Years hence, it will seem proper that the last game of baseball's most rueful season was played on the latest date in World Series history in a stadium with a power failure on Bowie Kuhn's birthday.
It will seem sadly apropos that this Series, which ended with Wednesday's 9-2 Dodger victory, was not so much won by Los Angeles as it was lost by the befuddled New York Yankee brain trust of George Steinbrenner and Bob Lemon.
In retrospect, we won't be surprised that the central haunting fact of this Series was that, out of baseball's deepest and best bullpen, mystery man George Frazier became the first man since the Black Sox scandal to lose three Series games.
Surely, it will seem fitting someday that $23 million Dave Winfield, the epitome of baseball's era of overpaid and overrated free agents, would go one for 22, then have the gall to say, "Overall, I thought I played well."
Steinbrenner did say, however, in an interview with United Press International that Winfield had apologized for his performance. "He said, 'I know I let you down and embarrassed you,' " Steinbrenner related. "He said he was going to work harder next year."
This was a Series so bereft of theme that the Dodgers had to split the MVP award among three players. The Series' leading hitter, Steve Garvey, had no RBI. The only records the Dodgers set were for most errors by a second baseman (six), and most walks allowed in a six-game Series (33). Correspondingly, the Yankees' only team record was for most men left stranded in a six-game Series (55).
Perhaps that should have been expected from teams that played below .500 in the second half, finishing fourth and fifth in their divisions. Over a full season, these two geriatric teams would have had the devil's time getting to a Series.
This mix of comic Dodger infielding, ludicrous Yankee base running, wild Dodger pitching, and paralyzed Yankee clutch hitting came to a crescendo in the last game as Lemon removed the Series' best pitcher, Tommy John (ERA 0.69), for a pinch-hitter with a career Series average of .000 so that he could summon into a 1-1 game a pitcher whose career big-league record was 3-12.
The Dodgers scored seven runs in the next two innings as the Yankees looked dumbstruck.
New Yorkers can warm their cynical hearts this winter with a new parlor game: name the 10 worst Series decisions by Yankee leader Lemonbrenner.
(1) Pinch-hitting Bobby Murcer for John in Game 6. "I didn't agree with that decision, but I'm not second-guessing my manager," Steinbrenner said today, second-guessing.
(2) Having Murcer bunt into a double play in Game 3 while a ready and willing Reggie Jackson never got off the bench. "I think the turning point of the Series was when we let Valenzuela off the hook with Murcer's bunt," Steinbrenner told UPI today. ". . . Next year we're going to build a whole new (spring training) infield just for bunting."
(3, 4 and 5) Bringing Frazier into games in which the Yankees were ahead, 4-3, and tied, 6-6, and 1-1. When you have Rich (Goose) Gossage, Ron (Gander) Davis, Rudy May ('80 ERA champ), Dave LaRoche (eighth in history in saves), plus assorted Rick Reuschels and Dave Righettis resting between starts after quick kayoes, there's no reason Frazier should even warm up.
(6) Benching .307 hitter Jerry Mumphrey in Games 3 and 4.
(7) Benching Jackson in Game 3. Steinbrenner said again today that neither Jackson's nor Mumphrey's benching was his idea; there's probably someone somewhere who believes him.
(8) Putting Bobby Brown in for defense with a 6-3 lead in Game 4 when the far superior Mumphrey was available. L.A.'s go-ahead and eventual winning runs scored because Brown couldn't catch a pop fly.
(9) A whole sequence of dubious to-pinch-hit-or-not-to-pinch-hit decisions by Lemon involving, particularly, Righetti and Frazier in Game 3. They both struck out with two men on, then never got another batter out. On Lemon's status, the owner said, "He's always going to be part of our family," but goes no further.
(10) Scads of base runners held at third by Coach Joe Altobelli, apparently mindful of the wrath Steinbrenner heaped on Coach Mike Ferraro in '80.
The worst was saved for last.
As the final Yankee fly fell to earth, there was still a chance the Dodgers would get their share of credit to balance against the portion of Yankee blame. After all, this Series, because it was baseball played by good teams under great pressure for high stakes, had excitment and some valorous memories.
The three one-run Dodger victories during the weekend in Chavez Ravine were thrilling if sometimes sloppy. No one can deny the Dodgers' competitiveness. Fernando Valenzuela was a portrait of poise in surviving 16 Yankee runners to win, 5-4, Friday. And the back-to-back homers by Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager off Ron Guidry to transform the fifth game were worthy of any Series photo album.
This Dodger bunch, which folded its tent in the '78 Series, has grown up and, for its excellence over the years, deserves its crown and rings.
However, in a shameful act, the Yankees made sure this would be remembered as the Series they lost, not the one the Desperation Dodgers won.
"I think we beat ourselves about 90 percent and they beat us about 10 percent. We had the best club," said graceless Murcer after the game.
"I want to sincerely apologize," wrote Steinbrenner in a press release, "to the people of New York and to the fans of the New York Yankees everywhere for the performance of the Yankee team in the World Series . . .
"I want to congratulate . . . my friend Tom Lasorda who managed a brilliant World Series."
Free agent Reggie Jackson, who has probably played his last as a Yankee, did not agree with his boss. "Apologize?" said Jackson after Wednesday's game. "No way. We got beat, we didn't quit . . . Will I be back? Have to say no. The last time at bat, I looked all around the stadium. I looked down at my uniform. I'm as normal as the next guy. It's been a nice ride here, one I'll never forget.
"One of these days, I'll go down hill and if it happens here, they'll hang me. I don't want to go out gettin' shot."
Asked about all the aggravations of five years in New York, Jackson, said, with insight and humor, "Remember, I'm an egomaniac. I can turn anything into a compliment."
"I resent Reggie making light of my apology. I made it and I meant it," said Steinbrenner today. "Reggie Jackson is doing a good job of burning his bridges."
Perhaps never before has there been a Series in which both teams left the stage talking about how they might be broken up by the next spring.
All in all, this Series fulfilled its function.
Thrilling, goofy baseball makes better TV fare than fundamentally crisp play. The game, in need of affection, has recaptured some friends with this weird anti-Classic.
Also, it was fitting that a hodgepodge season end with a less than great team as world champ. Come next March, every contender will be licking its chops. Already the Cincinnati Reds, the only .600 team of '81, must be chuckling. When they aren't crying.