Tommy Lasorda has his Great Dodger in The Sky and Frank Sinatra, which may be even more fortunate. Billy Martin has been the luckier manager through the playoffs and two World Series games, though, like some smallfish cartoon character who keeps dodging to safety each time a heavey fist seems ready to crush him.
Almost through desperation. Martin has relied heavily on Yankees considered unlikely heroes - Ron Guidry and Dick Tidrow in the regular season. Don Gullett and Paul Blair of late - and escaped the winner. When Martin needed a Royal favor in the playoffs. Whitey Herzog gave him Larry Gura - twice.
"The most valuable Yankee?" Tidrow repeated near the batting cage the other day, "I tell everyone it's my room - me and Guidry."
And why not? When Gullett and Catfish Hunter were hurt, Martin had little choice but to switch Tidrow from the bullpen to the regular rotation - and the 6-foot-4 righthander with the 4-5 record a year ago won five straight games.
Guidry is the slender lefty who could not get Mother Tums out during spring training, who admitted "everything everyone hit in the spring was hard - even the outs, which were going 380 and 390 feet to the base of the wall. I did not think I would get a chance up here."
He did, and became wonderfully consistent when the more expensive arms around him turned to jelly. He was the "stopper" much of the season - and there is no finer compliment for a pitcher. "I was going to be a reliever, but with the injuries Billy let me start. And the more confidence I got, the more chances I got to pitch. In the spring, my fast ball was fast - but straight. And Sparky (Lyle) helped me with my slider, which had been pretty flat."
Indeed, anyone with Lyle in the bullpen how do you spell relief? - L-Y-L-E is just a step or two short of genius, though Martin seemed to be stretching his good fortune in Game 5 of the playoffs against Kansas City.
Only Martin would bench the fellow who had carried the team so far during the stretch drive. Beggie Jackson, in favor of Blari. Perhaps Jackson had not hit Paul Splittorff all that consistently during the season, but two of his hits had been a double and home run.
But Blair got the single that started the winning ninth-inning rally. And after Blair replaced Jackson for defensive reasons in the first World Series game the former Oriole with the birk-like production in '75 and '76 (47 rbi in 815 at-bats) drove in the winning run in the 12th inning.
"When you give someone confidence," Martin said. "you'll be rewarded. And I believe in using everyone, even though one of the others might get mad."
One of the otehrs would be Jackson - and he was livied after the 6-1 Dodger victory in the second Series test Wednesday. Or at least a Daily News reporter discovered him that way.
"How could the (expletive deleted) pitch him." Jackson said of Martin's decision to use Hunter. "In a World Series, how do you make a decision like that on a guy like Hunter (who has not pitched in a month? Cat did his best, but he hasn't pitched in so long . . . ah, the hell with it."
In truth, it was the only decision Martin could make, because everyone else wither was ailing more than Hunter or in need of rest for the rest three weckend games in Los Angeles. Hunter was a gamble, but a reasonable one, a once matchless pressure pitcher who just might have given the Yanks enough time for Tidrow and Lyle to steal a victory.
By the 15th pitch of the game, the one Ron Cey sent onver the left field fence, that hope was dismissed - and Hunter was gone before he could retire eight Dodgers.
Pitching was the large concern for the Yanks before the Series, but now the bats suddenly have gone silent. Jackson is 1-for-6 - and that was an excuse-me bloop to center - Chris Chambliss is 1-for-9, Graig Nettles 1-for-6 and Mickey Rivers 0-for-10.
And the Dodgers are throwing their fine lefty. Tommy John. Friday night.
"The key to stopping the Yankees," said Burt Hooton after winning Game 2. is to keep Rivers and (Willie) Randolph off the bases."
For the Yanks, the key is getting enough runs and enough pitches from the starts to allo Lyle to swagger in form the starters to allow Lyle to swagger in from the bullpen and do his "slider low inside, slider low outside" number.
Lyle is that special free spirit who had escaped injury despite heavy - who knows his limits and is disciplined eough to forget a bad performance alsmost as soon as it ends.
"That's the one thing I especially admire about him," said Tidrow, "the one things over.
"I've done it my whole career," said Lyle. "It just dont do any good to think back. Yeah, you're right, not many of us can do it."
Possibly, Martin will offer some out-of-the-ordinary moves whi his lineup before Friday, although pounding Jackson's ego too much seems liely to bring more long-range problems than short-term gains, but there are games when one simply does not look much beyond the pitch.*