Nettles might not have been so lavishly on display had Guidry been his regular-season self, but the slender lefthander admitted to having lost his "best stuff' in the bullpen, where he warmed up before the game. With the pop gone from his fastball, the righthanded Dodger lineup was able to pull his breaking pitches, a distinct advantage most days, sheer folly this night. Nettles' brilliant show invited comparisons with Brooks Robinson's performance in the Baltimore Orioles' Series win over the Reds in 1970. The Yankee third baseman, who has smarted in the past over his relative lack of recognition, seemed flattered by such talk. "Brooks and I," he said, "are not afraid to get our uniforms dirty. We dive for the ball." Then, apparently seeking a more precise evaluation of their relative merits, he added, "I have a little more hair than he does."
If Game 3 recalled Brooks Robinson, Game 4 brought back memories of Ed Armbrister, the previously obscure Cincinnati pinch hitter whose collision with Carlton Fisk in the third game of the '75 Series caused such turmoil. Armbrister's entanglement with Fisk after a bunt made the Boston catcher throw wildly and prolong a game-winning rally by the Reds, who went on to become world champions. Despite vehement Red Sox arguments, it was ruled that Armbrister was innocent of interference. The inimitable Jackson was similarly exonerated last Saturday at Yankee Stadium in a rain-interrupted game of nearly four hours' duration, which the Yankees finally won 4-3 on Lou Piniella's 10th-inning single off Welch. If anything, this game raised more unanswerable questions than its controversial predecessor did three Octobers ago.
The incident occurred in the sixth inning, with the Dodgers leading 3-0 as the result of Smith's three-run homer in the fifth. White singled up the middle with one out, Munson walked and Jackson scored White with a single to right. Piniella then lined sharply to Russell's left. The Dodger shortstop reached the ball but dropped it—unintentionally, he said; fortuitously, it seemed—then retrieved it and stepped on second to force Jackson. He then threw to first in an effort to nail Piniella and complete what seemed a cinch double play. But the ball struck Jackson, standing no more than 15 feet off first base, on the right thigh and bounced away from Garvey into foul territory. Munson scored from second, Russell was charged with a throwing error and Piniella was ruled safe at first by Umpire Frank Pulli. Screams of outrage from Lasorda and assorted Dodgers followed this decision. Jackson, they complained, made no effort to get out of the way of Russell's throw. On the contrary, they fumed, he went out of his way to get in the way.
Rule 7.09 (f) of the Official Baseball Rules applies to "any batter or runner who has just been put out" hindering or impeding "any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate." If Jackson had been found guilty of interference, Piniella would have been retired and the Dodgers would have been out of the inning unscathed. As it developed, the run allowed the Yankees to tie the game in the eighth on Munson's double and to win it in the extra inning. Pulli said he concluded that Reggie was innocent of interference because he had not intentionally blocked the throw. The rule book says nothing about "intent," but Pulli holds that that is how Rule 7.09 (f) should be interpreted.
Did Jackson intentionally interfere? At first Reggie explained that he had merely stood nonplussed in the base path because of the confusing nature of the play. "When Lou hit the ball, it looked like a hit," said Jackson. "My instinct was to break for second. Then when I saw Russell had a chance for it, my instinct was to go back to first. Then I saw Russell drop the ball. I had nowhere to go, so I just froze."
Garvey claimed Jackson thawed out soon enough to make a significant move. "There is no doubt in my mind it was intentional," Garvey said. "The throw was headed right at him. Instinct tells you to get out of the way of a ball coming right at you. He moved his leg just enough to deflect the ball. He knew what he was doing. It was quick thinking, but dirty pool." Pressed on the question of intent, Jackson later as much as admitted that his freezing near first was more a matter of convenience than confusion.
The controversy overshadowed brilliant play by Reggie Smith. In addition to his apparent game-winning homer. Smith threw Blair out at the plate from rightfield in the first inning. It also took attention away from superb relief work by Yankee Pitchers Dick Tidrow and Rich Gossage. Figueroa started again for New York, this time surviving five innings as well as the 40-minute rain delay, but he gave up all the Dodger runs. Tidrow went three and Gossage two scoreless innings. Welch, who entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of Forster—who, in turn, had relieved starter John—seemed invincible once again until, with one out in the 10th, White walked, Jackson singled, and Piniella tomahawked a high fastball into right center to score the winning run.
Inevitably, nonetheless, it was Jackson who once again stood at stage center. "Something odd always happens around him," said Lemon, clearly grasping the situation.