These Yankees of the 1970s wear the same neat pinstripes and they play in the same park. And their individual lockers as if to accommodate Yankee pride, are still the wiriest and biggest in the league. Lately they have won an American League pennant and his week they are another playoff. This then, is a return to Yankee glory?
Not quite There is a missing element an important one. They do not play baseball like the awesome Yankee teams of memory. It is not in them to do so. They are the new breed. They are protaning the Yankee pinstripes because they are living eash day by Billy Martin's wits, and back the cold efficiency that set Yankee teams apart.
They are trying to win this playoff on the same terms on which they got into it, by stealing bases cadging runs, juggling uncertain lineups, relying on relief pitchers and trying to cover for their hitting catcher who can't throw a lick. Their big innings are far spaced Where have you gone.
Joe DiMaggio and Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra and Mickey Manile and Charley Keller and Tomniy Henrich and Roger Maris and Whitey Ford?
Martin this week is screaming at the hard-hearted American League president who has visited cruel and unusual punishment on the Yankees. He will allow them only 24 players for the playoff, not the customary 25. This is enough to make the old Yankee blink. For them a 10th man was superfluous most of the time.
McCarthy's and Stengel's Yankees were not opposed to open house in the Yankee locker room before the game when friendly baseball writers, or otherwise> might ask a question of an athlete. The Yankee clubhouse in this playoff is being operated as a police state by somebody's order - possibly some American League nincompoops - and the prying press is kept out until a signal is given after the game.
All season, these Yankees have been creating more excitement off the ball field than on it. Manager Martin assualted millionaire Reggie Jackson in the dugout for loafing in right field, and Thurman Munson went public with his mad at Jackson, who said nasty things about him in a magazines. The team's owner, George Steinbrenner, uttered uncomplimentary things about Martin, and this week Martin demanded a new five-year contract or else. When Steinbrenner was unmoved by that threat, the manager put the owner on probation.
Meanwhile, the Yankees blew the opener of their playoff series with Kansas City when their starting pitcher, millionaire Don Gullett, embarked on a disastrous pattern. He allowed two hits and two runs in each of the first three innings. These included a pair of two-run, homers. The Yankees were badly outhomered. That almost never used to happen to by-gone Yankee teams.
There were some indications, too, that Martin was out managed by White Herzog on Wednesday, Herzog picked as his starting pitcher a southpaw who went almost all the way and subdued the big Yankee lefthanded hitters, Jackson, Graig Netties and Chais Chambliss, with one hit in 11 atbats. Martin, who went out to talk to Gullett after only five pitches were thrown, all of them balls, made a poor decision. He left Gullett in, and two pitchers later than worthy gave up a two-run homer than put K.C. in the lead to stay.
In what has become the public view, the Yankee team is represented by manager Martin, right fielder Jackson and some other guys. Martin and Jackson are the visible ones, with Jackson knowing how to exploit the presence of television and still cameras like no other athlete before him with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali.
After the first playoff game in which he went 0-for-4, a horrible game in which he struck out and popped up twice, it was Jackson who still commanded the biggest audience of reporters in the Yankees clubhouse. They knew he, at least, would have something to say and usually something pretty good if not profound. Because he is the most articulate athlete in the sports business. He is also a cinch to move into sportscasting when he can't take his bat to the plate any longer.
Jackson commands more attention in the on-deck circle than most of his teammates do in the batters box. He does this with those difficult, calisthenic stretches with his superb body; he effects not one but two white gloves sometimes, and always two white wrist bands, and is the symbol of the well-dressed batsman itching to get to bat. When he does he digs that hole with his spikes to accommodate his back foot because he is the great, particular hitter, you see.
Those cries of "Reggie, Reggie" that are screamed from the right-field seats behind that sector where Jackson plays are not altogether spontaneous. You see, Jackson works for two employers, the Yankees and Standard Brands, which is soon to get out that candy bar he said should be named for him. It went into Jackson's $2.9 million deal with the Yankees when he signed that five-year contract, that Standard Brands should be allotted 200 seats in rightfield, the better to set up a claque of fans who would vell "Reggie, Reggie" and promote both Jackson and the candy bar. Darn clever, Standard Brands.
Jackson has had a decent year, particularly when the Yankees were trying to nail down the pennant in the last month, but he is not applaudeti by all people. Among these are the people at NBC who have a mad against him. When NBC was trying to promote ist Muhammad Ali-Earnie Shavers fight with a big social gathering at Rockefeller Center a fortnight back, Reggie showed up uninvited, according to one NBC spokesman.
"He diverted attention from All and the fight, which was the purpose of the party. Nobody asked him to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] but he was signing more autographs than Ali and loving it. He said there isn't enough mustard in the world to cover that hotdog".