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Orioles Shock Twins in the 9th, Walk Off 6-5 Victory

May 22, 1964 - Incredible is a word reserved for extraordinary events and heroics.

Its application to the Orioles was appropriate in spades tonight as Sam Bowen and John Orsino struck back-to-back homers with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning that rocked Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and surrounding areas and socked the Minnesota Twins into a 6-5 defeat in the opener of a four-game set.

The shot by Bowens off lefty Jerry Arrigo — the second of the evening by the rookie, who also hit a double — and Orsino’s orbital shot off the third rival hurler, Bill Fischer, transformed seeming defeat into a dramatic fourth straight triumph for Baltimore.

It was the Birds’ seventh success in the last eight starts, No. 12 in the last 15, and only Chicago’s 3-1 verdict over Washington kept the Orioles out of first place.

When Orsino leaped with both feet onto home plate with his fifth homer of the year, the Bird catcher transformed 14,009 slugfest devotees and his elated teammates into raving maniacs.

Until those delirious closing moments, the fans had seen ample evidence that the Twins’ advertised batting punch is for real, as the visitors clustered 10 of their 12 hits and all their runs in the first four frames at Steve Barber’s expense.

After Norm Siebern’s two-run opening-inning single and Bowen’s lead-off homer in the second had chipped away at four enemy runs in the first, they had been witness to the third-inning beaning of Tony Oliva, the Twins’ rookie sensation and league-leading hitter.

The mishap prompted umpire Al Salerno to levy a $50 fine against Barber who, in the official’s judgment threw intentionally at the Minnesota right fielder’s head.

This touched off a wild protest from manager Hank Bauer (pictured), during which the intervention of Orsino, Milt Pappas, and other players and umpires averted a possible physical conflict between the outraged Bauer and Salerno.

Salerno, earlier the target of objections from Bob Johnson and Orsino for third-strike calls, chased the fuming Bauer off the premises — subject also to a possible fine.

Struck with a whack on the top of his plastic protective helmet above the visor, Oliva was knocked down but not out.

After trotting to first base, he was removed from the contest and transported to Union Memorial Hospital. X-ray reports disclosed no evidence of skull damage, and Oliva later returned to the Twins’ Lord Baltimore Hotel headquarters.

Steve Barber insisted afterward that he wasn’t trying to hit Oliva: “I was trying to pitch him inside, as our scouting reports advise, but what can I do if he ducks into it? He stands away and strides into the ball. It was belt high, 12 to 16 inches high, and he ducked into it. I asked [Oriole catcher] John [Orsino] where the pitch was, and he said the same thing. My first three pitches to him his first time at bat were farther inside than the ball that hit him.”

“I gave him my best vocabulary,” Bauer said of his dust-up with Salerno. “I can’t see how he can fine Barber. Nothing up to that point indicated that Steve would try to throw at him. I had complained about a third strike called on Orsino just before that. That’s all that had happened up to then. When a manager can’t protect or fight for his players, he might as well quit.”

Bauer said that while he was being held, “Salerno said, ‘Let him come on,’ and I tried to get at him. I’m glad they held me, or I might have wound up suspended for life.”

Unsurprisingly, Minnesota manager Sam Mele held a different view of the incident. “There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Barber threw at him. I told Barber that he was going down on his next time at bat, and he would have if he’d stayed in there. That’s the only way to fight something like that. If they want to play that way, we’ll oblige them.”

Oliva, after his hospital examination, returned to the Twins’ dressing room, showered, and put on his street clothes. He looked none the worse for the experience.

“I don’t know Barber throw at me,” the Cuban spoke in his uncertain English. “Barber only one who know he throw at me. I little headache bit. Other I okay. I want to stay in game, but he take me out.”

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