For Billy Martin and his Oakland A's, this really wasn't a miniseries.

It was more like a minihaha.

The A's defeated the Kansas City Royals tonight, 4-1, completing a three-game sweep over the former league champions and the team that had represented the American League West in four of the last five championship series.

After reliever Dave Beard struck out John Wathan for the final out, many of the 40,002 fans stormed the field as the song "Celebration" rang out of the sound system Charlie Finley would never pay to have fixed years ago.

Why, with such a commotion you would have thought Reggie, Rollie or Sal Bando were around.

Soon enough these A's of glories past will be here. With the victory, the A's will have to play either the Milwaukee Brewers -- with Rollie Fingers and Sal Bando -- or the New York Yankees -- with Reggie Jackson and a friend of Martin's named Steinbrenner -- when the AL championship series begins Tuesday.

"We hoped it would be this way," said Martin after drinking more champagne in October. "We proved that even if you change the rules, we're still going to win."

For Kansas City Manager Dick Howser, this was simply another time when his team played off in the playoffs. Last year, as the manager of the Yankees, Howser lost three straight in the championships to the Royals, then lost his job.

"We didn't hit," said the manager, looking as blue as his Royals jacket. "It's as simple as that. Good clubs can come back from 4-1. If it weren't for the unusual season we wouldn't have come this far, anyway."

The Royals got four singles off Mike Norris in a 4-0 loss in Game 1. In Game 2 they got six singles off Steve McCatty in a 2-1 defeat. Tonight they got 10 hits but only one run off Rick Langford (6 1/2 innings) and relievers Tom Underwood and Beard. The Royals' three-game total (20 hits and two runs) is as measly as their overall 49-53 record, which sufficed because of the split season.

Said Larry Gura, the losing pitcher, of the series and the sadness: "It was a little bit embarrassing for us. I think everyone is a little relieved to get this season over with."

But while Howser was talking about next year, Martin was thinking about next week.

One reason he can think in the short term is left fielder Rickey Henderson, who led the league in hits (135) and stolen bases (56). In the two games played in Kansas City in this playoff, the lean and lithe leadoff man was zero for nine.

Tonight, though, Henderson was on base in all four at bats, with two singles and two walks. In the first he walked, stole second and scored on Tony Armas' single.

He made it 2-0 in the third when he signed off Gura, then averted getting picked off when, in a rundown, shortstop U.L. Washington threw the ball past Willie Aikens at first. He scored from second when baseman Frank White shoveled Dwayne Murphy's bunt hit past Aikens.

"I said to myself before this game, 'Hey, they stopped me twice and nobody stop Rickey Henderson three times in a row," said Henderson.

In the fourth, Amos Otis outran a possible 4-6-3 double play to allow Frank White to score. Kansas City cut the margin to 2-1 with the run, but Oakland retaliated in the bottom of the inning. Dave McKay homered to left and Murphy hit a double to right that scored, of course, Henderson, who had singled.

But Langford, who completed a league-best 28 games last year and 18 of 24 starts during his 12-10 season in 1981, ran into some turbulance in the fifth, when the Royals got four singles and no runs.

That was because, with none out and runners on first and second, Clint Hurdle was picked off second.Shortstop Fred Stanley had snuck behind him and catcher Mike Heath's throw was precise.

"That was the turning point of the game," said Martin. Subsequent singles by Willie Wilson and White in that inning could have made things different.

"I've played this game long enough to know I screwed up," said Hurdle.

That inning ended when, with the bases loaded and two out, George Brett popped meekly to second. Brett finished with two hits in 12 at bats in the series.

In the seventh the Royals threatened: one-out singles by White and Brett drove out Langford, which isn't easy to do. "I'm not used to coming out of games," said the man with the Iron-Mike arm. But Underwood and Beard cleaned up without any problems, and the Royals were done.

In one locker room Heath smiled, even as blood trickled from a sizeable cut on his forehead. "I got this cut when I jumped into his (Beard's) stomach, then I got pushed down and my head hit a bat. You bet I don't mind it. Not under the circumstances."

In the other locker room White fielded questions much better than he fielded Murphy's bunt.

"You know, they say good pitching beats good hitting. I guess it's true."