This damp, dreary off-day during the World Series perfectly captured the entire gloomy New York Yankee season in microcosm.
The best team that money could buy and human frailty could tear asunder was at it again, ripping its own flesh in a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of accusations, mistrust and mutual loathing.
Needing only one victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Tuesday's sixth Series game (WJLA-TV 7, 8:15 p.m.) to be champions of the world, members of the pinstripe paradox instead took advantage of this final opportunity to throw hand grenades at each other.
If any curse remained to be hurled, if any would had been left unsalted, it was taken care of today. All of the checkbook champions laundry is now drying in public. As soon as this World Series is finished, all the laundry tickets will come due.
Today's precipitating incident was a Time magazine story dressing up all the ancient Yankee animosities in fresh quotes and redoubled documentation.
The central Yankee characters remain the same, as do their relations to one another. Manager Billy Martin flately charged today that owner George Steinbrenner planted the entire Time story, giving details of midseason turmoil "because George is building a case against me to he can fire me."
The Yanks' Reggie Jackson, that Hester pryne of sluggers who walks through the baseball world with a scarlet dollar sign on his chest, charged Time with "outright lies" for quoting him as saying that he and Martin could not coexist for another season and that one of them would have to go.
Thurman Munson, the exhausted and tormented catcher who constantly finds himself cast as mediator between warring parties, wailed, "I'm so sick of all this I can't stand it . . . if Steinbrenner wants help in firing Billy, he won't get it from me."
But perhaps the perfect Yankee today was Lou Piniella, who discovered himself at the center of reports that he and Munson had met with Steinbrenner in July to say that Martin's managing was ruining a great team.
I'm through with all this Martin-Steinbrenner stuff," moaned Piniella, who went 0-for-4 with an error on Sunday after finding out that he was emrboiled in the Time story. "It just never ends."
On what may be the eve of the Yanks' first world title in 15 years, the senior Yankee in service , Roy White, the quiet man who waited 14 of those years for this day, said disgustedly, "We had a baseball team last year. I don't know what this is. With a different manager we'd have won the pennant by 20 games."
The Yankee crises today simply pointed up what had been a season-long condrum for serious fans.
Since Steinbrenner bought Don Gullet and Jackson in last winter's free-agent raffle, the Yankees have been baseball's central story. Eris, Greek goddestt of discord, has become their muse, and large newspaper headlines their stimulant.
Baseball has long merchandized its similarity of real life. But these Yankees seem stunned, unequipped to discuss what they are part of in the limited jargon of the locker room. Often, the Yankees cut too close to the bone. They resemble the suffering, every-day world far too much.
One day the entire situation is a fraternity-house joke, the ultimate prank in a sport that loves needling agitation. But, as the point of the ever-thrusting needle comes close to the heart, one Yankee after another feels pain at the hands of the game he always thought was fun.
Martin's face is the map of this war. He looks constantly haggard and at wit's end. Jackson seems to have aged years. White and Ken Holtzman, respected professionals, have clenched their teeth moods of depression. As Piniella said, it never ends.
"The repercussions?" asked Piniella today. "I think the club will break up before next year. Several guys will be leaving."
Baseball does business in heroes and villains. This Yankee season has exhausted fans, as well as those close to the team, because a half-dozen central Yanks have become too complex, too troubled, to fall into those easy categories.
Tolstoy wrote that every happy family was happy in the same say, while every unhappy family was unhappy in a unique way. That has been the tale of this series. The Dodgers have been happy, even in defeat, in a particularly one-dimensional, thoroughly athletic way - never criticizing each other, holding pep-talk meetings, upholding the myth of sport as a happy land.
Yet the Dodgers, who might have been universally admired in other Octobers, have sometimes seemed sacharin, phony, California-ersatz when compared to these Yankees. The initially unloved New York team has gained support this fall as its psychodrama has unfolded.
"Watching the Yankees is like watching a marriage end up in divorce in the house next door," said Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda today. "All you can do is be thankful it isn't happening to you."
Even the Dodgers sense that this remarkable baseball season almost has to have its final chaper in Yankee Stadium. "Yeah, we had to come back to New York," said Steve Garvey after Sunday's victory. "Otherwise, it would have been likes play without a climax."
When the curtain goes up Tuesday at on Act 6 in the Theatre of the Absurd That Steinbernner Built. The starting pitchers will be profoundly emblematic of the teams.
The N.Y.'s Mike Torrez and L.A.'s Burt Hooton, Torrez is playing out his option and wants to escape the malestrom of scrutiny that every player must survive in New York. His gritty victory in Game 3 in Chavez Ravine, when he battled the Dodgers for 133.
"What makes you so happy?" Hooton was asked today.
"It's all this excitement," said Hooton in his most deadpan, world-weary voice. The he turned toward Lasord with a conspiratorial look and added, "Excuse me, I didn't mean to get carried away there."
Perhaps it is appropriate that no matter what happens in Game 6, or Game 7 if there is one, this World Series will end in a more complicated mood than any in many years.