The lights went out on the New York Yankees tonight.
In the top of the fourth inning this evening, a third of the vapor lights over Yankee Stadium went dead for nine minutes.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, things also grew dim for the Yankees because of Manager Bob Lemon's managerial snafu that will live in lore for years. The Los Angeles Dodgers found their way to a world championship paved with Yankee blunders in in a 9-2 sixth game that gae the Californians their first World Series triumph since 1965.
The Dodgers won the last four games of this Series after falling behind two games to none, reversing the pattern of the 1978 Series when the Yankees performed the same feat.
Los Angeles had its conventional heroes this night before 56,513 in the stadium. Pedro Guerrero, a goat turned splendid hero in the last three games, had five RBI. His two-run single in the fifth capped a three-run Dodger rally for a 4-1 lead. His two-run, bases-loaded single in the next inning capped a four-run rally that built the lead to 8-1. Finally, Guerrero slapped a homer in the eighth to finish the scoring.
Also, the Dodgers got the fourth postseason victory of 1981 from Burt Hooton, who in the majors the last five years, smoked up and down the dugout in disbelief and anger.
Murcer flied out.
On came Yankee pitcher George Frazier, an almost anonymous right-hander who had lost two previous games into which Lemon had summoned him.
Tonight, he lost a third. No man in the history of a seven-game Series had ever before lost three games. The only man to pull that negative hat trick before was Lefty Williams in the eight-game Series of 1919.But Williams was one of the Black Sox fixers and he was trying to lose.
Before Frazier could get three outs, the went a shakey five innings in which he allowed 10 base runners before giving way to southpaw Steve Howe, who worked the final four innings.
However, if this whole Dodger victory in the Series is thought of as a glorious comeback, then this final chapter on a cool, quiet night in the Bronx was a Lemon.
This affair was a 1-1 pitchers' duel when, with two out and two on in the Yankee fourth, Lemon sent up Bobby Murcer to pinch hit for his starter Tommy John. It was a staggeringly unconventional, almost panicky, move. The crowd gasped, the Yankees gaped and John, the second-leading winner Dodgers had gotten three runs and taken control, 4-1.
The game began with a captivating sense of history. The Yankees and Dodgers have met 11 times in the series, all of them in the past 40 years and 10 of them since World War II. No wonder so much of the game's lore in living memory is the lore of these teams: Mickey Owens' missed third strike and Sandy Amoros' catch, Johnny Podres' game-seven shutout and Don Larsen's perfect game, Al Gionfriddo's grab on DiMaggio and Graig Nettles' robberies, Reggie Jackson's five homers and Sandy Koufax's two wins in a four-game sweep.
Already in this October more chapters had been added, everything from Davey Lopes' record five errors and Dave Winfield's zero for 16 batting to the Desperation Dodgers' three heroic, hair-breath wins at home and the subsequent L.A. headline, "Yankees Go Home!"
Both teams' wounded third basemen, Ron Cey of Los Angeles and Nettles of New York, decided they could play. It was a factor that would prove vital for the Dodgers.
Cey, the Penguin, was beaned by Rich Gossage, the Goose, on Sunday but his dizziness disappeared today; on the first pitch after his encounter with the 94 mph missile, Cey lined a single to left off John in the first. It wouldn't be his last hit.
Nettles, who jammed his thumb in Game 2, had X-rays today that revealed two hairline fractures, one old, one new. "Yes," said Nettles, "but it isn't a bad fracture. If they X-rayed my whole body, they'd probably never let me play again." The second pitch of the game was grounded to Nettles, who fielded it easily.
Neither starter this night began sharply.
John gave up a pair of two-out singles in the first inning, to Steve Garvey and Cey, but Dusty Baker flied out, his slump reaching two for 20. In the fourth, the Dodgers touched John for an extremely lucky run when Baker, finally, singled to center, Rick Monday got a very cheap two-out hit on a smash directly between the legs of poor-fielding first baseman Bob Watson, and Steve Yeager nudged a seeing-eye ground single through the hole to left.
Little did John know that the fourth would be his final inning.
The Dodgers' Hooton, who entered the game with a 3-1 postseason record and just one run allowed in 27 2/3 innings, was not at his sharpest early, but managed to escape from trouble repeatedly.
