Before making his Camden Yards debut last night, Bobby Bonilla said he was nervous. Not a surprise, considering the hero's welcome he got, from the time he stepped off the plane here yesterday morning.
But there were no first-night homers by Bonilla, nothing by which to mark his first game with the Orioles. Bonilla, acquired from the Mets in a trade Friday night, played right field and batted cleanup and went hitless in four at-bats.
It was an ex-Oriole that made the big impact: Mike Devereaux hit two homers, as the White Sox beat the Orioles, 7-4, overcoming three homers by the Orioles.
Bonilla didn't have any of the homers, after a long day of travel and jitters and cheers.
Bonilla told Orioles GM Roland Hemond Friday night that he planned to drive from New York to Baltimore, and Hemond winced. Don't get any tickets, Hemond said. Don't get stuck in traffic. Don't get into an accident. Bonilla, hearing the fear in Hemond's voice, decided to fly, and his plane landed shortly after 10 a.m.
Everywhere he went, through the airport, at his hotel, people welcomed him, called to him. Bonilla had admitted to Orioles manager Phil Regan Friday night that he was nervous, and all this attention fed his jitters.
He met Regan shortly after 1 p.m., shaking hands. Regan told him about the team's relatively strict dress code -- "Boy, some clothes store is really going to like me," Bonilla said -- and the manager pointed at the earring dangling from Bonilla's left lobe.
"He told me," Bonilla said, " 'the Big Guy [Peter Angelos] doesn't like that.' I said, 'All right.' "
Bonilla walked around the spacious clubhouse, for which, he said, he would need a map. He stared in awe at the video equipment, saying how much he looked forward to using the tapes to hone his swing.
Bonilla then set up his locker and pulled out his equipment. One problem: He needed a pair of black shoes, and the only spikes he had were colored Mets blue. His shoe company told him that they would have his shoes delivered by Tuesday, but Bonilla needed black spikes for last night's game.
So he and Rafael Palmeiro rummaged around the clubhouse and looked for size 13 1/2 spikes. Ben McDonald had a pair of size 13 shoes that became temporary property of the newest Oriole.
He met with the media, saying a dozen times that he was nervous. Bonilla shook hands with his new teammates, then took batting practice for the first time, driving one ball 20 rows into the left field stands.
About 20 minutes before the game, Bonilla stepped out of the dugout to play catch with Kevin Bass, and the crowd cheered. They continued to yell and shout and stand when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup by public address announcer Rex Barney, and when he was formally welcomed on the scoreboard, and by Barney.
Brady Anderson singled to open the Orioles' first. After Manny Alexander hit into a forceout, Palmeiro singled, Alexander running to third, and as Barney introduced the next hitter to the Oriole Park crowd of 47,313, his words were smothered by more cheers for Bonilla.
White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice went to the mound to say something to Mike Bertotti, perhaps that Bonilla could be antsy and swing at anything near the strike zone. Which is what Bonilla did. Three pitches, one high, two very low. Three swings. Three strikes.
Bonilla was cheered again as he walked back to the dugout.
He grounded out to short in the third inning and grounded out to third in the fifth inning.
The Orioles, in the meantime, built a 3-1 lead. Chicago had taken a 1-0 lead against rookie left-hander Rick Krivda in the third. In the bottom of the inning, Jeff Manto mashed his first homer since June 24, and two batters later, Alexander homered. In the fifth, Palmeiro hit the Orioles' third bases-empty shot of the night, his 22nd homer of the year.
But the White Sox came back. Devereaux hit his first homer, and Robin Ventura walked. Following a strikeout of Ray Durham, Mike Oquist relieved Krivda, in his first appearance in eight days.
Oquist was wild, walking Ron Karkovice (hitting .228 going into the game) and gave up a single to No. 9 hitter Craig Grebeck that tied the score at 3-all. A wild pitch allowed Karkovice to score the lead run.
In spite of his ineffectiveness, Oquist started the seventh and walked Devereaux to lead off the inning. Gomez and pitching coach Mike Flanagan visited the mound, buying time for Arthur Rhodes to warm up. But before Regan could pull Oquist, Robin Ventura singled to left.
Rhodes, pitching for the first time in a week, was no better. He bobbled a sacrifice bunt to load the bases, and walked Karkovice to force in a run. Rhodes pitched out of that jam without allowing any more runs, but the Orioles trailed 5-3.
Bonilla had one more shot at first-night glory in the bottom of the seventh, after Palmeiro's bloop single scored Harold Baines. Bonilla walked to the plate, tying run on third, potential winning run on third, got ahead on the count 2-0 . . .and grounded weakly to second.
HITS AND MISSES
On the field: Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken argued with plate umpire Rick Reed after taking a called strike three to begin the sixth inning. Leo Gomez took a called strike to end the inning, and as Ripken was taking Gomez's glove to him, he continued to argue with Reed, who followed him out onto the field. Orioles manager Phil Regan came out of the dugout to get between Ripken and Reed and prevent his shortstop from being ejected.
In the dugout: With a runner at second, one out and one run already in, Orioles left-hander Rick Krivda intentionally walked White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas, who leads the majors in walks. Krivda pitched out of the inning, getting Lyle Mouton on a pop to second and Mike Devereaux on a fly to left.
In the clubhouse: "It's nice to be in a pennant race. I just didn't think Baltimore would give them [the Mets] what they wanted." -- Bobby Bonilla, before last night's game.