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Friday, August 15, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lights Go Out On M's, Orioles

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

BALTIMORE - After all the confusion, miscommunication and uncertainty that prevailed for nearly three hours at dim Camden Yards, the Mariners were left with one undeniable reality: The next 48 hours were going to be a bear.

When last night's scheduled game with the Orioles finally was called off because of a power outage, the upshot was that Seattle must play four games in two cities in less than 48 hours.

They were to play a day-night doubleheader with the Orioles today, followed by a twilight doubleheader tomorrow in Chicago with the White Sox.

"We really had no choice," said Mariner catcher Dan Wilson, who as the team's union representative was involved in a series of meetings as umpires and team executives tried to decide whether to play. "We can't complain about it. We're all professionals here. We've got to reach down and play four games in two days."

The real burden will be on the Mariners' pitching staff. Randy Johnson, last night's scheduled pitcher, was to come back and pitch the first game today, with rookie Ken Cloude working the nightcap. Because of the White Sox doubleheader, they already had brought Felipe Lira up from Class AAA to pitch Monday. Now they will be scrambling to come up with a pitcher for Tuesday's game with Cleveland at the Kingdome.

"It presents another obstacle, or problem, for us, and we certainly don't need that," Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said. "Now we're going to have to bring back a pitcher on Tuesday on three days' rest. It behooved us to play this game. Believe me, we wanted to play."

With a capacity crowd of about 47,000 on hand, so did the Orioles. But when the lights were turned on before the game, the bank that illuminates the first-base side of the field wasn't working.

Technicians went to work and at 8:45 p.m. (70 minutes after the original 7:35 starting time) they had most of the lights operational. But it was eventually determined that 18 to 20 lights were out for good. At that point, the problem became not just the power, but the powers that be.

"There were mixed signals all around," Wilson said. "It was just confusion. We were kind of sitting here in limbo."

The Mariners were told to vote on whether they wanted to play a split or night doubleheader today. They took that to mean the game was being canceled, but Oriole officials said it was meant only as a contingency.

"As we were going back outside to tell the umpires and the Baltimore executives that we would play a split doubleheader tomorrow, they decided we would play tonight," Piniella said. "By this time, our players were undressed. My starting pitcher (Johnson) had taken a shower.

"They said, `You've got to play.' I said, `If you do play, it will be without us. We'll have to forfeit.' It was true. I wasn't trying to be belligerent in any way. But once our guys showered, especially the starting pitcher, it was over."

Baltimore Vice President Joe Foss called it a "genuine misunderstanding," while umpiring crew chief Al Clark said regardless of the Orioles' desire to play, the game was going to be called off because of insufficient lighting.

"Myself and (umpire) Jimmy Joyce and the braintrust of the Orioles walked out to home plate and there truly was a shadowy situation," Clark said. "I don't know if the Seattle club perhaps wants to take a chance of losing a Ken Griffey Jr. or a Jay Buhner in less than ideal circumstances, or the Orioles want to risk losing a Cal Ripken or a Rafael Palmeiro. Why put yourself in that situation when it can be alleviated? I think that's acting responsibly."

"I think everyone wanted to play the game tonight, but it just boiled down to the fact there wasn't any light," Oriole player representative Mike Mussina said. "And with Randy pitching . . . even if you can see, Randy is tough to hit. Less than 100 percent, it might not be safe standing up there."

Piniella said the lighting improved as darkness fell, but it still was not up to major-league standards.

"Everyone was concerned about liability," he said. "Someone gets hit and the lights aren't good, or a fan gets hit in the stands and the lights aren't good. At the time the decision was made, there were a lot of shadows at home plate. Evidently, as it got fully dark, it got a little brighter out there. All of a sudden, the problem didn't exist anymore, and then Baltimore basically wanted to play the game."

The decision to postpone the game was finally announced at 10 p.m., as impatient fans chanted "Play ball!"

"It's rather obvious what our intention was: to play this game," Piniella said. "We don't want to be depicted as the bad guys."

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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