Seldom have two World Series foes been as delighted as the Yankees and Dodgers after splitting the first two games.
When the man with the Bionic Elbow, Tommy John of the Los Angeles Dodgers, faces the New York Yankees' sturdiest hurler, Mike Torrez, here at 8:15 p.m. (EDT) Friday, both teams will be smiling, although for dramatically different reasons.
On the surface, only the Dodgers should feel content. Southpaw John, who threw out the first ball of the 1974 Series with his right hand, is their 20-game winner, their lefthanded answer to lefthanded Yankee strength.
With the Yanks' portside power men - Reggie Jackson, Chris Chambliss and Graig Nettles - all in deep slumps (a combined nine-for-74 with two runs batted in this postseason). John seems the ideal fellow to keep them quiet.
New York's leadoff catalyst, Mickey Rivers, another lefty hitter, has begun the Series 0-for-10. With his moody disposition, a dose of John's sinking fast balls might be just the thing to leave him in a blue funk for the duration, just as he slumbered through a 167 Series last year.
Obviously, the Dodgers are happy to be back in Cahvez Ravine, not just because it is home. It also is not Yankee Stadium, where Death Valley in left-center gobbled up six 400-foot-plus Dodger drives in two games.
The Dodgers claim it didn't bother them, witness their four homes in Game 2. But the Dodgers know that three of those home runs came off Catfish Hunter. They almost don't count.
"You're always glad to get out of New York, just on general principles," said Dodger Steve Garvey. "You can feel the hostility everywhere in the park. The fans are a product of the New York environment. They bring all their frustrations and anger with them."
After seeing Reggie Smith knocked dizzy by a rubber ball thrown from the upper deck at game's end Wednesday, the Bums would like a three-game sweep here. For them, New York isn't even a nice place to visit; especially to conclude a World Series.
"Oh, I think it's fun to play before violent, booing fans," John said sarcastically. "What a shame I'll miss it."
If, in card parlance, the Dodgers seem to be trump tight, the yankees are just glad to be breathing. Their pitching was a disaster after the playoff with Kansas City. The pressure on the New Yorkers has been vicious, constant and interminably drawn out.
The Yanks did not clinch their divisional pennant until Oct. 1, then immediately fell behind by a game twice in the playoffs. Wednesday's second series game was one of the few times in almost two months that they had been able to lose a game and not think it might unglue their whole season.
After finishing with 41 victories in 54 games, the Yanks now think they are a great team, by far the best in baseball when they get sound pitching.
"Pitching is our greatest strength," said catcher Fran Healy. "Once we jelled in August, we put some terrible punishment on a lot of teams."
And that mystery mound corps finally seems at least partially straightened out. If it is, manager Billy Martin should probably get the credit for having the courage to throw Game 2 out the window.
Had Martin fallen for the "We play-'em-one-at-a-time" cliche that most managers swear by, he would have started Dick Tidrow instead of Hunter. The Yanks had won all seven games Tidrow started down the stretch, while Hunter looked like, and proved to be, a sure loser.
Instead, Martin acted like a manager who thought his team was superior and would prove it in time. The Yanks can now follow Torrez with Ron Guidry, then Don Gullett. All three are eatlhy and give away little or nothing to their Dodger counterparts. Tidrow will be avilable in the bullpen, making Sparky Lyte a bit less lonely.
The first travel day of the Series has been, by ancient tradition and modern prediliction, the day of the second guess.
Today was no exception. The oddity, however, was that the man second-guessing Martin for using Hunter was a Yankee, Reggie Jackson.
In round 100 of their feud, Jackson popped off. "How could the bleeper (Martin) pitch him (Hunter). He hasn't pitched since Sept. 10. How could Catfish do anything? . . . Ah, the hell with it."
The Yankees claim they are inured to the hate triangle between Martin, Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner. These final Series days should give an answer to whether that is true.
Martin inadvertently offended Jackson that is true, by saying that he would start Game 3. "Reggis's in there. Splittorff isn't pitching for them," said Martin, refering to the K. C. lefty that caused Billy the Kid to bench Jackson in the final AL playoff game.
"I don't care what he says. I don't need to take that from nobody, especially him," said Jackson, who played the obedient soldier at the time of the Splittorff benching but drew the line at having salt rubbed in his raw ego.
"I know what I can do," said Jackson, who led the Yanks in virtually every offensive category this season despite missing 16 games, sitting out most of them on the bench. "If he did, we might be better off."
By Yankee standards, this is tepid stuff. No punches. No sudden, Big Chief Powwows. Today at the Chavez Ravine workout. Martin snipped at Jackson, saying, "I'll have to find out what Reggie actually said. Maybe Reggie doesn't want to play."
Jackson opted for temporary public contrition (his special on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), saying "Billy and I will talk about this. We always do." Is that a fact? Just last weekend, Jackson said, "Martin and I never talk. We haven't all season."
Martin did show a glimmer of genuine feeling, however, when asked if he did not actually enjoy the turmoil he seems to foment.
"I hate it," said Martin. "I hate to stand here and answer these questions that I have no answer for. But I'm not going to run scared . . . Every club has problems. But on this team, it's all made public. Reporters come into our clubhouses, our lockers, our homes. They look under every rug, overhear conversation. People tell me it's free publicity - yeah, it's beautiful."
If the Yankees' off-field warts are not going away, their prospects on the field are far from glum in cozy Dodger Stadium. Many observers feel that the Yanks' 186 homers, playing out of Yankee Stadium, reflect more power than do the Dodgers' 191 with a good, power-hitting home park.
In either case, the Yanks and Dodgers will enter game 3 in character. The Dodgers are smiling and licking their chops. The Yankees are arguing on the outside, but dangerous none the less.