Hats off to success the gray caps bring


MINNEAPOLIS -- Gray power.

Reeling from an 0-3 start, those fashion-conscious Orioles gave themselves a make-over before last night's game against Minnesota.

New relievers?

No, stupid.

New gray caps.

Desperate times require desperate measures, and halfway to Cal Ripken Sr.'s infamous 0-6, manager Phil Regan threw fashion to the wind.

Regan walked out of his office four hours before game time wearing the gray cap that nearly caused the players to mutiny last week.

He motioned to Rafael Palmeiro.

Palmeiro signaled his approval.

And the Orioles played like gray gods.

"It was the caps -- what else?" Regan said after the 13-7 victory, his first as Orioles manager.

PD Peter Angelos is always trying on new hats, so why shouldn't his

team? Once again, the owner is vindicated. He wants to be the next Bowie Kuhn. In truth, he's the next Calvin Klein.

Say it, Peter, say it:

Gray is good.

The Orioles led 7-0 after two innings and 12-3 after five. Not even the bullpen could blow this one. The Twins were so busy admiring the Orioles' caps, they made three errors.

Talk about winning ugly.

It worked for general manager Roland Hemond with the 1983 Chicago White Sox, didn't it?

You've heard of bad hair days, the Orioles had a bad hat week. No matter. They're a large-market team. They can afford as many caps as they want.

Now bring back the black jerseys.

That's next, as least as far as the players are concerned.

L And you thought Heather Locklear worried about her wardrobe.

Donald Fehr taught his union men well: They won't give away something for nothing. And since they were such good sports about the caps, they're ready to bargain.

Fehr taught them, all right: The players approved the caps, then rebelled against them. The party line is that the caps looked fine on their own, but no one knew how ghastly they'd appear with the gray uniforms.

Whatever, Ben McDonald went public yesterday with his plea for black jerseys. The Orioles wore them for his starts from early 1993 until the strike hit last Aug. 12. They were shelved this season, apparently at Angelos' demand.

"That's a good enough reason," Brady Anderson said.

Yes, but the Orioles were 14-9 when McDonald pitched in black last season. They wore gray behind him Thursday night, and lost to Minnesota, 7-4, in a game that featured two errors by shortstop Cal Ripken.

"Junior never made two errors with the black jerseys," McDonald said. "If we had the black jerseys, it never would have happened."

That Ben, such a model performer.

"The guys like the black jerseys," McDonald said. "Mr. Angelos, from what I heard, doesn't like them. But I like winning. I'm superstitious. I'd rather pitch in the black jerseys. We've got to get them back on the field."

Think this stuff isn't important?

The Orioles also wore black jerseys behind Sid Fernandez last season -- except for one start at home, when former pitching coach Dick Bosman urged him to pitch in white.

"Bosman told me it was harder [for hitters] to pick up the ball out of the white jersey," Fernandez said, still incredulous that it was even an issue.

Fernandez couldn't remember which game it was, and that was the extent of the Orioles' fashion dissension, until the controversy over the gray caps.

Regan compromised by saying the caps would be worn only on "special occasions" -- for instance, when the Orioles needed to end a losing streak.

Of course, he never expected to declare such a state of emergency three games into the season.

What if the Orioles had lost lost night?

"There are no 'ifs,' " Palmeiro said before the game. "We're going to win."

"If we don't," Jack Voigt said, "we won't wear any hats tomorrow."

Anderson walked into the clubhouse, resplendent in a black shirt, black slacks and a black sport coat.

He won't be happy, Palmeiro was told.

"He'll be happy after we win tonight," Palmeiro shot back.

It took approximately six seconds for Anderson to express his displeasure, but Palmeiro quickly interrupted him.

"You're making fun of Peter," Palmeiro said. "Peter picked those hats."

Anderson reconsidered.

"I love those hats," he said.

You bet he does, after hitting two triples and scoring four runs.

"We're 1-0," Palmeiro said. "That's all I've got to say."

New York, Paris, and now Baltimore. The caps will become big sellers. The Orioles will attract legions of new senior-citizen fans. All of Baltimore will be draped in gray, and surely the CFLs will win the Grey Cup.

It's a trend, all right.

Gray power.

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