The game resembled a boxing match between two evenly matched fighters. The Dodgers punched, then the Yankees punched back. They traded blows until they wore each other out.
There’s no tying in baseball. Or at least not that often.
The Yankees finally prevail in the bottom of the twelfth. But it was not the end of the game that makes this contest memorable.
In the top of the first, Bill Russell hits a triple to deep left-center to drive in a run and comes home on a fly ball hit by Ron Cey. In the Yankee half, Chris Chambliss drives home a run with a single.
Then the game turns into a pitcher’s duel between Don Gullett of the Yankees and Don Sutton of the Dodgers. Gullett was starting the first game of the World Series for the third year in a row! Neither he nor Sutton seems perturbed by the early runs.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Steve Garvey takes off from first as Glenn Burke hits a ground ball between first and second base. The ball trickles so slowly to the outfield that when center fielder Mickey Rivers picks up the ball, he realizes the play will be not at third base, but home plate! His throw goes to Thurman Munson, who catches it and then reaches out to tag Garvey.
Garvey jumps up and protests the call. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda joins the argument. Replays appear to show Garvey’s foot touching the plate before Munson’s tag. Here is a picture of the play at the plate in the following day’s Telegraph.
But the call, right or wrong, prevails.
Yankee second baseman Willie Randolph opens the bottom of the sixth with a home run down the left field line to tie the score at two. In the eighth, Randolph walks and scored on a double by Munson.
This gives the Dodgers one last inning to produce at least a run to keep the game going. Dusty Baker leads off with a single.
Then came the kind of play that makes the game unpredictable and worth watching.
Pinch hitter Manny Mota fakes a bunt and then swings and misses at the pitch from Gullett. Baker, apparently on a hit and run, is on his way to second when he finds himself staring at a Yankee with the ball in front of him. Baker doubles back as the ball is thrown to first baseman Chambliss.
Ordinarily, the first baseman then tags the runner out. But Baker dives away from Chambliss AND the base! A confused Chambliss hesitates for a split second while Baker lunges again, this time for the base.
Baker’s play helped the Dodgers to tie the game. After Mota flies out, Steve Yeager walks. Then pinch hitter Lee Lacy singles to left to bring Baker home.
Watching this game again reminds me how much this rivalry and the three World Series that these two teams played in during my youth helped me to appreciate baseball.