CHICAGO -- Son, if you want to be a big-leaguer, you've got to work hard. You've got to stay focused. And you've got to wear layers.
"That's one," Rafael Palmeiro said, peeling off his jersey after last night's 1-0 victory over Chicago.
"Two," he continued, removing his vinyl top.
"Three," he added, taking off his long-sleeve undershirt.
That left only his T-shirt -- and a layer of Vaseline.
"Closes up the pores," Palmeiro said.
Oh, it was a balmy 42 degrees at game time last night, with 20 mph winds.
Another beautiful night for baseball.
That's right, we're ripping the weather.
Go ahead, Mother Nature, complain to the publisher.
Crowds are down. Postponements are up.
But notice how every game suddenly is under three hours?
Last night was the Orioles' fifth straight, uh, breeze, thanks to All-Arctic pitcher Mike Mussina, who wore more layers (five) than he allowed hits (three).
L Now it's on to Boston, and the frozen tundra of Fenway Park.
It normally isn't this frigid in late April, but this supposedly is the warm-weather schedule, designed to reduce the number of cold-weather problems.
Maybe Peter Angelos was right about playing in Cuba.
Those aren't foul poles, they're the North Pole and South Pole.
Can't wait to see the first pitcher ejected for throwing a snowball.
Naturally, some want to reduce the schedule to 154 or even 144 games, so the season could start later and end earlier.
But the owners are hellbent on protecting their beloved gates, even if it makes better financial sense to play in better weather to larger crowds.
As usual, they're getting what they deserve.
Absurdly low attendances.
And sub-par baseball.
Last night was an exception -- Mussina pitched eight spectacular innings and Randy Myers rebounded after a one-out single by Tony Phillips in the ninth, striking out Ray Durham and retiring Frank Thomas to earn his seventh save.
It was an impressive triumph, considering that manager Davey Johnson again held Eric Davis (shoulder) and Jeffrey Hammonds (groin) out of the lineup, and let Roberto Alomar play only at the last minute.
Johnson might be taking a different approach if the Orioles were 3-10 instead of 10-3. But why risk injury to an important player this early in the season?
General manager Pat Gillick posed that same question yesterday, suggesting that no game should start below a certain temperature.
"I don't know what it should be, but it doesn't make a lot of sense for guys making $6 million to take a chance of getting injured," Gillick said.
"There should be some type of standard -- when it gets to a certain temperature with the wind chill, don't play.
"It should be automatic. Who wants to be entertained in weather below 30 degrees? They're nuts."
Well, 14,674 nuts showed up last night.
And the Orioles were chillin'.
Cal Ripken delivered a two-out RBI single in the third inning. Jerome Walton matched his career high with four hits. Alomar went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored the Orioles' only run.
Aw, it wasn't that cold.
Myers wore short sleeves.
So did Mr. Cracked Rib, Brady "Goosebumps" Anderson.
"Brady goes out there like that, it makes me just want to take my uniform off and go home," Palmeiro said.
Actually, Anderson wasn't thrilled, either. He donned a warm-up jacket in the on-deck circle, just like a pitcher.
"When you get your wakeup call, you don't need to have it rubbed in," he said. "Hello, Mr. Anderson, this is your 10: 30 wakeup call, it's 37 degrees outside."
One by one, the players returned to the clubhouse after the start of batting practice, adding gloves and ski caps.
"I've played in three games now, and the combined temperature has been like 70 degrees," right fielder Pete Incaviglia said.
Walton and Armando Benitez wore their ski caps even while inside. Palmeiro slipped one over his baseball cap during BP.
Jesse Orosco rolled his down near his eyes, prompting Anderson to shout, "That's a good look for you, Jess."
Orosco played in Milwaukee. He played in Cleveland.
"I still can't get used to it," he said.
Catcher Chris Hoiles is from Bowling Green, Ohio, and he can't get used to it, either.
Hoiles caught last night's game with one hand-warmer under his glove, and another under his back right pocket.
"Keeps my butt warm," he joked.
Not to mention his throwing hand -- Hoiles patted his rear between pitches.
He had three hits Tuesday night.
The Cuban-born Palmeiro, three whiffs.
"Coldest I've been for a game," he said.
And he wasn't alone.
"Benitez is there with me," Palmeiro said. "Robbie's there with me. Look at the guys we're talking about. Caribbean boys."
But in truth, everyone is uncomfortable.
"You've got so many clothes on, you can't feel the bat. You can't move, can't twist, can't run, can't throw," Hoiles said.
What's the answer?
"Summer," Palmeiro said. "It'll be here soon."
Pub Date: 4/18/97