On This Date in Sports September 15, 1977: The Earl of Anger
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Baltimore Orioles forfeit a game to the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium when Manager Earl Weaver pulls his team off the field and refuses to return. On a rainy night in Toronto, Weaver was concerned about a tarp covering the bullpen mound the foul territory when he pulled his team off the field trailing 4-0 in the fifth inning. After waiting 15 minutes, Umpire Marty Springstead calls the game a win for Toronto.
Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame Manager of the Baltimore Orioles, lived for confrontations with umpires. He was ejected over 90 times in his career, including postseason games. This included doubleheaders in which Earl Weaver once was ejected in both games during the lineup exchange. Still, he was a highly successful manager for the Orioles; from 1968-1982, he took the birds to the World Series four times, winning in 1970.
The Orioles, who had won the American League East five times in eight years, were in a three-team battle with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as the season hit its final stretch. The Orioles were playing solid baseball, winning seven straight games as they faced the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in the finale of a four-game series at Exhibition Stadium. The game was played in a light drizzle. As the rain picked up, the Blue Jays pulled a tarp over the bullpen mound in foul territory. Earl Weaver went out to umpire Marty Springstead to complain that the tarp presented a safety hazard for any player going after a foul ball down the left-field line. The Blue Jays, with four runs in the fourth inning, had a 4-0 lead, as Jim Clancy limited Baltimore to two hits. As Toronto prepared to hit in the fifth inning, Weaver pulled his team off the field and argued with Springstead that he would not take the field until the tarp was -removed. However, while arguing, Earl Weaver failed to file a formal protest. Despite the suggestion of Marty Springstead, who implored the Orioles skipper to allow his team to continue the game. Several players, including veterans Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson, tried to talk Weaver out of his protest, but the manager kept his players off the field. After a 15-minute wait, the umpires decided to call the game a forfeit in favor of the Blue Jays. The game stats would count individually, but the game's official score would go down as 9-0.
Despite their stellar play, the Orioles only gained two games on the first-place New York Yankees and trailed by two and a half games entering the season's final two weeks. The forfeit was the only loss the Orioles would suffer in a ten-game stretch. The Orioles would finish the season with a record of 97-64, finishing in second place two games back of the Yankees, who went on to win the World Series.
The Orioles' road forfeit was extremely rare. Since expansion, there have been five forfeits, with the other four being lost by the home team due to unruly fans. The Washington Senators lost their final game before moving to Texas due to angry fans storming RFK Stadium in a game against the New York Yankees in 1971. Three years later, the Texas Rangers were on the other side of the field, winning by a forfeit on ten-cent beer night against the Cleveland Indians at Municipal Stadium, when drunk and rowdy fans began throwing debris on the field. In 1979, Disco Demolition Night led to the Chicago White Sox forfeiting the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Comiskey Park. In 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers had to forfeit when fans began throwing souvenir baseballs on the field in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.