Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.

Billy Martin is alive for the rest of this season, but his New York Yankees may be dead.

On the evening when the Yankee brass announced that Martin had been reprieved from the managerial gallows, the New Yorkers found their necks tightly in the noose after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Boston hangmen.

At sundown teh Yanks announced that Billy the Kid would unequivocally be manager at least until seasons end.

"Big deal," said the Red Sox, knocking the Yanks 9 1/2 games off their 51-21 pace on homers by Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk, plus the pitching of Dennis Esckerley.

Before midnight arrived, it was the hour for some simple, but serious, arithmetic. The Red Sox tried to hide the laughter, but they are smiling.

They need win only 49 of their final 90 games for a 100-victory season. The Yanks - whose pitching is so tattered that Andy Messersmith was their desperation starter last night-would have to cruise at a 59-32 rate to reach 100.

"I don't know if were going to derail this Boston express," said Yank Reggie Jackson. "You just hope they don't reach the point where they can shut down the coal and coast."

That point of laughter and coasting is approaching fast. When the Sox learned that Baltimore had lost, 24-10, to Toronto last night, with Elrod Hendricks and Larry Harlow forced to pitch their evening was made.

"I'd love to have seen Earl Weaver tonight," said Fisk. "He was probably running out to the mound to tell Elrod and Larry to keep the ball down."

"Hey, Sullivan," Boston Manager Don Zimmer yelled to General Manager Haywood Sullivan, "Why didn't we have (scout) Frank Malzone in Toronto tonight. We got no book on Hendricks and Harlow at all."

When a team wins 15 of 17 and has a .708 season winning percentage, the game seems amusing and the opponents comic.

"I don't think we're invincible," said Fisk, who doubled and scored on a Fred Lynn single in the sixth for a 3-1 lead, then iced the game with a solo homer off Rich Gossage in the eigth. "But we don't mind if other people think so.

"I remember a team called the Boston Celtics. Other teams said 'Oooohhhh, the Celtics. We can't beat those guys.' We haven't reached that point, but . . ."

But it's getting close "I was psyched tonight as much as a human can be," bubbled starter Eckersley, who worked 7 2/3 innings, then turned the ball over to Bill (Soup) Campbell for the last four outs "It's a thrill to pitch for this team on national TV so people can see that I'm out of Cleveland and pitching for this awesome bunch."

The most awesome single swing of this game, appropriately, was made by Rice, the man with 23 homer and 67 RBI. His two-run homer - a mammoth 425-foot shot into the right-center field bleachers - prased a 1-0 New York lead that Messersmith nursed into the fifth.

"It was a good pitch, low and away," said Rice. "I just went out and got it." And destroyed it.

The rusty Messersmith was gutty, surviving the first four rough innings despite control problems.

Messersmith, who had worked only 14 innings this year, represented the pitching pits for the Yanks. The one-time $1 million free agent has not won a game in a year and a day.

But in the first he fanned Fisk with men at the corners. After two leadoff walks in the second, he wiffed Dwight Evans and Butch Hobson.He fanned Evans again to end the fourth after a George Scott double.

However, Messersmith's thin thread of survival snapped in the fifth. Hobson hit one up the elevator shaft behind second. Shortstop Fred Stanley called for the simple pop-up, but rookie second baseman Damaso Garcia, replacing injured Willie Randolph, wandered behind Stanley, and the two collided.

The ball popped out of Garcia's glove for a two-base error. Instead of escaping the inning, Messersmith faced Rice with two out. Farewell, baseball.