Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Blair lifted the weight of the world from the shoulders of his New York Yankee teammate Chris Chambliss, and dropped it on the Los Angeles Dodgers' head tonight.
The enormous scoreboard clock in centerfield flipped from 11:59 p.m. to midnight an instant before Blair's ground ball into left field scored Willie Randolph and gave the Yankees a 4-3, 12-inning victory in this classic opener of the World Series.
It was indeed the witching hour for the Yanks and a veritable new day to boot.
The game, watched by 56,668 fans here and an estimated 60 million TV viewers, was sent into overtime after Yankee first baseman Chambliss missed a tag in the ninth inning. It left the tying run on base and the Dodgers brought it home.
The Yankee laurels had to be divided many ways tonight.
Randolph, who opened the 12th with a first-pitch double sliced into the right-field corner, tied the game, 2-2, with a home run in the sixth, then scored the Yank' go-ahead run in the eight after a leadoff walk.
Thurman Munson, Yankee captain, followed Randolph to the plate in the 12th and he was the other man who had kept the New Yorkers alive. In the first inning he singled and scored on a two-out single by Chambliss. In the eight Munson drove home Randolph from first with a hit-and-run double into the left field corner.
Munson also made a saving play with his brilliant snag of a weak outfield throw and one-motion dive across home plate to tag out Steve Garvey by a whisker in the sixth.
The final moments of this exhausting triumph were charged with electricity.
Blair, who entered the game as Reggie jackson's defensive caddie in the ninth, was under orders to bunt the runners along in that 12th.
But the Yankee bunt sign had a curse on it tonight. Five times manager Billy Martin ordered a sacrifice and five times it was botched.
"Oh, my God," screamed Yankee owner Geoge Steinbrenner as Blair fouled off two bunt attempts before his winning hit. "Five times. Five times, Blair's been the best bunter in the league for 10 years and now he's messed up twice in extra innings."
But the new day was coming. Just as Steinbrenner was demonstrating how high the pitch had been that Blair just fouled, his outfielder was lashing a grounder into the shortshop hole.
"The bunt sign was still on when I stepped into the box on that pitch," said Blair, "but (third base coach) Dick Howser yelled at me to get out, then gave me the sign to hit."
Perhaps Martin would have trusted Blair to swing. He is Martin's pet reclamation project at the plate.
"The man in Baltimore destroyed my confidence the last two years," said Blair, referring to manager Earl Weaver. "Billy has restored me by letting me hit in key spots. I've got seven game-winning hits this year. I think Earl saw the one tonight."
No Yankee fan will forget that it was Blair who opened the Yankees' pennant-winning ninth-inning rally Sunday with a leadoff single.
Certainly Chambliss will not forget the one tonight. Without his boner, the Dodgers may never have scored the run to tie in the ninth inning that robbed the Yankees' gritty starter, Don Gullett, of victory.
Dusty Baker opened the ninth with a single, but when pinch-hitter Manny Mota missed a bunt attempt, Baker was caught 40 feet off first. Munson charged at the runner, then pegged to Randolph, who fired to Chambliss in time to get Baker.
but Chambliss, never nimble and improperly stationed on the inside of the basepath, could not reach Baker, whose head-first, fade-away dive took him to safety.
"I just missed him," said Chambliss, then added, "it doesn't matter now."
Baker took second, then scored as pinch-hitter Lee Lacy grounded a single off Sparky Lyle in the same spot as Blair's.
If this game had a turning point, it came when Gullett survived the first inning tonight.
The Dodgers opened their assault against him with a walk, a 430-foot triple by Bill Russell, a walk, a 400-foot sacrifice fly by Ron Cey and a walk.
Gullett, who was tentative and wild in his first-game playoff thrashing, was close to another KO. Martin came to the mound to straighten him out.
And Gullett, with the help of Dodger manager Tom Lasorda, got himself straight. With Reggie Smith on first, one out and Garvey at the plate with a 3-1 count, Lasorda decided to send the runner. Never help a wild, struggling pitcher out of a jam, says the baseball canon.
But Lasorda did, Garvey swung and missed to make the count full, and Smith was caught dead between bases and was run down.
Gullet walked Garvey. But when Munson went to the mound for more on-the-job counseling, Gullett told him, "If I get this guy out and get out of this inning, somebody's in a lot of trouble for the rest of this game."
It is possible that the Dodgers, favored because of the Yankees' supposedly tattered pitching took the Bombers too lightly.
When starter Don Sutton gave up one first-inning run to make it 2-1, he walked off the mound joking with Reggie Jackson about how cheap his handle hit had been. Sutton also chattered with Munson several times.
If the Dodgers thought that Gullett, who had a 14-5 record against them in the National League, was going to be tender chicken, they were wrong. The Southpaw mowed them down until the ninth. Lyle, who got the win, was his usual overpowering self, retiring the last 11 men in a row that he faced after Lacy greeted him with his RBI single.
Except for the tainted tally in the ninth, L.A. came close to scoring only in the sixth when Garvey tried to score from first on a two-out, hit-and-run single to right by Glenn Burke that died quickly in the grass.
Mickey River's two-hop throw to home was no beauty - both a shade weak and six feet to the right. But Munson, the man Sutton calls "Candy Bear' for his nimbleness behind the plate, pounced out for the throw, then drove blindly into Garvey's spikes in a cloud of dust.
Umpire Nestor Chylak was in poor position up the first base line, saw a great deal of dust and may have thrown up his thumb by radar. Munson exchanged a sarcastic laugh with Dodger catcher Yeager as he trotted off, leaving the impression of a getting away with the plunder.
In fact, the Yankee attack was sneaky all night. Randolph, owner of five home runs in 1.042 career at bats, hit a homer as the first man to bat after Munson's miracle tag. Randolph's line drive found the first row of seats in the extreme left-field corner. Extremely economical.
In the wake of tonight's glorious escape, many of the Yankee problems seem to have flown. Gullett looks well enough to start Game 5. Ron Guidry is a strong trump for two starts while Mike Torrez can manage one.
Catfish Hunter, who has not pitched since Sept. 15, will start Wednesday's game (8:15 p.m. EDT) against Burt Hooton.
This Yankee-Dodger Battle that looked desperately close to being one-sided for a nervous half-inning tonight, is now a full-scale all-fronts war.