Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The New York Yankees, the pinstriped powder keg, completed a month of superb baseball tonight.
Just 30 days ago they were five games deep in third place and going down for perhaps the 300th time. Tonight they ran their renaissance to 25 wins in 30 games by thumping the presumptuous Cleveland Indians, 8-3, on the strength of Reggie Jackson's cleanup bat and Sparky Lyle's mop-up arm.
On Labor Day, 28,184 fans showed up here to wave "I Hate The Yankees" hankies at the invaders. The Tribe swept a doubleheader and a New York lead that had reached five games dwindled to 2 1/2 over Boston and four over Baltimore.
Some of the hankies and much of the hatred were back tonight, but it will take more than foolishness to unhinge these Yankees now.
In the sixth inning, score 2-2 and Indian ace Dennis Eckersley throwing smoke, the Yanks might have worried when the announcement came that Baltimore and Boston were romping again to easy victories.
Instead, Lou Piniella, the .336 hitter who has to fight to get off the bench, roped a home run through a stiff Lake Erie breeze dead over the center-field fence.
An inning later, Jackson ran his RBI count to four for the night and 88 for the year with a three-run homer (No. 24) into the right-field lower deck of this monstrously ugly old 80,000-seat cavern of a stadium.
Lyle, who does not seem to know that relief pitchers don't win Cy Young Awards, got the final 11 outs. In his last 30 appearances Lyle has a 1.06 earned run average. His bullpen act - 12-4 record, 22 saves, 1.72 overall ERA in 119 innings over 61 games - has certainly been the American League's top pitching performance this season.
All the Yanks' recent strong points were on display - particulary Jackson. The team's resurgence coincided with his elevation to the cleanup spot. "If his ego needs to be satisfield," said another New York regular, "and hitting fourth does it, then so be it. it helps the team." Could that be a Yangee talking?
Tonight, Jackson crushed a runscoring double off the top of the fence that barely missed being a homer. On his three-run shot he could linger at the plate and admire his work. In his 26 games at cleanup, Jackson has 27 runs batted in.
"If he had anything to do with it," said Jackson, nodding his head toward manager Billy martin, "I'd still be batting sixth and seventh . . . against righthanded pitchers only."
Given the cahnce to be the stick that stirs the drink, presumably on owner George Steinbrenner's orders, Jackson has mixed a potent Manhattan. In fact, the entire Yankee batting order has stablized.
Mickey Rivers, martin's least favorit center fielder, is hitting .328, including .377 for the last 17 games. Nevertheless, Rivers still refuses to light the fuse to the Yankee running game.
"Billy won't give Mickey the green light to steal on his own, so Mickey has decided he won't steal at all," said a regular. "Mickey's cither missed or ignored a lot of steal signs," another New York player confirmed.
More important than the intracies of internal interaction is the way the team seems finally to have accepted the fact all the squabbles and personality conflicts are not going to go away.
"We're got two idea leadoff men in Rivers and (Willie) Randolph, two idea No. 2 hitters in (Roy) White and (Thurman) Munson, and four guys at least that can hit third or fourth," said Graig Nettles. "Everybody can't be happy at the same time, and we've accepted it."
Tonight the Yankee's infinite offensive variety was on display as White stole two bases and drew one of two wild Cleveland pickoff throws. Utility man George Zeber doubled in a run as the bench that includes Dell Alston (.379), Paul Vlair (.296), Piniella and Cliff Johnson (.289) kept on cooking. In all, the Yanks had 11 hits, six for extra bases, and seven earned runs off Eckersley - one of the hardest throwers in baseball. Other teams might have wilted after way the 22-year-old, who already has 528 career strikeouts, fanned Nettles, Munson and Jackson in a row in the opening inning.
Those same three Yankess filed across the plate to decide the game in the seventh. Nettles received a two-out intentional walk with a man on second and New York ahead by just 3-2. Munson, already fanned twice by Eckersley, jumped on the first pitch and dealth out a lesson in giving respect to MVPs with his crisp RBI single to right.
Jackson hit the next pitch halfway to the lake.
As the three sluggers rounded the bases with a fourth - Chris Chambliss - waiting at the plate to greet them, the Yankees looked like proof that money could at least buy a little happiness.
As they all strutted back to the dugout, Munson shook both fists above his head with glee; Jackson pointed a finger and grinned malevolently at a fan who had been heckling him, and Martin pounded every back in sight, including Jackson's.
"We're finally playing the way you'd think we should by just looking at the lineup card," said catcher Fran Heely. "The unseen key is the pitching we've gotten from Dick Tidrow (who started and won tonight with 5 1/3 shaky innings) and Ron Guidry (12-6, 2.96). Good, dependable pitching is what you have to have in September."