The ball hit Reggie Jackson near the heart; he still isn't sure how it got there.
"I ran -- how do you call it? -- a wiggly line," he said of that fool's path he carved in right chasing a Davey Lopes pop in the silly sixth inning for the Yankees. "I ran to the left; I ran to the right; I ran back again to the left, all the while trying to get the ball out of the sun.
"But it wouldn't get out of the sun. I saw it leave the bat, and then didn't see it again 'til it hit me."
That bit of buffoonery let in a run; the Yanks lost Game 4 of the World Series to the Dodgers by a run and Jackson confessed his sins loud and long. He also said, when asked to judge his first performance of the Series:
"I thought I was pretty good. How about you?"
Better than pretty good. Jackson was terrific and terrible in nine strange innings. He was the straw that stirred this Series game, tying a record by being on base five straight times and jolting us one more dramatic time with an eighth-inning homer that evened his personal ledger for the day.
"Kinda weird," he said of himself and his team. "We were in command (ahead, 3-0, going into the bottom of the third and 6-3 going into the bottom of the sixth), but we couldn't stop 'em. We couldn't stop 'em."
This was Mr. October's Series debut, his first playoff appearance since he took himself out with a muscle pull during the third inning of the second game of the American League finals against Oakland. He nearly screwed himself into the batter's box, so hard did he miss on his first Series swing.
"Had the dial turned up all the way," he said of his mood. "After that (miss on a 2-0 pitch from Bob Welch), I wanted to make sure I wasn't too anxious, too keyed up."
The next pitch he stroked to left for a single. Immediately, the Dodgers asked for Welch aide, Dave Goltz from the bullpen.
Jackson asked for no aid on that little rope from Lopes. Some thought Reggie's ego might have hindered the Yanks as much as the sun, or the Great Dodger in the sky, or whatever, conspired on the error. Willie Randolph was willing and able to make the play, and had a no-glare angle. Earlier, Jackson had emphatically called Randolph off a pop.
"That ball was higher," he insisted, adding: "It looked like no one but me had a chance (on the Lopes ball)."
The Dodger right fielder, Rick Monday, came to Reggie's rescue.
"On a hazy, sort of overcast day like this," he said, "you can barely see the Goodyear blimp, let alone a fly."
It was not a banner day for right fielders, the Dodger playing Randolph's leadoff single into a triple. When the second Yankee, Larry Milbourne, doubled to right, the theme of this pivotal game seemed: "Always on Monday."
The Yanks played themselves out of the game, with nearly every imaginable mental and physical error. Why was center fielder Jerry Mumphrey benched? Was he hurt? Honest, Reggie was asked.
"Same thing that was wrong with me last night," Jackson said. "Nothing."
It was easy to see owner George Steinbrenner ordering Manager Bob Lemon to execute this lemon of a move, not even using Mumphrey for defense.
"I assume the manager made the move," Mumphrey said. "He's the one who told me. But I just work here."
That was part of the postgame intrigue. Steinbrenner was absent from the clubhouse when the first wave of reporters rolled in. Everybody seemed to be still employed, though somebody suggested Steinbrenner might at that very moment be trading the team to some Saudi for a half-dozen camels.
His team played like donkeys today.
"Defense got us here," Bob Watson said. "Today was out of character. We usually catch the ball. We got THE one bad game out of the way."
A former Senator, Aurelio Rodriguez, said he was hell-bent for second all the way on that single and center-to-shortstop out in the eighth. He seemed to hesitate just enough rounding first to fail.
"The infield is like a Ping-Pong table," he said. "It's worse than AstroTurf. Never seen anything like it before."
Having done nothing at bat the entire Series, Dave Winfield tried poetry for his only postgame comment: "We didn't score enough; we didn't hold 'em down; you can pass that around."
He struck out there, too.
Jackson had an odd reply to a question about the Dodgers.
"I have some feelings," he said, "but I don't care to express them, because it would only add to their momentum."
Of the Yanks, he said: "We'll be all right."
Had the crowd's chanting "Reggie, Reggie" after that muff inspired him on his homer, a woman asked.
"I've got 450 homers, honey," he said. "I don't worry about what people do."
The Yanks' public performance was horrid; one behind-the-scenes show was even worse. That was Goose Gossage unlimbering his heroic arm shortly before Lemon summoned Tommy John from the bullpen in the seventh. John had volunteered for relief duty; Gossage was glad.
"I got up, started to throw," he said, "and my first pitch sailed five feet over the catcher's head, over the railing and out of the bullpen. I thought it was going to hit Lopes (at second). I thought to myself: 'Oh, no, don't get me in this sumbitch.' "
Meanwhile, Jackson, a few stalls away in the clubhouse, was shaking his head and admitting: "I damn near missed the ball (Steve) Yeager hit (with one on and the bases loaded in the eighth). But it stayed out of the sun, came at me quickly."
Jackson said his injury was fine. Given his inaction in Game 3 even as a pinch hitter and Mumphrey's absence today, Jackson said of his status for Game 5: "If I'm in the lineup, I'll play."