1. It was over when . . . not to go ESPN on you, but it was over when Jeter tied it up (see below). If you listened closely, you could hear every Yankee fan from Hartford down to Perth Amboy exhaling: Got 'em. CC might surrender one tie, but not two. After Jeter, just a matter of time.
I remember watching CC pitch his first game as a Yankee, Opening Day at Camden Yards. The way he was throwing, it seemed Sabathia was trying to earn all of his $165 million in the first inning. Fastballs came in at 98 miles per hour, but in one of two heights: either the brim of the batter's helmet or bounced off the plate. There was a little bit of this tonight, early, and helped not a little bit by a Twin-Cities ump who had seemingly decided that, given the Twins' lack of rest, they should be given four strikes apiece. On the radio, Jon Miller, who usually strives to be fair-minded to the detriment of the broadcast (see below), seemed stunned at some of the two-strike pitches that . . . well, here is how he described one two-strike call, verbatim: "That was either at the corner but below the knee, or, um, at the knee and off the corner, or, um, er, at the knee and at the corner." For an equivalent radio moment, think of Glenn Beck calling for General McChrystal to shoot President Obama on sight.
2. What I was thinking of was . . . the ghost of Jim Beattie. In 1978, When the Yankees came back from 14 games down against the Red Sox, pushed their own lead to 3 1/2, found themselves tied with the Sox on the last day of the season, then defeated the Sox in The Greatest Game Ever Played, they still had the small matter of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The series started on a Tuesday, the day after TGGEP. For Game One, what were manager Bob Lemon's options? Ed Figueroa had won his 20th game the previous Saturday. Catfish Hunter had been thumped by the Indians on Sunday. Of course, in the playoff game the previous day, Ron Guidry had started and gone 6 2/3 innings; Goose Gossage had pitched 2 1/3 innings for the save.
In other words, Lemon's four best pitchers were unavailable.
What was Lemon left with, that he could trust in any way? Basically, three pitchers: Jim Beattie, Ken Clay, and a royally pissed-off Sparky Lyle. Lyle had had almost no role in the Yankees' historic comeback (his recount of the season is captured, most entertainingly of course, in The Bronx Zoo.) Lyle had felt badly left out by the emergence of Gossage as the majors' prime closer. The previous day, with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on third base, Lyle had desperately wanted to pitch to Yasztremski, just to prove his worth in some way, had even warmed up to face Yaz with no call from the dugout. Lemon had stuck with Goose, to no Yankee fan's complaint.
So: this was Lyle. With little option, Lemon went with Beattie, with his sparkling 6-9 regular-season record. Beattie, of course, collared the Royals with almost laughable ease, and was ably relieved by Clay. When Reggie hit one of his requisite October home runs, the game was already on ice.
The next day, Ed Figueroa did his annual post-season folderola. Two days' following, at Yankee Stadium, Catfish gave up three home runs to George Brett, but Reggie provided an answer for each blow at the bottom of the same inning of Brett's bombs: first with a home run, then with an RBI single, then with a 400-foot fly ball that scored a run from third. This was merely the prelude to the finale: Thurman Munson's game-winning blast that soared over the fence in left-center field and bouced around the monuments.
Finally, the next day, given sufficient rest, Guidry and Gossage shut down the Royals, 2-1, for the series.
But Beattie was the one who started it.
I kept waiting for the Twins to produce their own Jim Beattie tonight. Jeter's home run, therefore, was a comfort in more ways than one.
3. Nice to see A-Rod, you know, hit. The only thing I was worried about was, Damn, Jeter's doing so well, now A-Rod will swing at pitches that threaten to hit the batboy. Well, yeah, the first two times up. Can we hope that 2 RBIs relaxes him? He's got three of the best clutch hitters in the sport clustered around him (Jeter, Tex, Matsui). The Yankees have a .320 hitter batting sixth. Would it kill A-Rod to force the pitcher to, like, throw a strike or something?
4. Steve Phillips: smart guy. To hear Joe Morgan's colleagues (Miller and Phillips) call the game sans Morgan is like sitting on a long bus ride with a female classmate and discovering the reason you thought you never liked her was because of her asshole boyfriend. Phillips is smart. He's observant. I listened to 90 percent of the game on radio, and Phillips' dissection of CC's pitches was worth my attention all by itself. The reason nobody knows he's smart is that, on ESPN, nothing he says is directly relevant to somebody's "second-consecutive MVP Award."
I hear Morgan may be retiring. I should live so long.
Please, please: to paraphrase John Lennon, ESPN, if my dream comes true, if I should one day end my weekend with a CC-Beckett slamdown at Fenway without Joe Morgan, don't go out and hire Jim Palmer or Bret Boone, or (God forgive me) Mr. October. ESPN, all we are asking, is give the Miller-Phillips team a chance.