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YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever) JOURNAL, All-Star Break Edition

Major league baseball has been so unpredictable this season. I don’t know if it is parity or mediocrity or more likely both, but only 10 of 30 MLB teams can say definitively that they will not enjoy any October playoff baseball this year.

The most secure way to the playoffs is to win one of the six divisions. Thanks to a good rules change a couple of years ago, two wild-card teams will meet in one Winner Take All game to make it into the first best-of-five round against the division winner with the best record.

To cap this madcap season so far, the last game prior to the All-Star Game Break was delayed by rain in the bottom of the 5th inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles were leading their arch-rival Yankees, 3-1, so it was an official game.

I fully expected resumption of play in the wee hours of Monday morning but the Yankees caught no such break. The game was called a few minutes after midnight and the Orioles go into the ASG break with a four game lead over Toronto and five over the Yankees.

My Birds are 10 over .500 qualifying them for contender status according to Lowenfish’s Second Law of Baseball Dynamics. But they face a tough second-half schedule beginning with three series at Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle, three teams who have emerged in the top tier of the American League. They then play LA and Seattle at home.

“To be the best you have to beat the best,” Branch Rickey often said and so let the games begin on Friday after the needed break of a few days.

One of the charms of baseball is its visceral link of present and past. The shortened game last night brought to mind another Yankee-Oriole matchup in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon August 13, 1978.

I was spending the month on the ocean in Rhode Island but thanks to good radio reception I was able to pick up a New York broadcast of the tussle.

The Birds entered the 7th with a 3-0 lead but the Yankees rallied and took a 5-3 lead. Disconsolate, I snapped off the radio and went into the ocean to drown my sorrows in waves and foam. Imagine my surprise barely a half-hour later when I returned to my beach blanket to discover that the Orioles had won 3-0.

You see, there had been a rain delay. And the game was called while the Yankees were still batting and the Orioles were ruled winners by a 3-0 score because the 7th inning had not been complete. The old rule was reversion of score to last complete inning.

Not long after, an official change was introduced that would make games with lead shifts in uncompleted innings suspended. To be picked up at a later date.

What caused baseball to act was that manager Earl Weaver’s groundskeeper Pat Santarone had been instructed to delay putting on the tarp to allow the grounds to become unplayable. There had been an earlier rain delay in the same game.

I chuckle at how Billy Martin or Weaver - if he had been on the wrong side of the score last night – would have handled the top of the fifth inning. Winds were swirling all over Camden Yards and the grounds crew was ready to put on the tarp in any moment.

It was not yet an official game and you can bet Billy Martin or Weaver or any other old school manager would have had batters delay getting into the batters’ box. The umps would have urged them to hurry up but, “Hey, ump, I got something in my eye.
Gotta see the ball right?”

How baseball has changed! There was a quick first out made by former Oriole Brian Roberts and a circus catch by Nick Markakis made by right field on a fly ball hit by Ichiro Sizuki that must have changed directions three times.

Then unbelievably rookie Yangervis Solarte swung at the first pitch and while it went foul, he soon grounded out to Manny Machado at third to end the inning and made the game official.

Steve Pearce, one of the great perseverance stories of the season – released in April and now a regular contributor to the Orioles – walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth and then the rains came. Victory for the Birds, perhaps tainted but a win's a win.

Well, that’s all for now. Lots of baseball ahead to enjoy and agonize over.

And always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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