There was dancing in the barrio last night for Ed Figueroa, the first native-born, Puerto Rican 20-game winner, and there will be dancing on the East Side, West Side, all around the town, if Catfish Hunter can beat Cleveland today.
The Yankees, behind Figueroa's wrapup of the Indians, 7-0, sealed a tie for the American League East championship with their 99th win. Boston's 98th win guaranteed the division will not be settled until today's games are over.
Hunter will face Rick Waits of Cleveland and Ron Guidry will face Mike Torrex of Boston tomorrow in Fenway, if the Yankees lose and the Red Sox win today. If the Yankees end it today. Guidry will open the playoffs Tuesday night in Kansas City.
Figueroa, the 28-year-old resident of Bayamon, P.R., was still shaky as be stood in front of his locker before several dozen reporters - women included - in the calm Yankee clubhouse.
Two huge magnums of New York State champagne, gifts of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, sat on his locker stool as Figueroa, fighting back tears, discussed his win.
"This is the biggest day of my life," he said. "It's like when Roberto Clemente got 3,000 hits. It's proud day for Puerto Rico."
Figueroa said his wife and five of his six brothers flew up from his Puerto Rican home Friday night to be on hand for the event. His sixth brother, who lives here, went to the airport to bring them in.
"They were all here at the game, all nervous like me," he said. "I was shaky before it started but when walked around the field to the mound after warming up and they cheered me. I knew the people were behind me. They wanted me to win 20 games for myself and for Puerto Rico."
Figueroa's victory was made easy by a five-run Yankee first inning that was made possible be some of the best batting-practice pitching the Yankees have seen in weeks.
Mike Paxton started for Cleveland and the former Red Sox player couldn't help his old buddies one bit. He helped the Yankess a lot by allowing five hits and a walk before being excused for the day.
"I guess," Cleveland said Manager Jeff Torborg, "he didn't have it today."
Throwing about as hard as the Venus de Milo. Paxton gave up singles to Mickey Rivers and Thurman Munson before walking Reggie Jackson to load the bases.
Then Craig Nettles singled for two runs. Chris Chambliss hit a groundrule double, Roy White singled and Paxton walked off the mound at Torborg's request, scratching his forehead.
"When you have five runs in the first inning all you have to do," said Figueroa, "is throw strikes."
The Indians managed a first-inning double and then four more singles and two walks the rest of the way off Figueroa, who recorded his 10th win against one loss since Aug. 1 and his 13th win in 15 decisions since July 19, the day the Yankees rested 14 games behind Boston.
Six days later. Bob Lemon relieved Billy Martin.
"I never would have won 20 games with Martin. He was pitching me every eight days," said Figueroa. "Lemon was my pitching coach here in 1976. He knew I pitched better on three days rest. That's how we did it."
So the Yankees need one more win for a division title and the greatest comeback - 14 games - in American League history. Then they can play Kansas City again.