Graig Nettles. Remember?

He's on the verge of recovery from hepatitis, and has raised the possiblity of there being two premier third basemen in the American League playoffs less than two weeks away. George Brett of Kansas City and Nettles of New York.

Somehow, the Yankees have weathered the absence since late July of the fielding Nureyev whose play at the hot corner against the Dodgers in 1978 provided some of the best World Series highlights film ever. Somehow they learned to asjust -- after losing all but a half-game of a nine-game margin over Baltimore in the first month after Nettles left the lineup.

But Nettles -- still runner-up on the Yanks to Reggie Jackson in homers this season with his 16 -- doesn't want to leave the whole Mr. October act to Jackson.

Nettles took batting practice in yankee Stadium, 20 minutes worth, Wednesday for the first time sine his hepatitis was diagnosed. He talks of playing "five or six games" before season's end if the yanks clinch the division quickly.

He hedges, "I think I could be ready for the playoffs hitting wise, but I don't know if I can be ready in the field." Logic bolstered by the memories of October 1978, tell us the opposite.