As to why the Yankees now lead this World Series three games to two, Dodger second baseman Davey Lopes has a sociological - biological theory. "The Yankees keep coming back," he said. "Maybe the city's got something to do with it. You get rats cornered and they fight back." Smilin' Thurman a rat? Reggie a rat so soon after becoming a candy bar? Heavens.
Methinks the gentlemen from the West protesteth too much. They would have us believe the customers at Yankee Stadium come equipped with bones in their noses. Not so. The fans at the weekend's three games were genteel alongside last year's coconuts. Still, the Dodgers waxed paranoid. Everywhere they looked they saw rats.
Reggie Jackson, upon hearing the lamentations of Dodger shortstop Bill Russell, said Russel didn't know how good he had it. Of the jeers that burned the shortstop's ears when he misplayed four ground balls Sunday, Jackson said, "That ain't even close to what they did to me. I've had 50,000 people on me. I couldn't even hear'em getting on him.%
The dreadful wailing from grown men who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play a kid's game was foolish and fully in keeping with the Dodger performances in the field, where even one of baseball's basic plays - the pitcher backing up the catcher on a throw from the outfield - was beyond their reach Sunday. If a Little Leaguer didn't back up home, he wouldn't get any supper.
By their own admission, Sunday's 12-2 loss to the yankees was the Dodgers' worst game of the season.
"It's just too bad it came at this time of year," the third baseman, Ron Cey, said. That's because 60 million people saw the Dodgers kick ground balls, make bad throws, fail to catch pitches and then, in defeat, curse the Yankee fans, as if the fans were responsible for the players' failings.
Perhaps, in a way, they are, and perhaps the Dodgers know it better than any of us, for it is history now that in the last two World Series the Dodgers have won only one of six games in Yankee Stadium. That is an abnormal percentage for a team good enough to win two straight National League championships, and if we listen long enough to the cries of self-pity we hear evidence that the sunshine boys don't think they can win in the Bronx Zoo, as they lovingly refer to Yankee Stadium.
Perhaps, then, we might write it off as a lost weekend. Back home - "Dodgers Come Home to Sanity," said a headline in an L.A. newspaper - maybe Russell will play again the way he played all year, when he was good enough to help his team to 100 victories. So far, though, every ball hit toward him raises in spectators a sense of adventure. Anything might happen.
Whether Russell ever cathes another ground ball or whether Reggie Smith throws another one into outer space, those are small problems for the Dodgers. They have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and yet they can't find a pitcher who can turn off the Yankees. With a lineup that two seasons ago had four 30 home run hitters, the Dodgers suddenly can't score any runs.
Where, for instance, is Steve Garvey?
Garvey is a legitimate star, a rock-solid hitter whose career numbers in post season games are extravagant. Against Philadelphia in the minitournament for the league championship, he hit four home runs in four games.
In this World Series, he has not driven in a run.
It is not that he has had no chances.
The Dodgers have had 18 men on base with Garvey at the plate.
He has not driven in a single run.
In contrast, the Yankees' big man, Jackson, has produced.
The Yankees have put 17 men on for Jackson.
He has driven in six runs.
Garvey is hitting 238, on five for 21.
On eight for 18, Jackson is hitting 444.
It is worthwhile, too, to look at what today's pitchers. Don Sutton for the Dodgers. Catfish Hunter for the Yankees, did in earlier Series work. The record suggests Hunter has an adge over Sutton. This takes some explaining.
Sutton, a right-handed pitcher, was largely ineffective against the Yankees' left-handed hitters in game three. Six of the Yankees facing Sutton were left-handed batters. In 20 trips to the plate, those lefties were seven for 18 with two walks. The Yankees' right-handed hitters were three for 10.
So the Yankees consistently reached Sutton, and he was removed for a warm bath when touched for singles by successive right-handed batters, Bucky Dent and Smilin' Thurman Munson.
Hunter, like Sutton, was a losing pitcher, but unlike Sutton he has the percentages in his favor, being a right-handed going against a Dodger lineup that has five right-handed hitters in the first six spots. Save for Reggie Smith, all the Dodger power is right-handed.
It now appears that the emotion created by Jim Gilliam's death has warned or, at least, the Dodgers are practicing a doublt standard of celebrating the coach's spirit in victory but ignoring it in defeat.
"The next SOB that askes a question like that," said Davery Lopes to a man who asked after game five if Gilliam's death were having an adverse affect, "I'm going to punch his lights out. Don't use his death to explain what's happening with this team."
That leaves it up to the drowsing hitters, fumbling fielders and battered pitchers, then, and if the Dodgers are going to perform the unprecedented - no team ever won two games at home, lost three on the road and came back home to win twice - they will have to do it knowing the New York rats are on a hot streak.
A man named Flip is a gate crasher at all major sports events. He wound up in the working press room at Yankee Stadium - until Dick Young of the New York Daily News spled him and, in a thunderous voice, said, "Flip, get outta here. You don't belong in here."
A cop took Flip by the arm and led him away.
Flip says he lives in Los Angeles.