A World Series record is set even before the first pitch is thrown as Pearl Bailey, snatching the microphone from its cradle and turning this way and that so the 56,668 Yankee Stadium spectators can observe every nuance of her performance, requires two minutes and 21 seconds to sing the national anthem, breaking the old record of 2:13 set by The New Christy Minstrels in 1973. José Feliciano's famous rock version in 1968 was clocked at 1:50, though for patriots and music traditionalists it seemed an eternity. No matter. The fans do not hear much past "rocket's red glare" tonight, so vocal are they in urging the commencement of hostilities. New York baseball fans are notorious for their short musical attention span. Even so brief a composition as Three Blind Mice would fall on deaf ears in Gotham's raucous stadiums. But the elongated anthem is a harbinger, for this game will tie a Series record for most innings played at night: 12.
It begins as if it will be a long one only for the Yankees. Dodger leadoff hitter Davey Lopes walks and scores on Bill Russell's triple into the endless corridor of left center field. Ron Cey scores Russell with an equally long sacrifice fly into the same acreage. The favored Dodgers are off quickly to a two-run lead. It is halved in the Yankees' half of the first when Thurman Munson singles through the short-third hole and is advanced to third by Reggie Jackson's looper to center that tumbles inches beyond a groping Russell. Munson ultimately scores on Chris Chambliss' single to right. Willie Randolph's line-drive home run ties the game in the sixth. Randolph also scores the go-ahead run in the eighth on Munson's line double to left. Dodger starter Don Sutton, celebrated for his aplomb in pressure situations, is removed by Manager Tom Lasorda after this unhappy turn of events.
Both teams will suffer and yet gain strength from their weaknesses in this game. The Dodgers' base running is execrable. In the first inning Reggie Smith is trapped like a not-so-sly fox between first and second when a hit-run play goes awry and is embarrassingly run down. In the sixth the hit-run is executed to perfection as Glenn Burke, starting in center field, singles neatly through a space vacated by Randolph as he rushes toward second to head off Garvey, who had run with the pitch. The ball is hit so softly and there is so much confusion between Centerfielder Mickey Rivers and Right-fielder Reggie Jackson as to whose responsibility it is to pick it up that Garvey has a chance to score. Although he is being waved on to the plate, he hesitates just long enough between second and third to arrive simultaneously with Rivers' looping throw that comes in on the first-base side of home. Garvey slides, and Munson lunges for him with the ball. Umpire Nestor Chylak calls the runner out. Garvey complains, but as Lopes observes, "If he had been running like he's supposed to, it wouldn't have been close. He was anticipating the ball being picked up instead of running all the way."
October 23, 1977
Now it is the ninth inning, the Dodgers trail 3-2, and Dusty Baker is on first after a leadoff single. Manny Mota, batting for Burke, fakes a bunt and takes a ludicrously inaccurate swing. There stands Baker, ensnared as Smith was before him. Only this time the trap does not close. Baker swivel-hips past Chambliss in the rundown, the first baseman swiping at him as if practicing his forehand. Mota's fly ball is no help, but Catcher Steve Yeager walks, a development that prompts Manager Billy Martin to remove Don Gullett, pitcher of 8‚Öì estimable innings, for Sparky Lyle, winner of the final two American League playoff games against Kansas City. Lyle instantly gives up a bouncing single by pinch hitter Lee Lacy that scores the reprieved Baker with the tying run. 3-3. Extra innings.
It is the Yankees' turn to "capitalize on one of their own failings—a nagging inability to execute the sacrifice bunt. In the 10th inning Munson leads off with a walk, and Paul Blair, a defensive replacement for Jackson, is instructed to sacrifice. His bunt drops directly in front of the plate, and Catcher Jerry Grote, who replaced Yeager after the starting receiver was removed for a pinch runner, pounces on it to force Munson at second. In the 11th it is Lou Piniella who reaches base with a single and Bucky Dent who forces him at second with a bunt that falls once more into Grote's nimble fingers. Lyle, who has not batted since 1974, also is a failure at sacrificing.
