He has a droopy mustache and a suffering face crowned by a thicket of black hair. The body, not large, is all cables and wires, a humming, functional machine. Davey Lopes was elected captain of the Los Angeles Dodgers this year, the first player so favored since Willie Davis held office in 1973. Lopes takes that responsibility seriously. "I have the ability to motivate people," he says without embarrassment. Lopes takes most things seriously. He weighs his answers to the most trivial of journalistic inquiries, his responses often flashing with indignation. When some ethnologist among the 400 newsmen covering the 1978 World Series inquired into his "lineage," Lopes, who was born in Rhode Island of Cape Verdean-Portuguese descent, rejoined tartly, "That is not important. What is important is that I am a man."
The Series is serious stuff, and for Los Angeles it was more so than usual this year. Jim Gilliam, for 14 seasons in the '50s and '60s a Dodger infielder and the team's first-base coach until he suffered a brain hemorrhage on Sept. 15, died at age 49 of heart failure only two days before last Tuesday's Series opener. The Dodgers wore black patches on their sleeves on which was inscribed Gilliam's number, 19, and his spirit was invoked throughout a week of mourning. The ordinarily festive opening game had the air of a memorial service as a record Dodger Stadium crowd of 55,997—two fans more than the old record—stood for a minute of silence before the national anthem. Lopes, who seemed more touched by Gilliam's death than any of his teammates, was the perfect man for such a sad occasion, conveying as he did the proper note of gravity and high purpose. The leadoff hitter and base-stealer, the player who usually "turns the ignition," he turned on the power Tuesday in a crushing 11-5 Dodger victory.
The Dodgers got their first run when Dusty Baker led off the second inning with a homer. Rick Monday kept the rally going with a double and was on second when Lopes stepped up with two out. Ed Figueroa's first pitch to him was a hanging curveball. Lopes slugged it for a two-run homer just beyond the reach of Roy White in leftfield. The Dodgers were out front 3-0, and Figueroa, an accomplished regular-season performer who has yet to win either a playoff or a World Series game, was gone. In the fifth Lopes was even cruder to Figueroa's successor, Ken Clay, golfing his one-ball no-strike sinker deep into the leftfield pavilion with two runners on. The Dodgers were ahead 6-0, and Lopes had driven in five runs. Even the most skeptical Dodger fan was beginning to entertain thoughts of beating the traffic home.
Unsurprisingly, it was Reggie Jackson who created the only Yankee excitement. With his team trailing 7-0 in the seventh, Jackson led off the inning by getting all of a Tommy John fastball and smacking a towering blast to the base of the back wall of the Yankee bullpen in right, a distance of approximately 430 feet. It was Jackson's eighth World Series homer and his sixth in his last four Series games. John would surrender four more harmless runs before retiring in favor of Terry Forster in the eighth inning. The Dodgers, meanwhile, abused four Yankee pitchers in what New York Manager Bob Lemon dismissed as "just one game."
For the Dodgers and their solemn captain, it was a harbinger. "There is no doubt in my mind we're going to win this thing," Lopes said. "Jimmy's spirit is in each of our players. They will have to beat 50 of us, not just 25." Lopes' teammate Reggie Smith thought the Dodgers would win it with only 25. "I felt we were the better club last year," he said, "but they won it. We'll prove we're better this year."
Catfish Hunter, the Yankee starter for Game 2, offered a more thoughtful explanation for the humiliating Yankee defeat. "These last two days we've been thinking too much," he said of the period between the American League playoff finale and the Series opener. "And when you start thinking, that's when you get yourself in trouble."
No doubt about it, the kid was on the spot. His team, the Dodgers, was leading 4-3 with two out in the ninth, but the Yankees had Bucky Dent on second and Paul Blair on first. The hitter? Jackson, naturally, scourge of the Fall Classic. Reggie had driven in all three Yankee runs with a two-run double in the third and a run-scoring ground-out in the seventh to almost balance out the four Ron Cey had knocked home for the Dodgers with his three-run homer and single. The kid, Bob Welch, had come to relieve Forster after the latter had walked Blair. Welch was cheered wildly from the instant he stepped through the bullpen gate, because in only a half season he had become a Lotusland folk idol.
The 21-year-old Welch was called up from the Dodgers' Albuquerque farm in June. He beat Cincinnati in his first major league start, and he shut out the Giants on Aug. 5 in what was then Los Angeles' most important game of the season. The Giants were leading the National League West by 4� games when Welch and his flaming fastball stopped them. L.A. was on its way after that.