October 7, 1983, with Mike Flanagan picking up the win with five innings of one-run ball to give the O's a 2-1 series advantage over the White Sox. The Oriole offense battered Rich Dotson early and often and tacked on some late runs to make it an 11-1 laugher. Sammy Stewart got an old-fashioned save with four shutout innings of relief. It's a game that an O's fan would certainly like to relive once in a while, and it was a nice way to remember Flanagan.
But no one was laughing after two bench-clearing incidents. In the bottom of the fourth, Flanny came too far inside with a curveball and drilled Chicago slugger Ron Kittle on his already-gimpy left knee, and he had some cross words for the lefty. Home plate umpire Nick Bremigan immediately cinched Kittle in a bearhug, helping to defuse the tension. But the next inning, Dotson got two quick outs and then plunked A.L. MVP Cal Ripken, Jr. in the ribs. Cal immediately tossed his bat aside and took his base grinning and showing no signs of pain, seeming to goad the opposing pitcher. In the NBC announcing booth, Bob Costas and Tony Kubek attempted to read Ripken's lips, and thought that he shouted to Dotson: "Is that all you've got?" When the next pitch dusted Eddie Murray (who had belted a three-run homer in his first at-bat) off the plate, the switch-hitting first baseman wasn't nearly so jovial. He and the Pale Hose starter got into a shouting match, and everyone spilled out onto the field again, though again no punches were thrown. After much deliberation, the umpires decided that both teams had had their say and they issued official warnings. Compare this to the current state of things, when home plate umps jump up and issue warnings the first time a player gets plunked, either offering no consideration of context or leaving the scales uneven.
I was buried in my laptop by the time the Birds came to bat in the eighth with a 6-1 lead. But I snapped to attention when something else unusual happened. Designated hitter Ken Singleton, 36 years old and one season away from retirement, was intentionally walked after Murray had walked and stolen second (a surprising feat in itself!). Kenny was then lifted for a pinch runner: pitcher Jim Palmer, himself a week shy of his 38th birthday! I suppose he couldn't have been slower than Singleton, though he attempted only one steal in his lengthy career (making it safely in 1971). Manager Joe Altobelli also left himself with some bench options for the end of the game, though the outcome wasn't much in doubt by that point. Anyway, not much came from that odd substitution. Palmer advanced to second base easily on Todd Cruz's RBI single, but he was stranded there. When the O's sent eight men to the plate in a four-run ninth, backup catcher Joe Nolan batted for Palmer.
There you have it: Jim Palmer, pinch runner. How come nobody told me about this?