After storm of boos, refund policy relaxed; Anger over rainout call prompts team to honor all cash, exchange requests

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In a make-good gesture to fans inconvenienced by Wednesday night's bizarre "rainout," the Orioles yesterday announced they will honor all requests for refunds and ticket exchanges by fans. Club officials insisted the decision was made by umpiring crew chief Durwood Merrill without their prompting, but with their consent.

About 30,000 fans reacted noisily when the game was called at 7: 34 p.m., nearly 2 1/2 hours before a promised deluge reached Camden Yards.

Those circumstances, coupled with only one remaining weekend on the schedule, prompted the club to relax its refund policy.

"Wednesday night's game was postponed at the direction of the umpiring crew on the basis of the meteorological information available at the time," said Orioles executive vice president John Angelos.

"In recognition of the difficulty fans would undoubtedly face in attempting to attend [Thursday]'s rescheduled game, and in light of the very limited remaining opportunities for fans to exchange their tickets for another game this season, the club offers all fans the option to receive a refund."

The Orioles typically allow refunds to fans living outside a 75-mile radius of Camden Yards. In addition to requesting refunds, fans may seek a ticket exchange during this weekend's three-game series against the Boston Red Sox or for any game next season.

Merrill, acting on information supplied by head groundskeeper Paul Zwaska's office radar and conversations with meteorologists at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, decided it prudent to call the game and preserve a pitching matchup of Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens within the Yankees' pennant race.

Merrill felt "vindicated" for his call because of ensuing conditions that would have made it virtually impossible to complete a nine-inning game. Merrill said he noticed a drizzle begin falling around 8: 50 p.m. He conceded that the game would have continued under such conditions, but was sure that the tardy arrival of the promised cold front would have assured an abbreviated game.

"I wouldn't change anything," Merrill said.

A number of fans, however, were fully prepared to wait. When the postponement was announced at 7: 34 p.m., a number turned toward the owners box to vent their displeasure.

"I do know that when you look out and it ain't raining, and you walk to home plate and [wave off the game], that's not easy," said Merrill. "The toughest thing for an umpire is a rain situation because you're representing the league. The Orioles people were the greatest top to bottom. They were in the bunker with me. It was a total consensus."

Hoping to avoid a further delay where fans would have been left waiting for it to rain, chief operating officer Joe Foss suggested that any postponement be announced promptly.

Merrill agreed with the club's recommendation, saying, "I think the Orioles knew if we could not finish, then two good pitchers were going to be shut down before a game was completed. So we get 4 1/2 innings in and have to quit, then we have to sit there until midnight."

Safer at the park

Perhaps the worst victim of Wednesday's premature rainout was Orioles pitcher Jason Johnson, who broke the small toe on his left foot while at home and will miss his final start tonight.

Johnson said he stubbed the toe on a coffee table around 9: 30 p.m., when he would have been at Camden Yards if the game had been played.

"It didn't start raining until around 10: 30. I would have been home about 11. Unbelievable," he said, smiling at the irony.

Johnson had little else to smile about yesterday. He had won his last five decisions, including three consecutive starts, to improve his record to 8-7. This was no time to shut it down.

"I'd love to end the year 6-0, but these are circumstances beyond my control. I can't do anything about it," he said.

Johnson had the toe X-rayed yesterday, when the break was confirmed. Before seeing trainer Richie Bancells, he had hoped to find a way to deaden the pain and make the start.

"I can barely walk," Johnson said.

Johnson's turn will be taken by Doug Linton, who last pitched on Saturday, when he allowed three bases-empty homers over six innings in a 4-1 loss to Boston.

Linton was given the news yesterday by pitching coach Bruce Kison. He had been expecting the opportunity to come at the expense of last night's Game 2 starter, rookie Matt Riley, or tomorrow's starter, who now will be Doug Johns instead of the originally scheduled Scott Erickson.

"[Kison] came in today and asked me if I was a good boy last night. I said, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'You got your sleep?' and I said, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'Well, you're starting.' You don't get a lot of advance notice," Linton said.

Erickson has been bothered by stiffness in his right forearm. Johns had been unavailable since Saturday because of a strained muscle in his right side.

"It's just a precautionary thing," Miller said. "If we were in the race, [Erickson] would pitch. We don't see any reason to pitch him."

Miller is hopeful Johnson will be available in relief if needed.

Erickson recovered from a 1-8 start to finish 15-12 with a 4.81 ERA.

C. Johnson hangs in

Catcher Charles Johnson was one of three batters hit by Roger Clemens in Game 1. The loud sound that came from the ball striking the back of of his left hand in the second inning suggested a broken bone. Instead, Johnson was able to stay in the game after being checked by Bancells, and contributed a run-scoring single in the third.

X-rays taken after the game were negative.

"It's sore, but I just kept playing through it. I was just hoping that it wasn't serious," he said.

Clark begins rehab

First baseman Will Clark has resumed swinging a bat and throwing a little more than one month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs and chips from his left elbow. His early return suggests he will arrive at spring training unencumbered by a condition that has necessitated two operations the past three years.

"I'm ahead of schedule," Clark said. "The swelling is almost entirely gone and I'm past most of the discomfort."

Clark has yet to throw with purpose, instead limiting himself to lobs of 30 feet. He began taking swings off a tee this week, but only with minimal effort.

Clark, 35, traces his elbow problems to 1986, his rookie season with San Francisco, when he suffered a hyperextended elbow in a baserunning collision. At the end of the '96 season, he could barely throw, but he refused surgery until the Texas Rangers were eliminated from the division series.

Limited to 77 games and 251 at-bats this season, Clark finished with a career-low 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. He has a year remaining on his two-year, $11 million contract.

In checking another injury, a CT scan on the back of Brady Anderson's right shoulder yesterday was negative. Anderson was hit by a Pedro Martinez pitch in Monday's game against the Red Sox.

Pub Date: 10/01/99

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