A classic matchup between the Orioles and Seattle Mariners last night became a classic case of confusion as an electrical outage within a bank of lights forced the game to be postponed after more than two hours of back-and-forth among players, umpires, team executives, the Maryland Stadium Authority, Orioles owner Peter Angelos and American League president Gene Budig.
Crew chief Al Clark finally postponed the game at 10 p.m. after determining that shadows at home plate created unsafe playing conditions.
"My concern was to do the right thing," said Clark. "My concern was to do what was fair."
It took 2 hours, 25 minutes to make that determination as Clark, Orioles vice-chairman Joe Foss, general manager Pat Gillick and Mariners manager Lou Piniella paraded repeatedly across the field to discuss the situation. As a result, last night's game will be played today as part of a day-night doubleheader beginning at 1: 35 p.m. The second game will be played at the regularly scheduled 7: 35 p.m.
Fans were literally and figuratively left in the dark. "I'm upset. They could have let us know right away instead of making us wait an hour and a half," said Bob Kirhard of Woodbridge, Va.
The catalyst for the confusion occurred shortly before 7 p.m. when Orioles officials were notified that a bank of lights behind the first-base dugout was not fully functional. When attempts were made to fully light the standard, a blackout would occur.
The Mariners had every reason to play. They now have to play consecutive day-night doubleheaders in different cities as they travel to Chicago tonight. Piniella complained afterward that he will now have to use seven starting pitchers in the next five days, one of them an emergency call-up from Triple-A.
However, Piniella was in no mood to put his team at a competitive disadvantage after many of his players had showered and dressed after being led to believe the game had been called shortly after 9 p.m.
Foss said the decision was reached around 9: 15 p.m. with the rest of the time devoted to players voting on whether to play a twi-night or split doubleheader. (Meanwhile, fans were not informed until 45 minutes later.) Shortly after 9 p.m., a technician emerged from the Mariners' dugout and, motioning upstairs to the broadcast booths, dragged his finger across his throat, suggesting the game had been called. Mariners players were shortly seen in street clothes. Already changed, right fielder Jay Buhner walked through the stands.
At about 9: 20 p.m., Orioles starter Scott Kamieniecki began walking toward the bullpen as Cal Ripken emerged to soft toss along the first-base line.
"They went over to vote on the doubleheader. We were still under the impression that we were still thinking about playing. Once Al came back and said he didn't think it was bright enough, some of our guys went out to check it out. We felt for everyone involved, it would be better to play tonight," said Orioles player representative Mike Mussina.
But according to Mariners public relations director Dave Aust, an Orioles official had notified the club that an attempt would be made to play.
A peeved Piniella replied, "You can play, but it's going to be without us.
"I don't know how that would have happened," said Foss. "That was not the situation. There must have been some miscommunication somewhere along the line."
Much of the confusion stemmed from the number of people involved in the decision. Foss contacted Mariners general manager Woody Woodward and Budig while Clark was continuously conferring with player representatives Mussina and Dan Wilson as well as Gillick and both managers. With a capacity gate at risk, Angelos urged that every attempt be made to play the game.
"We're just basically going along with the options that were presented. Evidently, they wanted to get the game in for the fans. We understand that. These people have stayed here 3 1/2 , four hours, and they wanted to see a ballgame and we wanted to give them a ballgame. But once my starting pitcher showers, I couldn't do much about it," Piniella said.
Clark said the liability issue involving players and fans was paramount in the discussions. Again, Piniella suggested otherwise.
"Everybody was concerned about the liability issue. Somebody gets hit, the lights aren't good, a fan gets hit in the stands, and all of a sudden, that problem didn't exist anymore after the different conversations that we had," added Piniella.
The Orioles were wary about playing in less than ideal lighting, especially with Mariners ace Randy Johnson pitching. According Gillick, the situation might have been different if the outage had occurred on the third-base side. But with the left-handed Johnson, such allowances were less likely.
"There's concern for these guys. We didn't want to take a chance of anybody getting hurt," Gillick said. "What if something happens to one of our players, or for that matter, one of their players?"
The shuttle diplomacy centered on three possibilities: playing, ordering a twi-night doubleheader or having players consent on a day-night doubleheaders. Since the Orioles already have scheduled their allotted two day-night doubleheaders, the club required approval from its players.
"It wasn't like they made a decision and we made a decision. It was more like a joint decision," said Mussina.
Foss said that he was given "100 percent" assurance by the Stadium Authority that the snafu would be rectified in time for tonight's game. In a prepared statement, Stadium Authority chairman John Moag apologized to fans and both teams. The statement said the cause for the outage had not been fully determined but promised "an immediate and full investigation" had begun to prevent a recurrence.
Opponent: Seattle Mariners, day-night doubleheader
# Site: Camden Yards
Time: 1: 35 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Randy Johnson (16-3, 2.35) vs. Orioles' Scott Kamieniecki (7-5, 3.94)
Tickets: Fans should use rain checks from last night for today's first game.
Time: 7: 35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Ken Cloude (0-1, 4.50) vs. Orioles' Jimmy Key
Tickets: Scattered singles and bleacher seats remain.
Pub Date: 8/15/97