New York's Reggie Jackson completed a two-out-of-three-falls victory over the city of Baltimore tonight.
The $3 million Yankee spent eight innings of embarrassment being doubled off base, getting called out on strikes and once tripping himself in the batter's box so that he had to scramble toward first base like a crab.
But in the top of the ninth of a 3-3 game against the Orioles. Jackson's teammates set a banquet spread for him -- men at first and third and nobody out. Jackson crunched a game-winning sacrifice fly to the warning track that allowed him to leave town with his grinning mouth full of Bird feathers.
The Yanks, now 9-9, needed this narrow 4-3 victory badly. Tonight their lineup looked macabre without starters Roy White, Mickey Rivers and Graig Nettles, all of whom picked up minor injuries the first two nights here.
The New Yorkers were further short-handed since dissident pitcher Dock Ellis and throw-in Marty Perez were traded (along with minor-leaguer Larry Murray) for Oakland's Mike Torrez just 90 minutes before the game.
Ellis, unsigned and generally angry most of the time, was the one Yankee who consistently lambasted owner George Steinbrenner, both for his contract dealings and his habit of entering the locker room for pep talks, shouting matches and strategy conferences.
Ellis reiterated before leaving to join the hard-to-live-with Charles O. Finley, that "If Steinbrenner stays out of the clubhouse, the Yanks will win. If he doesn't, they won't."
While manager Billy Martin already on the razor's edge in his dealings with Steinbrenner, was testify noncommittal ("Sorry to lose Dock. Glad to get Torrez. Why don't you talk to the people that made the deal"), the other Yanks were in a sniping mood.
"The guys are kind of upset," said Nettles. "We have a great club. Dock helped us win last year and now they're breaking up the team. Dock didn't have an enemy on the club.
"He was our spokesman about Ste inbrenner," he added, grinning. "Looks like we'll have to get another one."
If Ellis had the longest face of any Yankee tonight, Jackson had the happiest.
He drove in a first-inning run with a sacrifice fly, but the fly really did as much to defuse a big-inning as anything. In the third, tenacious southpaw starter Scott McGregor, who fought for seven good innings, fanned Jackson on a called curve on the corner. Jackson was already halfway to first when he was thumbed out and the crowd of 15,647 loved seeing his double take.
Jackson, who looked tanglefooted in the outfield all night, but didn't make an error, had his worst moment in the seventh. He had singled off McGregor in his previous trip, but this time he shattered his bat on a feeble groundler to second, then tripped in the batter's box and clawed and tumbled to first like a beached Chesapeake crab. He was safe only because Lee May dropped a relay throw on the potential double-play ball.
Jackson wished he had been out a few seconds later when he was foolishly doubled off first on a liner to the second baseman.
But all those bad moments and the memory of three days of insults, signs and garbage being thrown at him were forgotten in the ninth.
Willie Randolph, who reached base five times as a leadoff man, sliced a double to right and moved to third as Thurman Munson dribbled a swinging bunt to third.
Baltimore manager Earl Weaver left right hander Dennis Martinez in for just one reason -- to throw fast balls at Jackson's fists.
Jackson battled five of Martinez'f best jdmmers to a 2-2 count. But he had his hands full. Finally, he caught one flush, driving the ball to the warning track in dead left center with a defensive inside-out type of swing.