My uncle had four tickets for the Friday night game and couldn't use them, so he offered them to my father. The Birds would be hosting the AL West-leading Chicago White Sox, who would go on to win the division before bowing to the sinister Blue Jays in the ALCS. As we prepared to make the drive downtown, I can remember gathering up all of my baseball cards featuring players on both teams: into the stack went the Ripkens and the Raineses, the Bradys and the Big Hurts. After all, if the opportunity for autographs arose, I didn't want to be caught unprepared. In addition to my father and myself, my mother and grandmother also came along. It was the only time that I ever went to a baseball game with my grandmother, as it so happens.
We took our seats in the lower reserve, which afforded us a nice view of the entire diamond from the middle seating bowl as well as some slight relief from the triple-digit temperature at first pitch. I surely would have taken in all of the visual landmarks of the still-new structure, from the massive B & O Warehouse that loomed beyond the Eutaw Street flag court in right field to the modern video scoreboard in center field that was topped with a more traditional-looking clock adorned with an "ORIOLES" wordmark and flanked by twin oriole birds.
I had my game program and magazine in hand and dutifully took score as the visitors immediately jumped on O's starter Ben McDonald. Tim Raines led off with a single and scored on a double by Joey Cora, who in turn scored two outs later on a Robin Ventura grounder. After Dan Pasqua walked and Bo Jackson singled, Lance Johnson singled to right to make it 3-0 Pale Hose. What happened next was crucial. Rotund backup catcher Mike "Spanky" LaValliere lined a single to left field, but Brady Anderson came up firing and gunned down Bo and his artificial hip at the plate to end a long first inning. Ben McDonald wouldn't give up another run on the night.
Chicago sent rookie Rodney Bolton to the mound, making just the sixth start of his big league career. After losing his first four games, he'd picked up his initial win five days earlier, holding these same Orioles to three hits in seven innings. Early on in this game, the O's still couldn't solve Bolton. Former ChiSox infielder Tim Hulett's third inning single was the only hit off of the rookie through five innings. Hulett came around to score on a Mike Devereaux sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 in favor of the away team, and it stayed that way until the home half of the sixth.
The inning started innocuously enough, with Mike Devereaux grounding out to Ozzie Guillen. Harold Baines was next, and he also put the ball on the ground. However, second baseman Joey Cora's error allowed Baines to reach base and opened the floodgates. Cal Ripken's single put the tying run on base for catcher Chris Hoiles, who was in the midst of a career year. Hoiles drove the second pitch he saw deep to left field and GONE! Just like that, the Orioles had a 4-3 lead, but they weren't finished. After the next batter (David Segui) singled, however, Rodney Bolton was finished. He was replaced by Jeff Schwarz, who struck out Brady Anderson before falling apart. He walked the next three hitters, including Mark McLemore with the bases loaded to force in Baltimore's fifth run. That was all she wrote for Schwarz, who gave way to Bobby Thigpen. The former closer offered little relief; singles by Devereaux and Baines brought home all three inherited runners. Cal Ripken grounded into a fielder's choice to finally end the inning after twelve batters. The Birds had exploded for seven runs on five hits, three walks, and an error, and led 8-3.
Not content to stop there, the boys in orange and black tacked on two more runs in the seventh on a David Segui home run off of Thigpen. With a 10-3 lead, they kept the good times rolling in the following inning off of Kirk McCaskill, the fourth Chicago pitcher of the day. Cal Ripken singled in Damon Buford, Brady Anderson doubled in two more runs, Tim Hulett had an RBI grounder, and Harold Reynolds (the only O's starter without a hit) lined out to left field for a sacrifice fly. The Birds batted around once more and held a ridiculous 15-3 lead.
Entrusted to protect the twelve-run lead was hard-throwing rookie Brad Pennington. He was not up to the task, loading the bases and surrendering a two-run single to Tim Raines before rebounding to strike out Joey Cora and Frank Thomas. Robin Ventura then served Brad's thirty-second pitch into right field to knock the deficit down to single digits, 15-6. Johnny Oates summoned submariner Todd Frohwirth to shut the door. The tall righty barely broke a sweat, throwing five pitches and inducing a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Steve Sax to end the game at a less-than-tidy three hours and thirty-four minutes.
With a staggering offensive outburst that neared their season high (16 runs vs. Boston on June 11), the O's had moved within two and a half games of the front-running Blue Jays and made a winner of Ben McDonald, who had rebounded to allow just two hits after a rocky first inning. The real hero was Chris Hoiles, who was 3-3 with a home run, three runs batted in, a walk, and a hit by pitch. He reached base all five times at bat, and scored three runs.
Most importantly, the Orioles cemented their status as MY team.