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SEEING AIN'T BELIEVING
Larry Keith
September 25, 1978
The Yankee players continued to amaze even themselves as their record surge carried them past the Red Sox and into first place
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September 25, 1978

Seeing Ain't Believing

The Yankee players continued to amaze even themselves as their record surge carried them past the Red Sox and into first place

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DEAR BILLY,

I guess you've heard what's been going on with the Yankees since you left. It looks like we're going to win without you. Boston came in to the Stadium last week, and we gave it to them again, beat them twice, 4-0 and 3-2. From the scores you can tell it wasn't like the four games up in Fenway the week before. This time we didn't get as many runs, and they didn't make as many errors, but in a way these games were runaways, too. Their fight, their heart seemed to be missing. We had gone into first on Wednesday, when we beat Detroit and they lost to Cleveland. Yeah, Billy, they got beat by the Indians—lost to them twice, in fact. They could have stayed on top if they had swept in Cleveland, but they didn't. I probably should say they couldn't. Maybe Rick Burleson said it best: "It's almost impossible for us to win a game."

Me and the other guys can't hardly believe it, but all of a sudden we think it's almost impossible for us to lose. It's the most exciting thing that's ever happened to any of us. Guidry pitched a two-hitter in the opener against Boston on Friday night. He's 22-2 now with a 1.71 ERA, so no one gets very excited about it any more when he blows somebody down. Just give him the Cy Young, and maybe the MVP, too, and let him go back home to Louisiana. But Catfish. You wouldn't believe Catfish. After Remy had singled, Rice took Catfish way out to the opposite field in the first inning on Saturday afternoon, and that was it. He shut the Red Sox out the rest of the way and struck out eight, his high for the season. He's now won eight of his last 10. You remember that game up in Boston in June when he gave up those two home runs to Boomer Scott and Freddie Lynn? He said that he couldn't pitch again, that his arm hurt too bad. I figure we owe Dr. Cowen a full share for getting those adhesions out of Cat's shoulder.

Oh, I forgot to tell you how we came back on Saturday. Actually, you probably don't want to hear how we did it, but here it is: Reggie made it 2-1 in the first with a single and then tied it with a homer in the fifth. Look, Billy, I know how you feel, but give the guy credit. He's hit .317 since you left. In fact, he may be hitting .317 because you left. He says you made life miserable for him. Yeah, I know, the feeling is mutual. Well, at least you'll be happy to know that Reggie didn't drive in all the runs. We won in the ninth when Rivers tripled and Thurman drove him in. It was a heck of a game. Nobody made an error, and Torrez pitched just as tough for them as Cat did for us. If they'd won, they probably would've gotten a big lift, and we would've had all we could handle the rest of the way. As it was, the win put us 3½ in front, and, Billy, I'd guess this game might have done it for us. It didn't even seem to matter when we finally lost one to the Sox, 7-3, the next day.

You know that Thurman's catching again, don't you? That rightfield experiment ended right after you left. That's when Bob Lemon put Reggie back in right. I haven't even mentioned Lem, have I? He's done a super job of managing, of keeping things quiet and on the right track around here. One of the writers said, "He has stilled the tumult, quieted the chaos and soft-stroked the Yankees into first place." Yeah, I know, you don't like writers either.

I think I've figured out why Al Rosen told ol' George—incidentally, Steinbrenner's kept his mouth pretty much shut since you've left, so you can see how quiet it's gotten around here—to hire Lem. Kansas City fired him in 1972 because he was 52 and they thought he was too old. Then the White Sox canned him this year because they didn't think he was colorful enough. So, don't you see, that's why we hired him—to get some quiet maturity. No offense, Billy.

I know I don't have to tell you that some people are saying we wouldn't be where we are right now, making the greatest comeback in the history of the American League, if Lem hadn't replaced you. One guy—and it's not Reggie—says that, before he signs another contract, he wants to know if you are really coming back in 1980.

But I think all of that is kind of unfair. A lot of people forget that the streak really started when we won the last five games you managed. Remember? We were 14 games out on July 19, and Figueroa and Guidry pitched back-to-back shutouts against the Twins. Since then, we're 43-16. Of course, if the Red Sox had played .500 ball since then, they'd still be in first place, by one game. But that's their problem.

Lem has a pretty good answer when somebody asks him about the streak. He says, "The main reason we've won is that we haven't had as many injuries. I'm no Oral Roberts. I didn't touch them and make them all get well."

I know it was pretty upsetting to you not to have Rivers and Randolph at the top of the order. And, let's face it, Brian Doyle and Damaso Garcia isn't quite the same double-play combination as Dent and Randolph. Let me put it another way: of our first 89 games, Mickey missed 20 and Willie 23. Since then they've missed only seven between them. They've both hit better than .300 since July 19. In fact, the only regulars who haven't are Chambliss and Dent. The starting lineup batted .302 during the streak. And the staffs ERA is 2.61. I can just see you drooling over those numbers.

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