The trees of New England are tinged with reds and oranges. They might as well be tears.
The only tears in New York are tears of relief.
The world champion New York Yankees beat the born-to-sorrow Boston Red Sox, 5-4, yesterday in an American League East playoff game as rich and multicolored as the seasonlong battle that preceded it.
Winning is an ancient Yankee story, a hertage of talent, mixed with an audacious confidence and an unnerving good fortune.
Losing is an old sadness for the Sox, a lineage of self-doubt and misfortune.
Yesterday all those treads of history and baseball myth came together in one stirring game.
Two moments stand out. The first - Bucky Dent's three-run homer in the seventh - transformed the game, erasing a 2-0 Sox lead and putting the Brom champs in front for good.
The second - an inconspicuous outfield play by Lou Piniella - probably saved the game in the bottom of the ninth. While Dent's homer will be discussed throughout America, Piniella will be praised primarily in the dugouts of the major leagues.
"Bucky's home run turned the game. We were in real trouble until then. After that, we knew we'd find a way to win," said New York's Reggie Jackson. The slugger was practicing his modesty since his homer to center in the eighth - "just an insurance run at the time to make it 5-2" turned out to be the eventual winning run.
The Red Sox took their 2-0 lead with blows so symbolic that they seemed to carry more weight than a mere two runs.Capitain Carl Yastrzenski, 39, curled a home run around the right-field foul pole to lead off the second inning against Yanke starter Ron Guidry.
Surely the venerable Yaz would not be denied the chance to win one world title.
When Jim Rice singled home Rick Burleon, who had doubled, in the sixth, it seemed that a Most Valuable player Award has been settled as well. Rice, with his 406th total bases, would help send Guidry to his fourth defeat.
But that changed suddenly. After single by Chris Chambliss and Roy White, the Boston starter, Mike Torrez, faced Dent with two out in the seventh.
"Mike looked great," said Burleson. All we needed to do was get Dent out, and we were into the eight inning with a two-run lead. I thought we'd win for sure."
When Dent fouled the second pitch off his foot, and hopped out of the batters box in pain, the little short-stop hardly looked like a candidate for hen.
As Dent was administered a pain-killing spray, on-deck hitter Mickey Rivers who had earlier forgotten his sunglasses and missed an outfield fly, suddenly became uncharateristically observant. He saw a crack in Dent's bat.
"He got me another model of the same style bat," said Dent. "I was looking for a certain pitch - a slider up, and I got it. I never saw it after I hit it."
But left fielder Yastrzemski did. He watched a boosting wind loft the ball barely over the wall, fair by 30 feet, the ball nestled in the net, Yastrzemski's knee buckled as though he had been slugged with a bat.
The Yanks errupted from their dugout like souls released from Hades.
"Man, we has* some kinda welcome commitee for Bucky," said Jim Spencer:
"It's the biggest hit I ever had in my life," crowed Dent. "It was like a fairy tale."
"Yeah, what a blast," said Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, reaching for Dent's hand in the madhouse locker room.
"You," said the jubilant Dent, pointing his finger at Steinbrenner, "would have shipped me out if I'd hit into a double play."
"Oh,"* Steinbrenner replied with a grin, "maybe not."
The rattled Torrex, whose sinker had worked magic for six scoreless innings, immediately walked Rivers, the bat inspector*, and was relieved.
In came Boston's Big Foot reliever, Bob Stanley, he of the 15-2 record. Stanley didn't have a thing. Though Torrez got the loss, it was Stanley who relinquished the decisive hits.
On Stanley's first pitch, Rivers stole second base for the second time in the game. On Stanley's second pitch, Thurman Munson, who had struck out three times against Torrex, lined a shot up the gap in left for a double and a 4-2 Yank lead.
If the crowd was quiet then, it was as silent as Bunker Hill cemetery after Jackson opened the eighth with a blast into the bleachers off Stanley.
"Heck," said Jackson, "I hit a line-drive out harder than that in the third inning."
However, these suffering Sox, who blew a 14-game lead over the Yanks, proved they were not quitters.
After George Scott singled with one out in the seventh, Yank Manager Bob Lemon relieved Guidry and bought in Rich Gossage. No other manager can turn from a lefty starter with a 1.72 ERA to a righty reliever who throws even harder and has a 1.91 mark.
Guidry got yesterday's win, making his staggering record 25-3, but it was Gossage who got the vital outs. If Torrez and Guidry were the pitchers of record, Stan*ley and Gossage were the pitchers of memory.
This was not the invincible Gossage, the Goose who throws goose eggs. In the eighth, Jerry Remy grounded a double over the first-base bag and scored on Yastrzemski's crisp 3-1 pitch single to center. Yastrzemski followed Remy home soon after when Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn cracked singles, using their quick, short strokes to combat Gossage's numbing speed."
The bear trap was set for the Yanks.
Men on first and second with only one out, and 32,925 screaming. But the Sox had the wrong hitters coming to the plate - Butch Hobson and George Scott, both low-average sluggers with long, looping swings.
Gossage mowed them down with high fast balls that neigher could get untangled fast enough to handle.
In the ninth, the Sox were knicking on Gossage's door once more when Burleson drew a one-out walk.
The Fenway Park crowd was standing now, no one wanting to miss a pitch. When Remy slashed an 0-2 liner to right, the mob cheered, then groaned as it saw the ball was hit directly toward Pinniella.
Little did the fans, or Burleson, know that only one person in the park had no idea where Remy's liner was - Pinniella.
"I never saw it," he said. "I just said, 'Don't panic. Don't wave your damn arms and let the runner know you've lost it."
So while Piniella waited for a streaking liner to hit at his feet or hit him in the face, Burleson waited between bases, assuming Pinniella had an easy play.
"I never saw it until the ball hit about eight feet in front of me," said Pinniella. "It was just pure luck that I could get my glove on the ball and catch it before it went past me.
"If it had gone to the wall, those two scooters would still be running around the bases."
Has Burleson run first to third, he could have scored easily on Rice's subsequent fly to Piniella. From second he could only tag and go to third.
"That play saved the game," said Nettles. "Lou deked (fooled) Burleson, and he didn't let the ball past him."