"Socially," said Reggie Jackson, "I think the city will be better off if we win it all, if Billy and Reggie get along, if George Steinbrenner comes out looking good. I may be crazy, but that's the way I feel."

Possibly the Yankees will not bring crime to a halt, wipe out all money woes and make the five boroughs the envy of all mankind with victory in the World Series.

However, just 16 games before Bowie Kuhn dons his longjohns and the playoffs begin, the Yankees are where everyone insisted they should have been from the moment owner Steinbrenner gathered the team in the spring and said: "Here's a million for you, and a silver platter for your head, Martin, if we don't win everything."

The Yanks are not as far ahead in the American League East as it was assumed they would be when Jackson and Don Gullett were added to a team that made the World Series a year ago. But for the salaries they command, the Yanks also ought to be capable of dramatic flair, and in the regard they have outdone themselves.

Having earlier in the year conspired to make Yankee hating a joy once again, the Checkbook Chargers lately have performed in the finest Yankee tradition, winning 31 of their 38 games and quite possibly dealing the Red Sox a fatal blow by winning the series here this week.

"The toughest loss of the season?" said manager Don Zimmer after the 2-0 setback Wednesday. "Sure it is, because we had so many chances to win Anytime you get an eight-inning shutout from Reggie Cleveland you've got to feel you'll win."

Indeed, anytime the Red Sox get an earned run average of 2.11 over a 17-game period, they would run away and hide from most teams. Before tonight's finale of a three-game series, Boston trailed the Yanks by 3 1/2 games - and were in third place, a game behind the hope of all underdog fan, the Orioles.

The Red Sox were in that predicament mainly because Jackson played the way even he does not dream about often in a game as fine as any season will yield under such tense conditions:

Pivotal game. Two teams with several decades of dislike for each other, and one - the Sox - with a deep tradition of stumbling in such moments. Jobs on the line. Immediate tension when the first Boston pitch smacks Mickey Rivers hard in the ribs.

And then, suddenly more fine fielding plays in one game than the dedicated fan might see in six months. Outfielder Carl Yastrzemski running to his left, diving at the last moment and catching a Thurmon Munson liner that certainly would have driven in two runs. Butch Hobson with two diving catches at third base. And Jackson, of all people, will the best plays of all.

In the Red Sox fourth, Jackson extended himself perhaps an inch or so over the nine-foot-high fence in right and caught George Scott's fly. In the Red Sox seventh Jackson did a belly-whomper on Bernie Carbo's sinking liner and came up with the ball.

America's most famous sporting hot dog, who plays just a few dozen yards from America's largest mustard ad, was swelling by the moment, until he ended this memorable game with a 440-foot homer in the last of the ninth and Munson on first.

However one might regard Jackson, and neutral observers are as rare as a Redskin pass on fourth down, he is a most entertaining athlete in victory, outgoing and full of savvy about what attracts reporters and sells Reggie Jackson. A midnight interview for television in the dugout? In uniform? Certainly.

"Last night, in P.J. Clarke's George (Steinbrenner) predicted I'd picked up my check. That's another $30 he's given me. Hey, with me, George has been the eternal optimist.

"Of course, he has no other choice."

The arrogant mood Jackson had worn much of the season had been tucked away, perhaps behind the wooden locker frame to which was stuck a small button that said: "Be yourself." With the Redskins' team preacher, Tom Skinner, beaming nearby, Jackson volunteered: "I told God before that last pitch that if he let me hit a homer I'd tell everyone You did it."

Across the room and inside his large office, the most accomplished survivor in sports, Billy Martin, was saying that being a manager means you have no time to appreciate what wonderful baseball is taking place before you.

"How good the game is doesn't mean anything," he said. "If a Hobson makes a great catch, you'll say, 'Aw.'" Folks, that's what he honestly said. "Or if Reggie or Mickey catches a tough one, you'll say, 'Hey' (or Hey, Cey, if you're a Dodger).

"You're thinking ahead all the time, maybe two or three innings. There's a lot more things on your mind than it's a pretty game."

Like the most important letter in the athletic alphabet, W the one that allows managers to manage but apparently have little joy while doing it.