The New York Yankees left their free-agent millionaires on the bench today and let their quiet good guys do the playing. The result: a 14-2 slaughter of the Baltimore Orioles.
Mike Torrez, who gets shuffled around in the rotation so wealthy Catfish Hunter and Don Gullett can be happy, pitched a commanding four-hitter.
Graig Nettles and Roy White - mainstays of last year's order who have each found themselves hitting eighth at times this year - both smacked homers and each drove in three runs.
Somber Chris Chambliss, the speakno-evil cleanup man, reached base five times and also drove in three runs.
Of the Yank volcanoes only Thurnson Munson was part of today's 15-hitt erruption, the biggest New York explosion of the year - on the field.
"yeah, this is a big game," Munson said before the final meeting of the year between the O's and Yanks. "But do we win this one for Billy (Martin), George (Steinbrenner) or the team? I haven't quite got that straight yet which comes first."
After contributing two singles and his 100th career homer, Munson snapped, "i don't like to be laughted at and, right now, everybody's laughing at me. Winning shuts 'em up."
For sure, the Birds left town quietly, though they were still one game up on Boston and two on New York.
An astounding 30 Yanks came to plate with men on base and 13 stepped up with men on third, RBI were being given out like popcorn.
How bad were th Orioles? Kiko Garcia dropped a foul popup with the bases loaded and two out in the first. Two pitches later, starter Rudy may wild-pitches home a run to put New York ahead for good, 2-1. Oriole fans can only wonder why rookie Garcia would start this game while a healthy Mark Belanger, working on a 49-game errorless streak, was benched.
Oriole pitchers walked nine men, including humble Fran Healy with the bases loaded. Rookie catcher Dave Criscion saved a half-dozen runs by swatting pitches in the dirt into submission with men on third. "Criscione was boucin' around back there, wasn't he?" grinned Brooks Robinson.
Second basement Billy Dempsey and A1 Bumbry on the injured list. Only X-rays will tell if he has broken ribs from a double-play take out slide by Nettles that knocked him out of the game in the third.
Perhaps most annoying was at least one Oriole's conviction that they might have won today. "Art Franz (home plate umpire) won that game," said Rudy May, who walked four men in his 2 1/3 innings. "I had the kind of stuff that in the ninth inning right now. that's what smokes me.
"I called that man things I wouldn't call the devil."
The normally placid May threw his bubble gun into the stands, punched a Gatorade cooler, threw his glove, cursed Franz nonstop and generally exited with more flare than he usually shows in a whole season.
Even the Yanks' Nettles agreed that, "Franz may have called a perfect game.I think he missed every pitch on both sides."
Even in this pad-your-stats laughter, the yankees could not manage to crack a smile. "There wasn't really any laughter on the bench," said one Yank starter. "Maybe we were too tired."
As usual, the Yanks laid from the New York press in their locker-room recesses, leaving an almost empty pagne, a gift from Steinbrenner to Munson for his 100th homer, stood solitarily in front of the catcher's locker.
Reggie Jackson, who did not play today because he has never hit well against May, wandered over to stir the pot. Asked about Martin's statement that he had not played because of a hyperextended left elbow suffered in a slight collision the night before, Jackson tried to keep a straight face until one Yank pointed out that it was right elbow that had been bumped.
"Everybody knows," said Jackson, "that when you get hit in the right elbow, it's the left one that hurts."
Perhaps only Nettles, who kiddingly is known as "The Happy Yankee" because he has quietly accepted batting eighth despite being the defednding AL home-run champ, truly seemed at ease and contented - his usual wry self.
"This off-the-field stuff doesn't bother me," said Nettles, who hit his 23d homer off the facing of the upper deck, "There's a difference between being less than happy about something and complaining about it.
"Maybe Roy (White) and I have been hitting at the bottom because Billy knows we're the only two who won't scream about it," grinned Nettles, "It seems like you have to be controversial to get the money from the owner on this team and we're just not that way.
We're veterans and we know somebody's got to do what the manager says. He's the one who gets fired, never the players."
Today, Nettles and his mates gave a crowd of 40,918 a glimpse of what the Bad News Yankees can do when they finally get a victim down and do some serious kicking.