In the 12th, however, failure succeeds. Randolph leads off with a double down the right-field line, Munson is walked intentionally, and the house organist plays Over There, one of many patriotic airs composed by George M. Cohan and favored by George M. Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner. Blair doggedly steps in to try his hand again. In his days as Baltimore's centerfielder he was acclaimed as an accomplished bunter, but this night he seems no more familiar with the tactic than Babe Ruth was. He takes a called strike and bunts a high pitch foul. Looking hurt and befuddled, he stands prepared to try again. Then Third-Base Coach Dick Howser, apparently recognizing Blair's confusion, calls out Blair's name and, with no attempt at deception, removes the bunt sign. Relieved of his sacrificial responsibility, Blair slaps a clean single to left that scores Randolph with the winning run.
Lyle, who foiled the Dodgers for 3‚Öî innings, is a winner for the third straight time in postseason play. Asked how it is that he can pitch so well so frequently, he holds his left arm out from him as if it is a perfect stranger. "I don't even talk to it," he says. "I don't want to know why it can pitch that often."
Lasorda appears beatific before the game. He arrives on the field in the company of a priest, and he advises newsmen of his love for his fellow man, particularly his fellow Dodgers. "I believe in togetherness," he says. "I believe a team is like a family. I eat with my players. I have drinks with them in my office. I know the names of their wives and children. They make my life enjoyable."
Advised of these remarks, Martin smiles, though not beatifically. "That's wonderful," he says. The Yankees, too, are a family. A family like the Macbeths, the Borgias and the Bordens of Fall River, Mass. And their fans are equally playful. The Series settles into a battle between the good guys and the bad guys. Tonight the good guys have their innings.
There is some question before the game about the advisability of Martin starting Catfish Hunter, who has not pitched in a month, a time during which he experienced both arm trouble and a mysterious complaint finally diagnosed as a urinary-tract infection. The question is answered within three innings. With two out in the first, Smith doubles briskly to right center, and Cey powers a homer into the Dodger bullpen beyond a leaping Piniella. In the second, also with two out, Yeager also homers over Piniella. And in the third, after Russell's single, Smith hits a terrific shot into the bleachers in right center. The Dodgers lead 5-0. The game is over virtually before it begins. Hunter, once the proud winner of four straight World Series games for the Oakland A's, departs with one out in the third. "I just hope I don't have a bad year hunting deer," he says afterward, realizing that this season, in which he won and lost nine games and had a humiliating ERA of 4.71, is almost certainly at long last over.
If the game is a disaster for the Catfish, it is a vindication for the Dodgers' Burt Hooton, who suffered his own humiliation only five days before when he was apparently driven from the mound by shrieking Philadelphia fans in the third National League playoff game. Taunted by the crowd, he walked four hitters in succession during the second inning and departed in a rage. "Hooton can pitch," wags said afterward, "but only if no one's watching." The largest crowd of the year in Yankee Stadium—56,691—is watching him this night. He strikes out six hitters in the first three innings, mostly with his plummeting knuckle curve, and coasts to a five-hit 6-1 win, the final Dodger score coming on Garvey's homer in the ninth.
"I learned a basic lesson in Philadelphia," Hooton calmly informs the press. "And that is to keep your cool. I lost my head there, and I let my team down. The fans weren't the ones who drove me out of that game. There were some calls I thought were strikes, and I let them upset me. I lost confidence in myself. Tommy mildly chewed me out for letting my emotions take charge of my pitching. Tonight I kept my head."
That is more than can be said for the Yankee fans. Their active participation begins innocently enough in the seventh when a young man pops out of the left-field stands and gallops unmolested up the line to home plate, across which he jubilantly slides. He is even cheered. "I thought he executed a perfect hook slide," says Lasorda. "Sudol [Plate Umpire Ed] blew the call. He was safe." No real harm done there. But in the ninth, with the Dodgers batting, the byplay gets rough. Four youths drop from their seats onto the field at separate times. The last is tackled and buried under a pile of policemen, and no one is amused. A smoke bomb is tossed onto center field, and a green cloud envelops Rivers, who curiously does not budge, thereby creating the suspicion that he moves only when instructed to do so by the Yankee walkie-talkie operatives responsible for positioning outfielders. Dodger bullpen inhabitants are bombarded with refuse, rubber balls, even whiskey bottles. And when Chambliss flies to center to end the game, Smith is struck on the head with a rubber ball apparently pitched from the upper deck in right field. He leaves the battlefield hurt and dazed. It is an ugly show.
