Three incidents have rocked the first 20 days of the baseball season:

A shower room scrap, a labor dispute and a superstar in exile.

What do these juicy episodes have to tell us? What can Goose Gossage's injured thumb, the umpires' strike and Rusty Staub's holdout have in common?

The governing impulse behind all three unsightly stituations is that ancient enemy - vanity. Injured false pride, which clouds judgment and sours the spirit.

No players have learned that lesson in so hard a way as Gossage and fellow heavyweight Cliff Johnson.

Locker rooms are explosvie balloons - rooms inflated with egos, yet also full of caustic needles.

Last Thursday a ball of adhesive tape flew past New York Yankee bench-warmer Johnson, a bumptious, moody man nicknamed Heathcliff because he resembles a huge comic strip character who is inclined to sit on people.

"I don't have to worry about you hitting me," Johnson said to wadthrower Gossage, who has been wild all spring.

"How'd you hit Goose when you were in the National League together?" chimed in the ever helpful Reggie Jackson.

"He swung at what he heard," testified Gossage, accurately. Johnson and Gossage are equally large, glowering gentlemen, both proud of their of meanace. Gossage, however, is a free-agent millionaire Johnson hit .184 last year. Baseball banter is rigidly class-conscious - stars and scrubs don't exchange barbs because . . . well, because the truth hurts.

A few minutes later in the shower, "Johnson took my head and shoved it," recalled Gossage. "He wasn't kidding or smiling. I think I hurt the thumb trying to hold him back."

Or, perhaps, when they were trying to throttle each other amidst the soap bars. Chalk up another victory for the devil.

Johnson, who calls himself "just a big playful puppy," has earned a secure place in folklore. The very next day, he was back at it, wresting Mickey Rivers to the floor.

"If the players did the most valuable (See BOSWELL, E3, Col. 1) (BOSWELL, From E1) player balloting," said Milwaukee general manager Harry Dalton, "Then Johnson would have a good chance. He's got the block votes of every players on three teams right now - Milwaukee, Baltimore and Boston."

This seems to be the spring when every baseball crisis makes the stainch fan want to say, "A pox on both the umpires' strike and '1' affaire grand orange."

In March, the umpires had the broad moral issues on their side. The owners and league presidents had muscle on theirs. Let's see: morals versus muscle. Who usually wins that one?

Now, in April, both sides have become so bitter and intransigent that they alienate even their supporters. Baseball has taken a brass-knuckles hard line, refusing to negotiate in private or discuss issues in public.

"Abide by your union contract," says baseball officials, their suppressed fury barely concealed

The umpires, for their part, may have been tragically misled. Undergunned from the outset, the arbiters might have made strong inroads on public opinion and helped their future bargaining position had they struck in March, then said, "We've made our point," and settled before opening day.

In recent days, the umpires have made themselves appear almost as ugly as baseball's brass by bringing in the scruffiest, most abusive teamsters pickets to harass fans outside ballparks and cause traffic jams. Fifty such eyesores, screaming "scab" at children and hollering about "a decent workin' wage," infested the outskirts of Philadelphia's veterans stadium Monday night.

Even more stubborn than the umpires and baseball moguls are detroit slugger Rusty Staub and Tiger president Jim Campbell. They win the cut off my nose to spite your face away. Each is equally to balme for the goofy impasse they have wrought.

Staub, the designated hitter with 121 runs batted in last season, schemed that he could get an extension-and-raise of his three-year, $200,000-per-season contract if he gave the Tigers a near-ultmatum that he might retire to run his restaurant businesses if they didn't renegotiate.

Preposterous as his premise was-that he would quit at 35 and become a designated eater-Staub was shocked and angered when Campbell laughed in his face and said, "no compromise . . . no new contract . . . nothing. . . play or quit."

How many greater enemies do we have than our own inflated opinion of ourselves, our propensity to see ourselves as persecuted?

Staub, who can't run, can't field and will be 38 when his contract expires, failed to see that he had the world by league career has illustrated that his RBI total was utterly dependent on the quality of his teammates and the size of his home park.Cozy Tiger Stadium should have been his dream. To no other club could he possibly be worth $200,000.

Campbell, a typical old-line, mad-at-the-rich-players executive, saw red when he thought of Staub. "We finished fifth with you and we can finish fifth without you . . . and cheaper," was his policy.

So, Campbell has banished Staub to the disqualified list-baseball's equivalent of limbo. Staub cannot play, except in Detroit, earns nothing and does not get even retirement benefits. Campbell refuses to trade, since he can't get anything close to equal value.

Obviously, Staub has lost, totally. Campbell, with the help of his undisguised hostility, has driven away a lot of RBI.

"I pray that Jim doesn't feel so much animosity toward me that he would say, 'Let him rot,'" says Staub. "Because if he does, he's got me. He can do it . . . truthfully, I don't think 17 tornadoes could make him change him mind."

Staub, pathetically working out every day, has "repostured" his demands. Campbell has laughed again. Staub is losing $1,099 a day.

Staub looks like a stubborn primadonna who is too proud to show up for work. Campbell is the ogre of Detroit fans, the man who puts personal animosity toward Staub ahead of conciliation for the team. CAPTION: Picture, Goose Gossage