Phil Niekro, 46, and Ed Lopat, 67, started for the Yankees yesterday. Many of the 45,274 fans at Old-Timers Day in New York thought Lopat, the Yankees' "Junkman" of the 1950s, threw harder than Niekro.

"It just looks that way from the sidelines," Manager Billy Martin of the Yankees said, smiling after Niekro's slow-moving knuckle ball had beaten the Texas Rangers, 3-1.

Lopat, who started the Old-Timers Game, won 166 AL games from 1944 to 1955 by throwing offspeed pitches that batters ridiculed but usually didn't hit well.

"Some of the guys were asking me if I was going to start both games," Niekro said.

"Knucksie had lost five in a row and this is a big win for him and the team," said Martin, who was even happier later when he learned that his team had taken second place in the AL East from the Tigers.

Niekro (8-8) had allowed only five hits until two straight singles brought on Dave Righetti in the eighth. Righetti gave up an RBI single to Bill Stein, got an inning-ending double play, then went on to earn his 16th save.

Don Mattingly drove in the official winning run with a grounder in the first inning but was hitless in four trips to end his 20-game hitting streak, longest in the majors this year.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it," he said. "I let one good pitch go by in my last at bat and that's the one I should have hit."