A scorching weekend of heavy hitting, a hostility, heat and huge crowds came to a blistering conclusion today as Kansas City blasted the New York Yankees, 14-3, before 50,328 in Yankee Stadium.
The Royals, hotter than the 101-degree field temperature, completed delivery of a 34-run, 54-hit message in these three lopsided slugfests. The Kansas City blueclads opened here with a 21-hit, 13-1 win, then lost, 13-7, but retaliated this afternoon by battering the Yanks' struggling ace, Ron Guidry, with a six-run second inning.
The Royals have long and bitter memories of championship series losses to the Yankees in '76, '77 and '78 that kept them from the World Series. But this weekend, it was the Yanks who were left to do a slow burn after watching their pitching staff get thoroughly humiliated.
K.C.'s leadoff terror, Willie Wilson -- perhaps the fastest baseball player in history -- had 10 hits in these three games, including four today.
"Wilson's the difference between these Royals and the old ones," said Yankee Manager Dick Howser. "He's always on base, and he usually scores. He's reached the stage where he's a game-dominating player."
The other rampaging Royal here was George Brett, hitting .510 in his last 100 at-bats, who opened his series here with a third-deck homer, closed it with a bases loaded double and ended with nine RBI in three games.
Brett now has 17 RBI in eight games against the Yanks this year, including three today. "I can't even bear to watch him take batting practice," said Howser.
The Royals, once the Little Blue Machine, may have moved up a notch offensively. "I hit the pingers," said Wilson, batting .338, "and Brett hits the dingers."
While the Royals can warm themselves thinking about Brett's .375 average, and Larry Gura's three-hitter here Friday night, and their 10-game AL West lead, the Yankees have plenty, to annoy them.
This series began a 31-day span when the Yankees play 20 games against Milwauke (7), Baltimore 7) and Kansas City (6) -- the three other top AL clubs. Watching 54 Royal hits before next facing Milwaukee -- the Big Blue Crew -- was not comforting.
Most serious is Guidryhs atrocious slump -- 30 hits and 16 earned runs in his last 16 innings, driving his ERA up to 3.88.
"Ron's just in a slump," said Reggie Jackson, who hit his 26th homer (and seventh in his last 41 at bats) today. "He looks like an ordinary, mortal pitcher.
"It's tought to get in a rut when you play in New York. A rut here becomes a ditch and then a canyon.
"Ron will get things back in order," said Jackson. "Or, if he dosen't we'll just all have to go home early (without making the playoffs)."
The importance of Louisiana Lightning righting himself during this heavy-schedule month can hardly be overstressed for the Yankees, whose starting pitching is their achilles' heel
"Guidry's arm's not hurt. He's throwing hard," said Howser."But his sider is not what it should be either."
The Yankee staff didn't need further aggravation, but it got some in the form of sulking Ed Figueroa, who has begged to be traded, released or otherwise freed of his burdensome pinstripes. As a last resort, Figueroa has taken to pitching batting practice during games in hopes of being given his pink slip.In two mop-up outings here, Figueroa was disgraceful, tossing lollipops to the plate as the Royals rocked him for 10 runs.
"When they reactivate Luis (Tiant) this week, maybe I can escape," said Figueroa, who has a long-term guaranteed contract with the Yankees. "It is low of them to pitch me like this (in mop-up relief). I don't want to help the team when they do this to me. I'm not going to pitch any better out of the bullpen than I did today. No way."
On top of Guidry's slump, Figueroa's failures and the Royal bombardment, the Yanks got word today that Bill Martin has lambasted owner George Steinbrenner, viciously and totally, in the latest of three biographies.
"The last time I bought one of Billy's biographies, he told me, "That's not the real one,'" said pitcher Tommy John. "From what I hear, this one must be the real one! I'll have to buy a copy and get Billy to autograph it."
Yes, "No. 1" is definitely the real one.
Martin has charged Steinbrenner with bugging his stadium phone, keeping a file on his private life ("to ruin me"), fomenting problems with Jackson and, in general, "driving me to the brink of a nervous breakdown."
And that's just the little stuff.
What really galled Martin was that Steinbrenner took Jackson for lunch at 21 but "has never taken me to lunch once." Also, Steinbrenner promised Martin a tugboat if the Yanks won the pennant in '76, then reneged, Martin says, when they lost the Series. Since the tugboat in question was worth $300,000, Martin never forgot the slight.
The Yankee official hackles were raised sufficiently today that Pat Kelly, stadium manager, announced that the claim that Steinbrenner bugged Martin's phone was "a lot of bull."
Surprisingly, Jackson fared well in Martin's book, the current Oakland manager protesting that the pair had become great friends. However, throughout "No. 1" nasty stories about Jackson surface, but always in mouths other than Martin's.
Jackson was going broke and needed a Steinbrenner loan at one time; Jackson said Martin is "a sick boy." Martin would not say such things, he indicates, but other folks in his book are quoted as saying them.
"I don't have any retort to Billy's latest book," said Jackson today. "I got 26 diggers (homers), 72 ribbies and my team's in first place by 8 1/2 games. And he's 3,000 miles away from me. Why would I want to stir up the water by saying anything rough about Billy?
"But one of these days," said Jackson slowly, "I'm going to do a book."
Steinbrenner, contacted early Sunday by United Press International agreed that he and Martin are enjoying a good relationship and was critical of what he called "sensationalism."
"I can't believe he said those things," Steinbrenner said. "Billy and I are getting along fine now. If he said it in bitterness when he left that's fine. We're still friends."