There is more ugliness ahead. In the clubhouse, Jackson fumes over the shabby treatment accorded his old Oakland teammate, Hunter. He is still fuming, for that matter, over his own treatment in the final game of the playoffs when Martin benched him on grounds that he could not hit the lefthanded Paul Splittorff. When asked if Jackson will play against Dodger lefthander Tommy John, Martin replies that he will, that John is not Splittorff. Jackson sees this as a further indictment. "I don't have to take that," he says, "especially from him. I know what I can do. If he did, we'd be a lot better off." But this time it is friend Catfish who, he feels, has been slighted. "The man hasn't pitched since Sept. 10," Jackson says. "It's like me sitting on the bench for a month and then expecting to get two hits and drive in a run. If you're going to pitch him in the World Series, then use him before then."
The Yankees believe in apartness.
They arrive in Los Angeles amid turmoil unusual even for them. Everyone is seemingly angry about something. Martin, learning of Jackson's comments on the use of Hunter, suggests that Jackson has enough problems playing right field without assuming the manager's responsibilities as well. Munson, rarely cheerful, is sick and tired of Martin and Jackson arguing. He wants to be traded to Cleveland, where life, presumably, is more tranquil and where he can be nearer his home in Canton, Ohio. Sensitive to the merest suggestion of criticism, he is also miffed at those who demean his throwing ability. Furthermore, he is sick and tired, period. He complains of dizziness and exhaustion. All of the Yankees are angry about the poor seats in Dodger Stadium that have been allotted to them for their families and friends. Some, notably Munson and Jackson, threaten not to play if this grievous oversight is not rectified. Yankee President Gabe Paul, the quiet man in these noisy surroundings, is angry because everyone else is angry. He publicly calls for a cessation of this "crap."
In this humor, the Yankees take the field in "Beautiful Dodger Stadium" for the third game. It is a typical Dodger production. Frank Sinatra is in his box behind the visitor's dugout, country-torch singer Linda Ronstadt performs the anthem (in 2:01), Roy Campanella throws out the first ball, and there is a moment of silence for Bing Crosby, who died this day on a Spanish golf course.
The presumably damned Yankees whip the Dodgers 5-3 behind the sharp pitching of Mike Torrez and a series of big little hits. The first inning is full of Series firsts. Rivers, leading off the game, bloops a double for his first hit. Munson doubles him home, and then Jackson, playing as promised against John, singles the sick man in. Jackson takes second as Baker overruns the ball in left field for the first error by either team. Jackson scores as Piniella singles up the middle. The bad guys lead the good 3-0.
The Dodgers fall back on the long ball once more to even matters. In the third, with Smith and Garvey on base, Baker hoists one into the Dodger bullpen, once again just beyond the reach of the increasingly frustrated Piniella. But the Yankees, outhomered now 5-1, will scratch out the victory. Graig Nettles singles leading off the fourth and advances to second when Dent's hopper caroms off Cey's glove for an infield hit. Torrez sacrifices the runners along, and with the infield at double-play depth instead of in close to cut off the run, Rivers bounces to second, scoring Nettles. In the next inning Jackson walks with one out, and Piniella singles off John's glove. Had the pitcher not touched the ball, Lasorda says, it would have reached Russell for a cinch inning-ending double play. But John does touch it, and Chambliss follows with a single to right that scores Jackson with the final run. John, winner of the final playoff game and a folk hero in Los Angeles for his gallant comeback from arm surgery during the last two seasons, is removed in the sixth, a loser in his first Series game.
Torrez is huge and dark, a foreboding figure who is actually affable, particularly for a Yankee. He scatters seven hits and strikes out a season-high nine, his lone mistake being the hanging slider that Baker propelled over the fence. Torrez is a free agent, and his good humor after the game may be attributed not only to an important victory but to what it will do for his market value. Seventeen-game winners who are also World Series heroes do not come cheap.
Despite the victory, the talk in the Yankee clubhouse is of trouble. "We have controversy all the time," says Piniella agreeably. "We're used to it—although it does get sickening at times."
The protagonists are uncharacteristically diplomatic, having met earlier in the day in search of detente. The newest dispute with Jackson, says Martin, is "history." Asked if his team, like the A's of 1972-74, thrives on chaos, Martin replies, "I don't think we thrive on it. We overcome it. You settle an argument and forget it."
