Each day, this town's "Damn Yankees" find themselves in some new chamber of purgatory suffering yet anothr self-inflicted torment.

And each day the question recurs. How can this go on? How can a team have a new crisis almost every day.

Today's upheavel in Yankeeville took the form of owner George Steinbrenner doing a complete about-face on manager Billy Martin, Monday evening. Steinbrenner laid down some of the heaviest flack on Martin that any manager has had to swallow.

New York fans held their breath and said, "This is finally it. One more lose and the Martin era is over."

So today Steinbrenner issued one of the most bizzare votes of confidence on record: "Baring any really serious breach of Billy Martin's relationship with (general manager) Gabe Paul. It is 99 out of 100 per cent sure that Martin will be the manager of the Yankees this season, win or lose," said Steinbrenner.

"At this point you can bet he will have his job in October."

Since all of Martin's problem's have been with Steinbrenner and none with Paul. Yankee watchers were left to wonder what the Martin-Paul "relationship" had to do with anything.

Did this latest twist of the knife mean that Steinbrenner has decided to stop meddling with the managing, at least temporatily? Or had a Yakee talent search for a replacement: for Martin come up dry? After all, Martin's coach, Dick Howser, has reportedly already turned down the job.

Kansas City manager Whitey Herzog said last week that Martin has "a rocking-chair job. Just till out of the lineup sit back and have a beer."

But a rocking chair with the easily inflamed Steinbrenner standing behind it could flip over at any second.

Surely today was a typical one in the season of Yankeegate. Nothing was certain; everyone was cautious and guarding the back of his own neck. yet the embattled Yanks - from owner to GM, from manager to players - seemed prepared to continue this pitched battle all summer, each from his own trench.

How can it have gone on so long already and how can it continue without a denouement in sight?

"An extre demension is at work here," said catcher Fran Hely, the only Yank with a master's degree in history. "The extra dimension is New York City."

Perhaps only those who live here can understand that immediately. For instance, on Fifth Avenue today an old man bent over and "payed the sidewalk" with a pair of drumsticks. He stands on that same spot nearly every day, asking for nothing, just obeying his own whims. A policeman passing this after noon paused for a moment to join the man in a duet, the cop pounding the pavement with his billy stick a few times, then walking off, laughing to himself.

Crises, feuds, wasted millions and public bickering are seen as a way of life here. Why should the New York Yankees be different?

Martin is New York's man. The fans here stood and cheered for him at last week's All-Star Game and they made him tip cap three more times on Tuesday night, "It came at just the right time," said Martin, obviously feeling the fans had precipitated the two-edged vote of confidence.

Some insist the support for Martin is due to perversity. That New Yorkers are so jaded they just want to prolong this Yankee circus as long as possible until all the egos of the Bronox - especially those of Martin, Steinbrenner and outfielder Reggie Jackson - are left in one whimpering lump by season's end.

It is more likely, however, that many here see Martin as the sort of "I'm-fed-up-and-I -won't -take-it-anymore" kind of guy they wish they could be.

Martin tells off his bosses, ignores their memos and meetings, kicks dirt on the umpires' shoes, tries to punch the owner's favorite prima donna and always finds a way to pass the buck in defeat. A perfect New Yorker, one could say.

At 49, he still wild and untanned, making a hundred grand a year. He is his own man.

Steinbrenner's 90-minute "air clearing" conference with the press Monday sounded like a list of articles of impeachment.

Steinbrenner said that martin was not telling the truth about their season-long arguments and that Martin was consistently trying to =make himself look like a martyr with self-serving statements . . . He seems to love being a martyr."

Steinbrenner defended Jackson while patronizing Marting, talking about how he had "hoped to help Billy with the areas of personal conduct where he needed help."

After contrasting Martin's talent for being "an Alibi Ike" with Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson's strength of character in taking responsibility for his teams' failures, Steinbrenner said, "Then is somebody going to have enough intelligence to see that Martin's been through this in three othr cities? Maybe the guy's in the wrong profession."

Even Paul, the mellow general manager, the man in charge of doing the firing, said, "When two people disagree, one of them is unnecessary."

After such blasts, it was little wonder that one Yankee regular said, "The whole league is laughing at us . . . Every day is critical for Billy. You know impulsive George is. He's continuing to make a mockery of this. I dont have the same respect for Billy tha I had last season, but George has less than he ever had before."

The latest Steibrenner meet-the-press session was unique because the boss' remarks sounded like recriminations after a firming, not statements made just hours before a new peace agreement.

Those who are exposed to the Yankee radiation too long begin to feel that a whole segment of time has been misplaced.

Monday, Steinbrenner's comic "seven criterion" for a manager, including the rather braod, "Does he understand human nature?" and the insulting but trenchant, "Is he honorable?" seemed at first like a gimmick for chiseling Martin out of the last two years of his $100,000 contract.

Then it was recalled that Martin's original contract included loopholes allowing the Yanks to fire him without paying the remainder of his salary. Such sins as not returning phone calls, not attending meetings and even "not riding the tem bus" were written in as just causes for dismissal."

"These are grown men?" baseball fans must be asking.

The question of if, or when, Billy Martin will be fired as Yankee manager may finally have run its course, ending in these last few days with a general sign of, "Oh, who cares?"

The more interesting point, one that will linger after this season ends, is that the central characters in the drama - Steinbrenner, Martin and Jackson - acquainted the public with their foibles far more than they ever wished.