The New York Yankee time bomb that has ticked all season exploded today in the sixth-inning of a 10-4, five-homerun Boston Red Sox victory.
In full view of 34,603 delighted fans, 25 amused Red Sox, and a national TV audience, Yankee manager Billy Martin yanked Reggie Jackson from the game for failing to hustle, then screamed in his millionaire player's face and finally tried to start a fight with the slugger.
Jackson took off his glasses and was ready to counterpunch if necessary. But it was Martin, trying to climb over benches and force his way around coaches Elston Howard and Yogi Berra to punch Jackson who made the scene unique.
"When a player shows up the team, I show up the player," said Martin pointedly. "I don't run my team for television. I'm not going to wait until next week to say something just because it's on TV.
"This is between Reggie and me," Martin repeated to all specific questions. The firebrand manager whose job reportedly has been in jeopardy all season since he was fined $2,500 by his owner, made his feelings clear.
"Is this the worst incident I have ever had with a player in public?" asked Martin, who has punched his players in private. "Yes. It's the only one. . . .
"Words were said that I didn't like. . . . We won without him (Jackson), didn't we? All he has to do is what I ask every player to do - hustle.
"This (damage) can be repaired. I don't see why not. I'll talk to him tomorrow."
Yankee general manager Gabe Paul sat in a first-row box not more than 15 feet from the Martin-Jackson fracas. Paul, after speaking with Martin at the end of the seventh inning, left early and was unavailable for comment.
Jackson, ordered to the clubhouse by Martin with much the same "you're-out-of-the-game" motion that umpires use on managers, also departed Fenway park early.
Although the Yankee main bout stole the show, it was the Red Sox who did the heavy hitting again today.
Carl Yastrzemski smashed a three-run homer into the center field bleachers in the first inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit, then homered again for two insurance runs in the eighth. He had four hits.
The Bosox, who have won eight of nine games and hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yanks, hit 11 homers off New York pitching in the last two games.
Bernie Carbo, who made a run-saving shoe-string catch in the first, cracked two Fenway-Special solo home runs into the screen from his south paw stance.
George (Boomer) Scott took over the American League home run lead with a seventh-inning liner into the centerfield seats for No. 17.
Scott was disappointed. "That was the worst scene (between Martin and Jackson) that I have ever seen in baseball," said Scott. "But once it started, man, I wanted to see it finish. Reggie'd have choked the little . . ."
"Reggie's lucky," said one Red Sox player. "Martin would have gotten in the first punch, then 10 people would have jumped between them and Martin would have said, 'I won another fight.'"
It is doubtful Martin will want to claim this near brawl as one of his career favorites. The Yankee locker-room, rather than being morose, was filled with a sort of sly amusement.
Martin and Jackson might have fewer close Yankee friends between them than any two players on the team. Jackson's one, conspicuous friend, Jimmy Wynn, held him at bay. Martin's two closest old-time buddies, Berra and Howard, were the only men who tried to restrain him from an incident that could cost him his job.
"I'm just happy to be here," said the devilish Thurman Munson, suppressing a grin. "Look at me, I get along with everybody . . . It's been kind of a tough day."
"I didn't do anything," laughed Howard.
The player that started the chain reaction was, curiously, rather uneventful. Jim Rice hit a checked-swing bloop down the right field line. Rice hesitated. Jackson hesitated. Rice rounded first slowly, but still had plenty of time to get a double as Jackson reached the ball after a run that was neither breakneck nor lazy.
The hit, ht e 13th off starter Mike Torrez, brought an angry Martin to the mound to call a reliever. Before the next pitch Martin sent Paul Blair to relieve Jackson of his position.
Jackson jogged directly to Martin on the bench and began going nose to nose with Martin, gesturing with his arms and making no secret of his displeasure.
Jackson, on a 14-game hitting streak in which he has slugged .797, seemed restrained while Martin became madgling to get at Jackson.
Carbo was the only player who said he had ever seen anything similar.
"Sparky Anderson once sent Ted Uhlander out to replace Pete Rose in the outfield and Rose sent him back and stayed in the game. Sparky and Pete really had it out in the clubhouse, but that was in private."
The biggest Saturday crowd at Fenway in more than 20 years, including the final game of 1967 when the Red Sox won the pennant, watched reliever Bill Campbell register his second save in two days. The big right hander replaced starter Reggie Cleveland in the six with a 7-4 lead and closed the door.
During this already long season of Yankee squabbles, the Jackson-Martin tiff has ranked second only to Martin's run ins with owner George Steinbrenner. Jackson loafed on a game, losing play against the Cincinnati Reds during spring training, saying he did not want to risk hurting an injured throwing arm. Since, Jackson has joined Mickey Rivers on martin's list of those whose hustle is watched closely.
As Martin has show throughout a career which includes three mid-season firings, when his baseball standards are violated he takes instant action whatever the cost to himself.
"I'm sorry about this," said Bosox coach Johnny Pesky. "Jackson's known as a pretty good hustler and Martin's my type of guy. All baseball. He's a true Yankee, that son of a buck. But sometimes he gets so incensed . . . Well, sometimes a manager just has to look the other way."