Jackson, protesting perhaps too much, says he is hurt by the notice given his every utterance. He spoke, he says, out of deep emotion and sadness in the Hunter matter. Perhaps he did say the wrong thing. But then, "Anything that has to do with Reggie Jackson becomes a big thing." He rolls his eyes in lamentation, a private man, he seems to say, basically a shy person, a straight shooter, certainly; maybe even a shrinking violet destined to squirm in the unwelcome limelight. "I do not think that Reggie Jackson should be the most well-known player in the game," he says. His eyes are twinkling.
The Yankees seem too happy for their own good before the game. After slamming five balls into the seats during batting practice, Jackson starts to take his lap around the bases. He stumbles, regains his balance, staggers a little, then says to hell with it. "One more block," says Nettles at the batting cage, "and you would've gone all the way." They laugh, and Jackson taps Nettles lovingly on the shoulder. Why are these men smiling?
The Dodgers, trailing in the Series, pull out all the stops.' Insult comedian Don Rickles, who inspired them to victory in the second game of the playoffs, is there to cheer them up again with vituperation. Sinatra is on hand, and so are Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, Shirley MacLaine, Milton Berle, Bob New-hart, Glen Campbell, Tony Orlando and only The Big Dodger in the Sky knows who else. Flown in specially for the occasion is Lillian Carter, mother of Jimmy. Miz Lillian, a 79-year-old righthander, throws out the first ball. "I'm a loyal Dodger fan," she says. The Dodgers have a record crowd of 55,995, the President's mother and half the Hollywood gentry behind them. It is an 81° day, and the palms beyond the outfield fences dance in the shimmering light of sun and smog. How can a Los Angeles team lose?
By starting Doug Rau is how. Lasorda picks him because he is left-handed and so is most of the Yankees' power and because Don Sutton can use another day of rest. Rau has been troubled with a sore pitching shoulder, but he tells Lasorda he is well. He is not around long enough for anyone to tell. He survives the first inning on the strength of a double play, but then in the second Jackson slices an opposite-field double. Piniella scores him with an opposite-field single to right and advances to third when Chambliss hits another opposite-field double to left. Lasorda pulls Rau in favor of Rick Rhoden. Piniella scores on an infield out, and Chambliss comes home on a single to right by the right-hand-hitting Dent. Three runs, four opposite-field hits.
Rhoden helps close the gap in the third with a ground-rule double into the left-field stands that is followed by Lopes' first Series hit, a homer to dead center. In the fourth Piniella, who has been waving helplessly at homers all week, finally takes one away from the Dodgers when he leaps at the fence, reaches over it and hauls down a long fly by Cey. So accustomed are the fans and players to seeing Piniella alight from these entrechats empty-handed that at first they think the ball has cleared the barrier. Cey is into his home-run trot, and the fans are cheering. Piniella is seen standing in his customary abject attitude, but then he holds the ball aloft in triumph. Why the delay? "I wanted to make sure I actually had it," he explains.
Cey's intercepted drive ends Dodger threats against skinny Ron Guidry. And in the sixth, Jackson ices the game, making the score 4-2 with a homer into the pavilion in left center. Guidry, a mustachioed 27-year-old Louisianan who is six feet tall but weighs only 157 pounds, allows just four hits while striking out seven. In Martin's view, Guidry throws as hard as any lefthander, despite his size, but the Dodgers say they are more troubled by his breaking pitches. Guidry languished in the minors so long that he nearly gave up the game, and he had a "horrible" spring training, only to emerge from the bullpen in May and win 16 games while leading the team in shutouts with five. "I just wanted to give a performance worthy of myself," he says. "I didn't want to go out there all nervous and walk 20 in a row or something."
How peaceful it is in the Yankee clubhouse. Normally, the atmosphere there is as heavy with portent as it must have been at Elsinore, but today even so dedicated a scowler as Munson can see cause for rejoicing. The Yankees need only one more win. Munson is still woozy—"I haven't seen a ball in two days," he says—but he is looking forward to the next day, possibly his last as a Yankee.
Jackson, himself fresh from the slough of despond, is pontificating for an audience drawn from the sort of journalists who ask questions like, "What does it mean to be Reggie Jackson?" "I represent the overdog," says Reggie. "And the underdog. My story is not really an athlete's story. It is a human story."
It is the good guys who are feeling bad. Approached by the media masses, Lopes cautions them, "Don't ask me any stupid questions today. If you do, I'll answer, 'Next question.' "
"Were you swinging for a homer?" he is asked.
