The Yankees had their 3.75 Million Dollar Man on the mound yesterday at Yankee Stadium and he didn't pitch worth a dime.
Catfish Hunter lasted for 38 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, was rocked for two home runs and five runs and was a loser as the Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees, 9-2, in game 162 of the rambunctious 1978 season.
Meanwhile, Boston beat Toronto, 5-0, to tie for first in the American League East.
So it all comes down to a playoff this afternoon in Boston with New York's Ron Guidry facing Mike Torrez for the championship (2:30 p.m., WJLA-TV-7 and WJZ-TV-13).
"The only difference from the last few days," said Yankee Manager Bob Lemon, "is nobody will have to look at the scoreboard."
Andre Thornton hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the Indians, the Yankees tied it in the bottom of the first. However, Gary Alexander started a four-run Cleveland second with a homer and the Cat was milked dry.
"I just didn't have any pop," said Hunter. "The only thing wrong with me physically is that I gave up too many runs."
Hunter has had an amazing comeback season after being given up for dead in June with an aching shoulder. A shoulder manipulation by Yankee physician Dr. Maurice Cowen saved his season and helped the Yankees make up a 14-game deficit. Before yesterday's game, he was 10-2 since undergoing the therapy.
"I wasn't tight, I wasn't nervous," he said. "I just couldn't get anything on the ball."
Rick Waits, a 25-year-old left-hander, held the Yankees to five hits and knew they were in bad shape after his team put four runs on the board in the second inning.
"When we got ahead you could see the pressure in their faces," he said. "I knew they were in trouble."
The Yankees were so flat Lemon used rookies Dave Rajsich and Larry McCall to save his pitching staff or today's encounter.
"He asked me if I wanted to throw an inning to stay loose," said relief ace Goose Gossage. "I told him I'd save it for Monday."
Gossage, who has a league-leading 25 saves with a 1.91 ERA, says he usually spends October looking at the Aspen Mountains near his Colorado home.
"This is all a novelty for me, this is fun," said the burly $2.85 million relief pitcher.
The fun will end today for one team, a team with 99 wins for the season and no cigar.
Today's loser can feel empathetic with the Boston Red Sox of 1948. On Oct. 4 that year, they lost, 8-3, to the Indians in the only American League playoff. The National League has had four, with the Dodgers in all of them, winning only in 1959. They lost to St. Louis in 1946 and to the Giants in 1951 and 1962.
In the Fenway playoff in 1948, Lou Boudreau hit two homers, Ken Keltner hit one, now-Yankee Manager Lemon was passed over for Gene Bearthen, who pitched a five-hitter, and now-Yankee President Al Rosen sat on the bench scared to death.
"I was a rookie call up at the end of the season," said Rosen, "and somebody told me I was starting. I nearly died. It was just a joke. Keltner started and hit the big home run."
Yogi Berra said it best about a baseball season. "It ain't over until it's over," he once said. Unless it rains, the AL East season will end today. Maybe.