Around 3 p.m. yesterday, the California Angels gathered for early batting practice at Camden Yards and the consensus was in: The ball was not carrying out.
"Things changed after 3 o'clock," said California left-hander Jim Edmonds.
And how. The Orioles and Angels hammered opposing pitching for 11 home runs, which tied a major-league record for most homers in a game by two teams.
"After about the sixth inning, I was pretty much convinced it was going to be one of those games," said Edmonds.
Sorry, Jim, but the trend had long been established by then. By the end of the sixth, the two teams had smashed the Baltimore record for most combined homers in a game, with only the major-league mark, set eight times, including by the Orioles and Toronto on Sept. 14, 1987, left to chase.
Was this game the definitive proof that the 1994 baseball is juiced?
"No, it was pretty poor pitching. In fact, it was very poorly pitched," said California manager Marcel Lachemann.
How strange were the proceedings? So strange that Mike Mussina, who came into the game with the American League's lowest ERA, gave up a career-high five homers, and still won. So strange that the 11 home runs traveled a combined 4,085 feet -- but not one went more than 400 feet.
"This is the most exciting game of the year, at least for the fans," said Mussina. "They come out here to see home runs and that's what they got. It was like a basketball game. People pay to see dunks. You might not see 11 dunks in a basketball game."
At least Mussina is in good company. The last Orioles pitcher to give up five homers in a game was Jim Palmer, who watched the Boston Red Sox torch him for five in a June 22, 1977 game.
"I heard the ball carries good here in the summertime, and it's the summertime," said Rafael Palmeiro, who slammed a two-run drive to center in the second.
In all, nine players connected but, surprisingly, only two, California's Tim Salmon and Baltimore's Jeffrey Hammonds, ,X went deep twice, though all Hammonds wanted to talk about was atoning for a dropped fly ball in the fifth.
"I'm telling all the young kids out there to catch with two hands," said Hammonds. "I'm 23 and I think I know it all and I don't."
Still, Hammonds' first two-homer game was a thing that even he could admire. "I hope my parents get to see those homers, because I know they'll show that [the dropped ball] on the highlights," said Hammonds.
Afterward, participants from both sides tried to put the night's display into a context.
Said Edmonds: "Everybody's played in the Texas League, and this is pretty much what it's like."
But Orioles reliever Lee Smith has pitched at Chicago's Wrigley Field, the ultimate bandbox.
He said he was called up after the Cubs and the Phillies played a 23-22 game, but said he couldn't imagine that game being any wilder than last night's.
"I told you the ball was juiced," said Smith. "I've been trying to tell those guys that they [hitters] are going to hurt somebody."
7+ All that got hurt last night were ERAs.