It was the basic Yankee script, with mild editing from Woody Allen. Two of the heroes, Mickey Rivers and Sparky Lyle, were angry at management; Billy Martin escaped the gallows once again. And a blind man drove in the winning run.
Well, Graig Nettles was not entirely blind, perhaps not even as blind as the first-base umpire who seemed to make Royally-awful decisions in the first and fourth innings, and certainly less than KC manager Whitley Herzog, who could not see that Larry Gura did not have it today.
"In the bottom of the first, second and third innings, though. I honestly could not make out the number on the back of my own pitcher from third base," Nettles said. "Frightening? You bet it was. If this had been a regular-season game, I'd have been out of there in a hurry."
Because it was backs-against-their-bucks time in the American League playoff. Nettles stayed in the lineup, and then surely struck a strategic first just before his game-winning hit. He swung at the first blur.
"I was looking fast ball, but I think what I hit was a curve," he said. "Anyway, it was hittable, I got lucky." As Nettles and nearly everyone beyond the Royal family saw it, the Yanks had been lucky even before his fourth-inning single off reliever Marty Pattin.
"I just don't know why they keep starting that guy (Gura)," Nettles said. "They got a guy who wins 18-19 games in regular season (Jim Colborn) and they're scared to use him.
"He's(Gura) just the type pitcher we hit, Always have."
The run Nettles drove in with that slap field was the Yankees' fifth. Suprisingly, it was enough. Martin trusted Lyle with the game (See DENLINGER, D5, Col. 1)(DENLINGER, From D1)- and his job - for 5 1/3 innings and all the Royals could muster were two harmless singles.
Nettles' vision went dangerously fuzzy because he went into second baseman Frank White with a takeout slide right out of Jerry Claiborne's playbook. Or Ty Cobb's. Or, more accurately, Hal McRae's.
Was he trying to shake the Yanks out of their lethargy with that first-inning slide?
"It was meant like retaliation for what happened the other night," he said, alluding to the slide-heard-around-the-world by McRae. "I either hit White's knee or his elbow. But I couldn't see forms for at least three innings." A small lump was showing on his left eyebrow.
"The doctor came down, and at first thought it was mild concussion," he said. "And every inning he'd say, "You all right?" And I'd say, "Yeah."
Hoping desperately none of those fuzzy-looking baseballs would come his way before the fog cleared. Nettles in fact got two semiblind chances almost immediately, back to back. He bobbled the first grounder, from Ken Brett, and seemed to pull Chris Chambliss off the bag at first with his hurried throw.
Umpire Nick Bremigan saw it otherwise, though his was the minority opinion. The next batter, Al Cowens, sent a grounder at Nettles on the next pitch - and the pickup and throw were flawless.
ln victory or defeat, the Yankees always offer the most entertaining postgame show. Today, the first player available, Rivers was first with something Yankeelike.
"I want to be traded," he said. Again And again he would not offer his reasons saying: "I'll talk about that in the future . Right now I want to concentrate on the game."
Rivers got four hits, scored two runs and drive an another. Yet he did not try for any steals.
"Why I don't know," Martin said later. "I had the go sign on three times, I can't pull the guy."
Earlier in the season, Nettles said Rivers has ignored the steal sign constantly. Another Yankee said if Rivers does not get the steal sign all the time, he runs none of the time."
A few lockers away, Lyle recalled his preseason troubles with Yankee thinkers and all the talk that he would be traded after a 7-8 record.
"Sometimes the players know more than the people upstairs," he said. "If they thought I was washed up, they're entitled to that opinion. I know I'm not. I know I can pitch three or four more years with authority. They were wrong, and I'm glad I proved it."
He proved it nearly the entire season - and today especially. When the Royals were unable to deal a crippling blow when he was uncertain early, they are doomed. The pivotal play might well have been when the first batter he faced. Brett, ended the inning with a liner to left with men on first and third.
Lou and Piniella was positioned perfectly.
"I play Brett like a straight-ahead righthanded hitter," he said. "And not too deep, I want to be able to catch every liner he hits over shortstop, 'cause that's what he does best."
Nettles' slide was just one of the not-so-subtle messages the Royals and Yanks sent one another. Gura knocked Reggie Jackson down not long after Nettles clobbered White. Later, Cliff Johnson lost control of his bat - and nearly hit Pattin - and quickly watched a fast ball sail under his chin.
"Hard but fair, that's my style, too," Johnson said. "I didn't expect it, but I wasn't surprised, either. That's the way it should be played." And it will be played one more time