Steve Yeager assesses the Dodgers' situation. "Our backs are to the wall," he begins, gathering momentum. "This is a do-or-die situation." He pauses for a breath. "There's no tomorrow." He touches, as it were, all the bases. But he has not bargained on the resourcefulness of his manager who, as Yeager might put it, does not believe the game is over until the last out is made.
After batting practice, Lasorda calls a team meeting. Usually he is an evangelist in these gatherings, but today he is Father Flanagan. "I told them how proud I was of them," Lasorda says. "How proud I was that they had beaten Cincinnati to win the division and Philadelphia to win the pennant. I told them they could walk around with their heads up high, that in my opinion they were the best baseball team in the world. I also told them that if they win today, they decrease the odds against them."
The Dodgers do not exactly storm through the clubhouse door after this pep talk, but they do come out swinging. Lopes, leading off, hits another long drive to left that caroms off the top of the bullpen fence and bounces crazily toward center, where it is retrieved by Rivers. Lopes hustles into third with a triple. He scores from there when Russell lines a single into left off Yankee Starter Gullett, a supposed non-combatant because of arm troubles, now starting for the second time. The so-called Big Blue Machine runs best when Lopes and Russell are functioning well, but they enter this game hitting .067 and .111, respectively. "Those little guys," Jackson will say of them, "when they get on base, things happen." Things happen fast today. The Dodgers, backs to the wall, doing or dying, tomorrowless, are out front, one-zip.
What the little men get started, the big fellows finish. In the fourth, after Cey drives Piniella to the fence again for a long out, Garvey lines a smoking double to right center, the ball hitting the wall on the short hop. Baker singles him home and takes second when Piniella fumbles the ball. It is the first Yankee error of the Series, but not the last. Lacy chops an easy hopper to Nettles, one of the game's finest third basemen. He unaccountably fumbles it, and Lacy reaches first safely. Baker holds at second. With a one-ball count on phrasemaker Yeager, Martin shuffles out for a conference. "Stop rushing your pitches," he advises Gullett. The pitcher slows down, but the pace does not suit him. With the count at two and one, Gullett throws his forkball, a favorite pitch. It does not do its customary dip, and Yeager drives it into the seats between the foul pole and the L.A. bullpen. The score is 5-0, Dodgers, and it seems certain there will be a Tuesday in New York.
The Dodgers add to this lead with three runs in the fifth—Yeager driving home his fourth of the game with a sacrifice fly—and two more in the sixth on a long Smith homer into the right center-field bleachers. Holding a 10-0 lead entering the seventh, Sutton grows careless. He gives up two runs in the inning, and two more in the eighth on successive homers by Munson and Jackson. "With that lead, I made up my mind I wasn't going to walk anybody," says Sutton. As a matter of fact, he doesn't. The 10-4 win not only staves off what had been considered an inevitable Yankee victory, it revives the moribund Dodger attack that had depended until this day almost exclusively on the long ball.
It also bandages wounded sensibilities. "This team is basically built on pride," says Garvey. "We had gone through two phases on the way to a championship, then found the third one seemed closed to us. At the meeting, Tommy said he was proud of us. We're professionals, but we're also human beings who get down mentally and physically. These meetings are an expression of warmth. And they work. I think we've had eight so far this year, and we've won after each of them. We've had one manager [Walt Alston] who will be in the Hall of Fame, and now we have another working on it."
Strong words, but about what one expects from the Dodger happiness boys. Martin is welcome to his strife, Lasorda feels, no matter where it takes him. "I'd rather have it my way than his," he says. Lasorda and Martin may be stylistic opposites, the one a booster, the other an agitator, but they are not socially incompatible. On the night before this game they dined together with Sinatra at a restaurant inappropriately called La Dolce Vita. Life has been far from dolce for Martin this season. And while Lasorda has had it sweeter, he may soon know the bitterness of losing. But that is no reason to stop having fun. "Frank just wanted to show us that he was proud of both of us," Lasorda says, speaking of the singer as if he were a Don. "Think of it—two Italian boys in the World Series."
"You had dinner with Martin and Sinatra?" a newsman inquires.
"No," Lasorda replies, "I had dinner with Sinatra and Martin."
Guess who picked up the tab.