It is a belief today that with the contest tied at one game each, the Dodgers are leading the World Series.
If the Yankees have not been visited by a stabbing suspicion that they are overmatched, then they were deaf to those four loud Dodgers home runs in Game 2 and are heedless of several othe disturbing truths.
These include their own thin pitching and the collective swoon of all their big hitters except Thurman Munson against Dodger pitchers who have reduced Reggie Jackson, Chris Chambliss and Graig Nettles to a 3-for-21 gang that couldn't bat straight.
The two teams are in the same sky today, speeding toward California for Friday's third game, but the Dodgers are the high-flying club.
Los Angeles seized quick control of Game 2 with all those sudden home runs and then showed the Yankees a righthanded pithcer in Burt Hooton who made relative monkeys of New York's big lefthanded hitters, leaving Billy Martin to ponder why.
York turned up other fascinating facts, including proof that New York loves its Yankees with small-town fervor. It wasn't always thus. For all the legends about the old Yankees, New York City used to absorb the World Series with hardly a ripple of excitement compared with other cities. Downtown, the Series was simply something that was played in the Bronx. with the understanding the Yankees would win it.
Not now. No coldly efficient Yankee team is this one. rooting for them is not rooting U.S. Steel. Not these Yankees, who still have their reputation to make, who need to scramble to win the whole town to their side.
The DiMaggio Yankees were never met at the airports by howling mobs wanting to clutch them to their bosoms.
One trouble with these Yankees, whose five hits in the second game were all singles and whose lone homer in the first game was an unlikely one from Willie Randolph, is that they have been giving their fans a false impression.
They do not have the capacity to whip a game-winning homer when they need it. This is the misimpression given people by the Yankee homer that was frozen in time, Chambliss' swat in the ninth that beat Kansas City in last year's playoffs.
The Dodgers, who were held to six hits in Game 1 by Don Gullett, have nevertheless been showing more down-the-line power than the Yankees. One of their homers in Game 2 was from their No. 8 hitter, catcher, Steve Yeager, who actually has hit 16 this season.
Martin has been having trouble on all fronts.
He is quarreling with his club's owner, who may fire him if he doesn't win the Series. He was publicly second-guessed after Wednesday's game by his old antagonist, Jackson, who said Martin should not have started sore-armed Catfish Hunter.
He has in Munson a big-asset catcher who is miffed about many things and want to be traded to Cleveland, of all places. And with Hunter a risk in any later start and Ed Figueroa a sore rib case and Ken Holtzman a social outcast. Martin's pitching problems have multiplied.
Another thing troublesome to Martin is this odd-year World Series in which the designated hitter has been banished, depriving him of the big, constant bat of Cliff Johnson and forcing him to pinch hit for his good relief pitchers when the Yankees are trailing.
For the Yankees, their biggest man has been relief pitcher SParky Lyle. In consecutive appearances, this clever fellow shepherded the Yankees through the vital third and fourth playoff games against Kansas City to get them the pennant, and in game 1 of the Series he walked into a rough situation in the ninth and held the Didgers hitless in the 10, 11 and 12th.
So it was important to the Dodgers when Steve Garvey added to their 5-1 lead by pumping a Lyle pitch far over the fence in left for a homer in the ninth inning of Game 2.
Garvey hit a high pitch, perhaps like one of those high, hanging sliders Hunter threw for three homers in the first three innings. "Those high, hanging sliders," said Garvey, "I'd get out of my grave to swing at that kind of pitch."
There is some speculation that against the pitching of the Dodgers' best man, lefthanded Tommy John, in Friday's third game, Martin might even bench the lefthanded Jackson. That's what he did in the playoffs, and Paul Balir is stronger since, as a sub for Jackson he singled home the winning run in Game 1.
Nothing is ever peaceful for the Yankees. While John is the automatic choice of Dodger manager Tommy lasorda for Game 3. Martin is forced to start a disturbed pitcher. this is Mike Torrez, a good one, but an unhappy contract all season and has been in a pout about all that big money other Yankees are getting.
If the Dodgers don't have the respect of the Yankees, then the Yankees are totally insensitive to what has been happening. In the first place, the Dodgers got into this Series by wiping out by 10 games the Cincinnati Reds, who last October wiped out the Yankees in four straight, albeit a Red Team hurting this year for pitching. The Yanks, by winning game 1, didn't leave the Dodgers intimidated.
In Game 2, the Yankees not only heard it from Ron Cey, who hit that two-run homer in the first, and from Yeager, who got his homer in the second, and Reggie Smith, who got the biggest blast in the third, and Garvey with his swat off Lyle in the ninth - they heard, too, from Burt Hooton.
This was the Dodger pitcher who lost his calm in the playoffs, who buckled to the orchestrated vocal assaults by Philadelphia fiendish fans. Hooton met every pressure point magnificently against the Yankees in going all the way with a five-hit job, all singles. And he was telling the Yankees they would hear from him again later in the Series.
In the postgame interview, the bovish, fair-haired Hooton was describing the "knuckle curve" that was dropping to all parts of the strike zone and discombobulating the Yanks. He struck out six or their first nine batsmen. "It's something I picked up as 14-year-old boy in Greenville (Tex.) trying to imitate Hoyt Wilhelm," he said. "It comes off two of my knuckles."
The poise he showed against the Yankees he carried into his postgame comments. When one writer asked the fatuous question, "Did you consider this a pivotal game?" he said. "If you mean was it an important game, the answer is yes, but what do you mean by pivotal? I'm not a Rhodes scholar."
At this point, the Yankees also are aware of the Dodgers'd epth. Shen they put in a runner for YEager in game, they had old Met Jerry Groto as a backup. He threw out two Yankees who tried to lay down bunts by executing plays that were beauts. All told, the Yankees tried five tiems to bunt on the Dodgers in Game and their record was .00000.
That, incidentally, is what Mickey Rivers is batting in the series thus far, .000 and it's one of the reasons the Yankees couldn't mount anything important against the Dodgers' early lead.
"The key to our pitching," Young Hooton said, "is it keeps Rivers and Randolph off base with their big hitters coming up."
Between them, in 20 times at bat, they've been on base four times, with the dismayed Rivers 0 for 10.