Waterfront Rowdies Brawl for Divisional High Ground

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Here's a little taste of Mark Kram writing about the Red Sox and Orioles on the Fourth of July back in 1974:

In most seasons it is not until the period around the Fourth of July, the divide between the earnestness of spring and the finality of fall, that baseball weaves itself into our tapestry of life. Up to then the days seem long and damp, and if the game is not far away it is not immediate, urgently calling out for attention. One can leave it—glance casually at the box scores, go occasionally to a ball yard to keep in physical touch. Then at the time of the Fourth, people light a match to their interest, begin to discern, to plunge into the seeming infinity of the hunt. So for the tracker of baseball from a distance, it was time to take another sip of a cooling drink, warn the kids not to go too far into the water, and look around and decide, ah, yes—the American East.

For the people who still go to ball parks, the place to be last week, if you could make it, was either Baltimore or Boston, where two old waterfront rowdies brawled for high ground in a division that belongs to nobody. The matchup was there, all right: here was Boston, long the edgy, dark neurotic of baseball, clinging by whitening fingers to first place while many waited patiently for its falling scream; here was Baltimore, the most dependable club of the last decade, its once solid facade now suddenly cracking into red-raw pieces from internal unrest and dwindling attendance figures, yet a team which, if allowed to stay on the pace, will kill you in September.

I like this part:

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 [Don] 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 Carboin 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.

Ah, yes: the Fatman.

[Photo Credit: Neil Leifer, SI]