The question during the fifth inning was, "What work was Bob Lemon doing when George Steinbrenner asked him to be the Yankees' manager three months ago?"
The answer was, "Scouting -- same as he's going to be tomorrow."
Another question, asked during the sixth inning as the Dodgers rubbed it in, was, "Is Lemon walking to the mound to take out his pitcher?"
"Nope," a wise man said. "He's walking downtown for a Greyhound home."
During the seventh inning, the question was, "Will Lemon use his jab to keep Steinbrenner in the middle of the ring?"
The answer was, "Bob better bring a whip and a chair."
If any World Series manager ever failed his team more miserably than Lemon tonight, it escapes memory. The sour look across the face of a courtly gentleman, Tommy John, told it all. Lemon took out John, his best pitcher, for a pinch hitter with the score tied, 1-1, and two out in the bottom of the fourth.
John paced the length of the dugout. He leaned against the concrete wall, the muscles working at the hinges of his jaw. Just five minutes earlier, in the identical situation -- men on first and second, two out, the pitcher at bat -- Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda allowed Burt Hooton to hit. Hooton struck out, certainly, but the night was young and you want your best pitcher going.
Not Lemon. Not with John, his guttiest worker. Only the day before, talking to the nation's press, Lemon confessed, "I'm not all that bright." Everyone laughed at the modesty. Tonight the perceived modesty was revealed as an on-target appraisal, for with the game not yet in the balance Lemon made a game-turning move.
He sent up Bobby Murcer to pinch-hit for John.
No Dusty Rhodes on a hot streak, no feared Reggie Jackson from '77, this is Bobby (I'm So Old) Murcer, who was oh for two in this Series.
This defies explanation. Give me none of Lemon's certain reasoning -- that John had given up six hits in four innings, that he gave up three singles in the fourth, that this was not his night. John always grows more effective late in games as his sinker ball does its magic.
Anyway, even if Murcer singles, breaking the tie, so what? A 2-1 lead with five innings to play is nothing.
With Yankee runners at first and second, Murcer flied harmlessly to right.
And Lemon was forced to replace John with someone named George Frazier, already a two-time loser in this World Series, a mediocrity with a 13.50 earned run average.
Philosophers wrestled with the question, "Why, Mr. Lemon?"
Comedians answered, "To give George a chance at the record, of course."
The record belonged to Claude Williams.
The record is three defeats in a World Series.
So Frazier, by giving up the Dodgers' go-ahead runs in the fifth inning, joined Williams as the only pitchers ever to lose three Series games.
However, Frazier enjoys the distinction of being the first fellow to lose three games while his team was trying to win.
Williams pitched for the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who lost that Series to Cincinnati, five games to three, and later became known as the Black Sox when eight players were accused of throwing games in return for gamblers' money.
Frazier, a nice enough guy never accused of mistreating small dogs, has been the Dodgers' best buddy in this Series. Before tonight, he had pitched 2 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and four runs in his two defeats.
The first hitter he saw tonight, Davey Lopes, singled to left field. The fourth hitter, Ron Cey, singled to center, scoring Lopes. After Dusty Baker singled, Pedro Guerrero made it 4-1 with a triple to deepest left center.
Soon enough, Lemon got Frazier out of there. Here came Ron Davis, the Series' most inglorious performer. Then came Rick Reuschel in relief of Davis, and next thing you know the score is 8-1.
This game was over much, much earlier. Dave Winfield and Jackson had gone oh for four with men in scoring position before Lemon could get Frazier out of sight. But those failings were as nothing next to Lemon's dunderhead move that took the heart out of that proud Yankee dugout.
The Yankees became the second team ever to lose four straight Series games after winning the first two.
Lemon could be charged with at least two losses. His managerial butchery of Game 4, an 8-7 loss, was exceeded only by tonight's debacle as he disproved his own modest disclaimer of two weeks ago that anybody could manage the Yankees.
"It's easy," Lemon said. "You just push buttons."
With that kind of guy pushing buttons, we should keep him away from our MX missile silos.
A half hour after the game, Steinbrenner came by Lemon's office in the Yankee clubhouse. Steinbrenner was ashen. He had walked around the clubhouse, shaking hands. To John, Steinbrenner said softly, "Thanks for everything." To Jackson, the owner said, "Thanks," and Reggie said, "Thanks, big guy."
Steinbrenner said to Lemon, "Thanks for a good year," and then headed away to think about this.
"You don't feel very good," Steinbrenner said, turning down a dark corridor. His voice drifted back through the darkness. "But it wouldn't do me any good to say anything."
Bet this: Bob Lemon will soon hear more from George Steinbrenner than thanks a lot.