In the first, Willie Randolph walked and stole second, but the Yankees' woefully unproductive Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the order failed again, Winfield lining hard to left and Reggie Jackson fanning on a 3-2 fastball up and in.
In the third, Hooton allowed a two-out, none-on homer into the left field bleachers by Randolph for a 1-0 Yankee lead. That margin was wiped out by Yeager's RBI hit in the fourth. When Hooton then gave up a single to Jerry Mumphrey and walked Winfield, bringing up Jackson, he seemed in scalding water. This time, Jackson flied meekly to left.
When Hooton was in trouble again in the fourth, after a one-out double by Nettles, it was actually the Yankees who were in trouble. Hooton fanned Rick Cerone on three pitches, then intentionally walked Larry Milbourne to get to John.
That's when the Yankees' master computer blew a gigantic fuse.
Lemon pinch hit Murcer, who seems to be his personal fixation, for John. National TV cameras zoomed into the Yankee dugout and caught the normally placid, cheerful John in an angry funk. Lip readers saw John saying, "Unbelieveable."
That's what the baseball world will say for years.
In the last five years, only one pitcher in baseball has won more games than John: Steve Carlton of Philadelphia. And, since the day John became a Yankee in 1979, he has been the top winner in the American League. In 12 career postseason games, John has a 5-2 record and a 2.25 ERA. His career ERA is the 14th-best in the history of baseball.
This is your ace. This is the old guy you want on the mound with your back to the wall. You don't take Tommy John out of a 1-1 pitchers' duel in the fourth inning.
Especially you don't do it when the man warming up, the savior who is coming into the game, is the almost totally unknown and almost totally unqualified Frazier, who already had lost Games 3 and 4.
Why, you ask, would any man make such a move?
Here's why. In Game 3, the Yankees twice had identical situations with two on and two out. Twice, in the third and fifth, Lemon let pitchers Dave Righetti and Frazier hit for themselves and was criticized. Both fanned and neither got another out before being knocked out.
In that game, the decision in the third to hit for Righetti or not was a 50-50 choice, no big deal because Righetti is a quality pitcher. Allowing Frazier to hit, however, was a mistake because Lemon's bullpen was long and ready.
So, because Lemon had made one bad mistake Saturday, not hitting for Frazier, he compounded it this evening by flip-flopping and pinch hitting too early for John.
What followed had a feeling of brutal inevitability.
Murcer flied to right field and on came poor Frazier, a perfectly decent 27-year-old chap from Oklahoma City who has had no business whatever being thrown repeatedly into the center of a World Series. His tiny career record is 3-12 in a mere 104 innings.
Seldom has a man been more overmatched by events or more snakebitten. Both his previous losses were as much the result of bad hops and bad fielding as his weak, junkball pitching. Again tonight, he was a walking pox.
Lopes chopped a single through the left side to start the fifth and was sacrificed to second. After Garvey, who has four RBI in 91 Series at bats, flied out, the Penguin hacked a humble grounder up the middle for what should have been the third out. However, the ball hit the edge of the infield grass and took a bad, low hop under the glove of Randolph, who seemed a bit nonchalant. The RBI single that trickled into center opened the flood gates.
Baker followed with a flare single to center. That was the end of the cheap hits. Guerrero crushed a monstrous two-run double off the 430-foot sign in left for a 4-1 Dodger lead.
New York's last hope seemed to die when, after a leadoff double by Randolph in the fifth, those three Yankee culprits -- Mumphrey, Winfield and Jackson -- went down harmlessly. As Winfield popped up, making him one for 21 in the Series and one for his last 27, he swung so overly hard that he fell in the dirt at the plate.
The Dodger coup de grace came in the sixth. Ron Davis, who ended this Series with a staggeringly bad mark of eight runs allowed while getting just seven outs, walked Hooton and Lopes, then gave up an RBI single to Bill Russell. His next act was to head for a shower. On came Rick Reuschel, who, before the four-run Dodger sixth inning was over, had issued two intentional passes, allowed a run-scoring fielder's choice by Derrel Thomas and, finally, a ringing two-run single by hero Guerrero, who completed his glorious night with an eight-inning home run, his fifth RBI.