George Steinbrenner has thrown away the book and spat out his contempt for those baseball traditionalists and their tiresome gospel about pitchers. They are the ones who have always preached stiff resistance to such temptations as bringing in a valuable starting pitcher for a relief job.

From wherever he was last week, Steinbrenner signaled Yankee Manager Bob Lemon to activate as relief men such priceless New York pitching treasures as Ron Guidry (25-3 last year) and Tommy John (6-0 this year), lest the Yanks blow another game in the late innings as has been a recent habit. Tentatively, score two for owner Steinbrenner. They saved both games.

Because Steinbrenner likes to involve himself in managerial-level decisions, it is not presumed that such a drastic move as making spot relievers out of the equally magnificent Guidry and John was a Bob Lemon original.

Guidry said he "volunteered" to go to the bullpen. Sure.

Whether Big Poppa Yankee was building one of his boats at his Lake Erie shipyard or overseeing one of his other interests, mayhap his Florida resort motels or his horse farm, it is easy to imagine his CB coming through loud and clear into the Yankee dugout: Do something about those seven Yankee losses in eight games, four of them due to sad-sack Yankee relief pitching. Why not Guidry and John to relieve? That kind of question by Steinbrenner is easily translated as an order.

Were the Yankees panicking? Of course they were.

With All-Star reliever Rich Gossage in sick bay for six more weeks with a thumb injured severely in the best tradition of the Steinbrenner-era Yankees, a senseless scuffle in the clubhouse, the team was floundering and Steinbrenner considered the situation desperate, already.

Besides, the Orioles and all their splendid pitching were making a big move and Baltimore was now leading the league with the Yankees floundering in fourth place. For a club owner with Steinbrenner's competitive edge, for one who views two straight spring training defeats as worrisome, the Yankees' situation is no less than a calamity.

It is true that on occasion Connie Mack used to move Lefty Grove in as a relief pitcher, and sometimes Bucky Harris called on Walter Johnson in the late innings for the Senators. But this was in September, the showdown month, not the first week in May, with six months of baseball left for comeback purposes.

Unlike Steinbrenner, they were taking no chances of getting a pitching staff all fouled up in an unnecessary gamble.

Starting pitchers and relief pitchers are different animals.They can't be both, because muscles would revolt and the important rhythm vanish. Games saved now by Guidry and John could take their terrible toll on the Yankees when it counted most.

For all of Gossage's immense contributions last year there would have been no Yankee pennant without Guidry's 25-3 contribution as a starter. Had not Guidry been next to unbeatable, all of Gossage's saves would have been worthless. To tamper with Guidry's role now is foolhardy. To convert him into a relief pitcher leaves an unfillable starter's slot.

There is a reminder to Steinbrenner that for all the wondrous power of the great 1927 Yankees, generally called the finest team of all time with Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Meusel, Combs and Dugan in the batting order, the New York pitchers allowed 100 fewer runs than any other club's did.

Jim Turner, an old Yankee pitcher coach, once described the danger of messing up a pitching staff: "When your pitching is rolling, it's like a railroad train on the track. When it's off the track it takes crowbars and hard work to get it rolling again."

When it appeared that Brooklyn had nailed down the 1940 pennant by acquiring Ducky Medwick and his big bat from St. Louis, Bill McKechnie demurred. "I won't worry about the Dodgers until they add another pitcher," McKechnie said. The Dodgers finished third to Manager McKechnie's Reds.

The Yankees have not been totally unfortunate in this early season. Their lackluster play has not been beaten to death in the New York newspapers during the days when the city was caught up in the fever of the ice hockey playoffs, the football draft, and the spate of Kentucky Derby stories. But henceforth they will be on center stage.

More than the absence of big man Gossage is troubling the Yankees. As a group the team isn't hitting. Starter

Tiant told Manager Lemon to his face that he "no like to peetch with an 11-day rest,"because he never did that in Boston. Tidrow is in a sulk because he says he thought he was the number one reliever after Gossage got hurt, but now finds himself not even the number one right-handed reliever.

Otherwise everything is normal on the Yankees.

Club President Al Rosen is in a snit at the team's lethargic play in the West, saying. "I'm tired of watching guys go through the motions." He was bawling out the whole team but taking special aim at Mickey Rivers and Cliff Johnson, who both quit the dugout after Johnson pinch hit for Rivers in the eighth and grounded out.

"I'm tired of watching guys walk off the bench," Rosen said. "If I have to watch those guys for nine innings, they can watch themselves for two."

So here 'tis, barely nine days into May and the Yankees have already had their first clubhouse scrap, their best reliever is a two-month casualty, two other pitchers are mad at their manager, the whole team has been in a batting slump, Thurman Munson's home runs total one, and Reggie Jackson batted in only two runs in a recent seven-game streak. The relief pitching has been atrocious, and now they're playing jackstraws with the team's two best starting pitchers in some kind of a mickey mouse mishugas .