Offering further proof that 1999 is the season that wouldn't die, the Orioles yesterday were forced to postpone the final two games of their series against the Oakland Athletics, creating the probability of an inconvenient make-up doubleheader in the midst of a transcontinental 11-day, nine-game road trip.
Club officials took the unusual step after examining the tracking pattern of Hurricane Floyd, which is expected to graze eastern Maryland today. Now they are confronted with shoe-horning two games against a wild-card contender into a scheduled day off Sept. 23. The alternative would be to reschedule the games for Oct. 4 only if they affect the AL wild-card race.
Safe to say, the Orioles are unlikely to wave off a guaranteed gate of about 41,000. Though the club surpassed 3 million attendance on Sunday, it is faced with its lowest total for a full season since Camden Yards opened in 1992. Yesterday's dual postponements makes it likely that refunds will be extended for at least one of those games. If there is a doubleheader, it will not be handled as a day-night arrangement.
Majority owner Peter Angelos and chief operating officer Joe Foss are attending ownership meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., and could not be reached.
The club withheld any announcement about making up the games pending league approval and a determination on how to handle ticket exchanges; however A's officials were given the impression that a Sept. 23 doubleheader was likely.
Yesterday, Orioles general manager Frank Wren insisted the games would be played. If so, there is no alternative to next Thursday, the only remaining day off shared by the Orioles and A's.
"I think the only way [the games won't be played] would be to get rained out at the first possibility date and then at the end of the year these games don't mean anything," Wren said.
The Orioles expect the decision to be reached no later than tomorrow. Fans are encouraged to hold tickets from yesterday and today's games until an official announcement is made. Fans living outside a 75-mile radius of Camden Yards may request a refund from either postponement. Refunds must be submitted in writing to the Orioles.
If the games are made up next Thursday, the accompanying travel will be brutal for the wild-card contenders. The A's play an afternoon game at home Wednesday. Following a cross-country flight, they would then play the afternoon doubleheader here, reboard their charter and fly to Texas for a Sept. 24 night game.
The abrupt postponements sent team officials and players scrambling. Orioles players who had arrived in shorts and athletic shoes suddenly found themselves having to rush home to pack for an 11-day trip. An 11 p.m. departure was the earliest possible. The Orioles were reluctant to wait until this morning given the chance that Hurricane Floyd might close area airports.
While the A's left anticipating a return next Thursday, the Orioles appeared unaware of the scheduling machinations. Many players assumed the games would not be played unless they factored in the wild-card race -- and then on the day after the season. Player representative Mike Mussina pleaded ignorance when approached shortly after the club announced the postponements. Told of the scenario, shortstop Mike Bordick offered only a grimace.
If the games are played next Thursday, the Orioles would sacrifice a day off between its two-game series in Texas and a four-game series in Boston.
After playing in Texas on Wednesday night the Orioles would board their charter and likely arrive in Baltimore no earlier than 4 a.m. A clubhouse sleepover might precede the make-up doubleheader and then the club would climb aboard its charter for Boston, arriving early Friday morning for the four-game series at Fenway Park.
Pub Date: 9/16/99