night of the 1979 World Series that even Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, a man as impervious to inclement weather as Nanook of the North, could see no virtue in exposing the Orioles and Pirates to pneumonia or trench foot. Thus, for the first time in history, a Series opener was postponed. It snowed the following morning, and it rained a little more in the afternoon as temperatures warmed to a notch above freezing. But by game time the ebony skies above Baltimore were leaking only occasional moisture. The night's first hero was Pat Santarone, the Oriole head groundkeeper, who, with a crew of 25, transformed a Memorial Stadium field the consistency of quicksand into a diamond on which a player might stand for moments at a time without sinking to his armpits. This is not to say the field was playable—there were stretches in the outfield, notably where the football benches had been situated during the Colts-Jets game the previous Sunday, that were pure Chesapeake Bay mud—but the chances were fair that no one would drown out there.
The temperature was a rapidly declining 41� at 8:37 p.m. (E.D.T.) when the game began, but in the first inning only the Pirates seemed unable to cope with the cold and the mire. In the bottom of the first neither Pittsburgh starter Bruce Kison nor Second Baseman Phil Garner could come to grips with the ball, and their team's hopes for a fast start fell from their slippery fingers.
Al Bumbry led off for Baltimore with a looping single, and Mark Belanger, the defensive genius with the .167 batting average, walked. Ken Singleton bounced a double-play ground ball directly at Kison, who, alas, bobbled it and was only able to retire the hitter, Bumbry and Belanger advancing to second and third. Eddie Murray then walked to load the bases. John Lowenstein cracked yet another latent double-play grounder to Garner, who fielded it cleanly enough, but, after experiencing minor difficulty in extracting the ball from his glove, threw it to Leftfielder Bill Robinson. Bumbry and Belanger scored, and Murray advanced to third. "The ball was soaking wet," Garner said later. "My fingers were numb. I couldn't get a grip on it. It was like throwing a bar of soap."
Now Kison victimized himself further. With the count two balls, no strikes on Doug DeCinces, he unloaded a wild pitch, and Murray trotted home with the third run of the inning. DeCinces then slugged a long two-run homer to left to make it 5-0. After poor Kison, a skinny man unfortified with suet against the cold, allowed Billy Smith a single to right, Manager Chuck Tanner replaced him with Jim Rooker, the first in a succession of capable Pirate relievers who held Baltimore scoreless the rest of the way. "I lost the sensitivity in my pitching hand," Kison said in an explanation reminiscent of Garner's.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh picked away, a run here, a run there. Willie Stargell's eighth-inning homer put the Pirates within striking distance at 5-4, and it was he who came to bat as the prospective winning run with two out in the ninth. The tying run was on third in the large person of Dave Parker, who had raked Mike Flanagan for his fourth hit—the Pirates' 11th—and had survived a Flanagan pick-off attempt by sliding hard enough into second base to knock the ball loose from Belanger's glove. The count reached 2 and 1 as Flanagan and Stargell confronted each other through clouds of their own breath in the dark midnight air. Flanagan survived. Stargell popped high but harmlessly to Belanger in short left.
Flanagan, a New Hampshire native, said he acclimated easily to the cold. Still, he acknowledged, "When I woke up this morning I thought I'd slept too long and it was December." By hanging on against the chilling presence of Pirate batsmen, he staved off for the time being a long cold winter in Oriole-mad Baltimore.
When Murray comes to bat, Baltimore zealots send up a tumultuous "Ed-dee, Ed-dee, Ed-dee" liturgy. He is a popular player who drove home 99 runs this season but, beyond his obvious competence, there is about him an air of anticipation. When Murray is on the field, something will happen, for good or ill. In this game he outdid even himself, figuring importantly in at least five pivotal plays.