MINNEAPOLIS -- Gregg Olson was the highest bubble as the Orioles reached the boiling point here last night.
Obviously furious at home plate umpire Dale Ford, the Orioles' relief ace was the eye of the post-game storm following last night's 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. After Olson (0-2) gave up a broken-bat, game-winning, 10th-inning single to pinch hitter Randy Bush, he berated Ford as he left the field.
When he reached the dugout, the frustrated Olson made an obscene gesture at a roving television camera that was focused on him. Later, after cooling down in the trainer's room for 45 minutes, Olson first said he was unaware of what he had done, and then apologized.
"I don't know what I do in the heat of the moment," said Olson, still upset by the chain of events. "I didn't consciously do anything.
"I don't know what's going on -- everything's a blur right now. I'm trying to sort things out as they come.
"But if I did something to offend anyone, I apologize. I regret it. I'm really sorry it happened -- and I won't do it again."
Olson has a highly competitive nature, but only rarely in his three-year career has he been as visibly upset as he was last night. And he brought up a subject that has long been a source of irritation to players -- television cameras focusing on activity in the dugout.
"I don't believe cameras belong in the dugout, and here, basically, that's where they are," he said. "I don't think it's anybody's business what I do in the dugout after losing a game, when I'm in a fit of fury.
"I'm sorry if I offended anybody, but I can't be blamed for my actions. I was just looking for a place to hide, and unfortunately they [the TV cameras] found me.
"I should have gone into the hallway [leading to the clubhouse]. But if I had done that something else would've happened and I don't want to talk about it," said Olson.
He was referring to the fact that the umpires were leaving via the same route as the Orioles, and a lot of screaming already was taking place.
Most of the Orioles were as livid as Olson, and stayed in the cooling off territory for a long time after the game.
Olson would not comment on the ball-strike calls of Ford in the 10th inning, but he had a capable spokesman. Jim Palmer, who had worked the telecast, was outspoken in his criticism of Ford.
"That was pathetic, a disgrace," said Palmer. "How can he be umpiring in the big leagues? Don't they ever review tapes?
"It wasn't just the 10th inning, it was the whole game," said Palmer. "In the 10th inning it just looked like he wanted to get it over with."
Neither Olson nor manager John Oates would be drawn into the debate. "I'm not talking," said Olson. "I was happy with my pitching, that's all I'm saying."
Oates took a similar stance. "I thought my pitcher made some pretty good pitches," he said. "That's all I'm going to say. I can't get involved in that -- at least not now."
Catcher Bob Melvin would not talk about specific pitches, only balls and strikes in general. "I don't know what is a ball or strike anymore," he said. "I'm numb."
The controversy tended to overshadow the latest in a string of frustrating losses for the Orioles. Again they had chances to put this one away. Again there were plays that could've turned the game in a different direction.
But, again, there wasn't enough to get the job done.
Jeff Ballard was ineffective in four-plus innings (eight hits, three runs), but the bullpen kept the Orioles in the game and Cal Ripken got them even and provided a late chance to win.
That came in the top of the 10th inning, following a double by Ripken, a walk to Randy Milligan and a near three-run homer by Dwight Evans that left runners on first and third, one out and Sam Horn batting for designated hitter Chris Hoiles.
It all came apart when Horn's rocket one-hopper to second baseman Chuck Knoblauch triggered an inning-ending double play. Oates would have no part of the theory that his short bench, created by an 11-man pitching staff and the unavailability of Jeff McKnight, had anything to do with his strategy.
"He [Horn] has done a good job pinch-hitting for us," said Oates. "There's nobody else other than him I'd want up there in that situation -- unless it's Cal. And I couldn't get him up there again -- he was already on third base."
It was a tough night all around for Evans, who came within a couple of feet of giving the Orioles their first extra-inning win of the year (they have lost three). "The pitch [from reliever Carl Willis] got in on me just a little bit," said Evans. "I knew I didn't get all of it, but it was one of those 'maybes,' when you think it might have a chance."
Hoiles had missed a home run by no more than two feet on a drive to right-center in the sixth inning, which only helped set the tone for the evening.
Earlier Evans was victimized by the gray background and bright lights in the Metrodome, losing a long drive off the bat of Greg Gagne, which went for a triple. "I lost it when it went through the lights," said Evans, "and I never saw it again until it hit [halfway up the wall]. I probably should have played the line drive [a single hit by the next batter, Dan Gladden] better too. I feel bad about it, but . . . "
That seems to be the bottom line for the Orioles so far this season. Too many buts.