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He entered the series as a symbol of a fading dynasty Steinbrenner seemed intent on dismantling. Nettles missed much of the 1980 season with hepatitis, batted .244 this year and went 1 for 17 in the Milwaukee mini-series. But last week he redeemed himself, much to the delight of his friend Jimmy Buffett, the singer. "There's a song Jimmy sings, Growing Older But Not Up," Nettles says. "I still feel like a little kid. Some guys are old at 28, others are young at 40. I'd rather die while I'm living than live dead."
If Nettles was the focus of attention after the series, in more ways than one, Martin commanded the spotlight before it began. After all, he had twice managed the Yankees, resigning under pressure in 1978 and getting fired in 1979.
The first team to score in Game 1 figured to have a pronounced advantage—the A's because they could unveil their running game, and the Yankees because they could close things out with Davis and Gossage.
The Yankees scored three times in the first inning when Nettles jumped on Norris' 0-2 mistake—a high screwball—and lined it to left-center. The Yankees kept threatening to break the game open, but their base runners lost close calls on plays at second, third and home. Even so, the three runs were all John needed. He kept his sinker down, producing 10 ground balls in six innings and ending two innings with double plays. "I pitch better when I'm tired," said John. "When I was warming up, I threw 18 to 20 minutes instead of 12 to 15 and used a lot of breaking balls to wear myself down. When a sinkerballer is tired, he'll throw lower."
The game was played under a full moon, and the Yankee Stadium werewolves made their appearance in the seventh. Skyrockets erupted from the upper deck, fizzled and left a smoky haze over rightfield. A baseball thrown from the stands struck Tony Armas on the back but didn't injure him.
With Dwayne Murphy on first, one out in the eighth and the Yankees leading 3-1, Martin produced fireworks of another sort. John had left the game after six innings, complaining of "a little toothache" in his right ankle, and Davis was facing A's Designated Hitter Johnson. With a 1-2 count, Johnson convinced Home Plate Umpire Nick Bremigan that his bat was chipped and took a considerable amount of time at the rack exchanging it. Only a cynic would suggest that Martin had ordered the delay. When Johnson finally stepped back in, Davis, clearly rattled, threw three consecutive balls and was finished for the night.
"Billy found Davis' nerve," said an A's insider. " Davis wants to have the ball and pitch." To be sure, the stalling brought in Gossage, who nailed down the win by retiring five batters in a row, but that, too, was part of Martin's grand design. "Billy wanted to waste Davis and Gossage and set up the second game for McCatty," the A's source said.
For all his cunning, though, Martin may have outfoxed himself. Going into the fourth inning of Game 2 McCatty figured to win even if his pitching became spotty. Six A's had hit safely, and a seventh, Armas, had been robbed of a homer on a circus catch by Winfield, who literally climbed the leftfield wall to reach the ball. Still, Martin removed McCatty in favor of Beard with a 3-2 lead. "My manager made that move," said Martin, the G.M. Two hits later the Yankees led 5-3, and Martin's logical move was to walk Piniella and bring in a lefthander to face lefty Gamble. But Martin insisted on having Beard pitch to him. Piniella hit a three-run homer and the Yankees took an 8-3 lead. Even so, Beard finished the inning. "The game got totally out of hand," said Piniella, winking. "When that happens, I think Billy loses interest."
Martin wears a gold cross on his cap and says he abhors violence, but on the first pitch of the third game, Oakland's Keough threw a fastball at Mumphrey's chin. If Martin thought the gesture would bring the game down to his level, he was mistaken. What ensued was a three-hour, 19-minute low-scoring game in which, at times, the pitchers could not pitch, the hitters could not hit, the fielders could not field and the healthy could not stay healthy.
The Yankees stranded 11 batters in the first seven innings against Keough, but had gotten one run up on Randolph's sixth-inning homer. "Inside fastball," said Keough. "It is the way to pitch Randolph, but not with an 0-2 count and two outs in a scoreless game." Righetti needed 112 pitches to get through six innings but allowed only four hits and turned over the 1-0 lead to Davis.