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Davey Johnson is all aglow because his Mets are back in first place by a game. "I like pennant races," he says. "This is exciting. I wish the Yankees luck in theirs. I only hope they come out of here with a little easier time of it than we had."
8 P.M.—THE BRONX
The rumors that circulated all week about the Yankees' plucking Tom Seaver from the White Sox have finally been laid to rest. Chicago's asking price—believed to be catcher Ron Hassey and a minor league pitcher—is deemed too high by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, so the Sox withdraw Seaver from the waiver list. Seaver could certainly help the Pinstripes. Except for Ron Guidry (18-5, 3.01 ERA), who pitches tonight, the Yankee starters have been raked all over the lot, as the ERAs of Phil Niekro (4.10), Ed Whitson (4.86) and Marty Bystrom (5.71) will attest. Whatever happened to Connie Mack's theory that pitching is 90% of baseball? "Connie Mack lied," says manager Billy Martin.
For the year, though, the Yankees lead the majors with 741 runs—an average of 5.4 a game. Since falling 9½ games behind the Blue Jays on Aug. 4, the Yanks have won 29 of 35 and moved within 2½ games of Toronto, whose 88-51 record remains the best in baseball. Having won 17 of their last 18 at the Stadium, and 50 of 66 there overall, the Yankees are thinking sweep.
More than 52,000 are on hand, many wearing Mets paraphernalia. When this city had three baseball teams, New Yorkers could be characterized according to the team they favored. Giants fans were discriminating, possibly effete. Dodger fans were liberal, creative. Yankee fans were dumb. Plain dumb. Today there is less distinction between supporters of the Mets and Yankees, though there's a subtle difference in the atmosphere at their parks. A Shea Stadium crowd can be pleasant, almost giddy. At Yankee Stadium everyone prefers to snarl: ushers, security men, vendors. The owner. The manager. Grrr. We're the Yankees.
So it comes as little surprise that, when the two teams line up for the national anthems, it takes just two words—"O Canada!"—to bring forth a chorus of boos. "Class act," remarks one Toronto native. "They're booing 25 Americans and three Dominicans," he says, referring to the Blue Jays' roster.
Just warming up. Blue Jay starter Dave Stieb walks Rickey Henderson and throws over to first. Boo. Home plate umpire Dan Morrison calls a strike. Booo. Toronto catcher Ernie Whitt hits a two-run homer off Guidry. Boooo!
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have chipped away at Guidry for two more runs and lead 4-1 in the seventh. Then they make two mistakes. The first is by Cliff Johnson, the designated hitter Toronto reacquired from Texas for the stretch drive. With two out and two on he steps in to face Guidry and proceeds to pull a George Foster. In again, out again, dreamily gazing at Guidry, who patiently straddles the rubber, waiting for this absurd stalling to cease. "On the bench we were saying, 'Don't do it. Cliff, don't make them mad,' " says Toronto's third baseman, Garth Iorg, later. To no avail. When Johnson steps back in, Guidry simply strikes him out with a hard slider on the hands.
In the Yanks' half of the seventh, with Willie Randolph on first, Bobby Meacham hits a one-out chopper to short that should end the inning. Blue Jay shortstop Tony Fernandez fields the ball cleanly about seven feet from second base, starts toward the bag, hesitates, then flips it—to no one. Second baseman Damaso Garcia has already cleared out so Fernandez can make the play himself. When Stieb, working on a two-hitter, walks the next man, Henderson, it marks his seventh base on balls. Shower time.
The next thing the Blue Jays know, the score is tied 4-4 and Dennis Lamp is pitching to Hassey. The panda-shaped catcher, a notorious low-ball hitter, then golfs a Lamp sinker into the third deck—a Ruthian three-run blast that gives Hassey six homers and 21 RBIs, including three game-winners, in his last 16 games. The Yanks have scored six runs on three hits in the inning. "All week I've been hearing rumors Hassey might be traded for Seaver," says Martin afterward. "He ain't going nowhere."