The Yankees and Dodgers aren't involved in this year's baseball playoffs - it just seems that way. With Goose Gossage, Graig Nettles, Steve Garvey, and Ron Cey all playing for one team or another, a casual fan could be forgiven for thinking it was 1977, ' 78, or '81 all over again.
Stretching the theme just a bit, you can even add Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Balboni to the list. Sutcliffe, the current Chicago ace who pitched the Cubs' 13-0 opening game victory over San Diego Tuesday, was a member of the 1981 pennant-winning Dodger team but was left off the post-season roster. Balboni, now the Kansas City first baseman, was a Yankee farmhand in the early 1980s, played a little bit for the '81 American League champions, but also didn't get into post-season action.
The first-named quartet, of course, comprised some of the biggest names in those storied Yankee-Dodger classics. Garvey and Cey played first base and third base respectively for Los Angeles in all three Series and were key performers - especially in the victorious one of 1981. Nettles was the New York third baseman throughout, and will always be a part of Series history for the fantastic defensive show he put on in '78. Gossage missed the '77 classic but was simply awesome as the Yankees' late-inning reliever in both '78 and '81 (6 games, 11 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs).
Toss in Kansas City manager Dick Howser, who was the Yankee third base coach for 10 years and piloted the team to a division title in 1980 - then take a look at this year's standings - and it's hard to escape the thought that both old rivals may have let some of the wrong people get away.
Most of the old Yankees and Dodgers did pretty well for their new teams in this year's openers too. Cey smashed one of Chicago's five home runs, walked, and scored twice in the Cubs' romp. Sutcliffe worked seven scoreless innings and also contributed a homer. Garvey was 2-for-4 for San Diego. And Nettles, in addition to getting one hit in four tries for the Padres, showed he can still make the plays at third by coming up with another of those patented backhanded stabs reminiscent of all the ones he made in 1978.
Only Balboni, who was 0-for-4 in the Royals' 8-1 loss to Detroit, came up empty, while of course there was no spot for San Diego to use Gossage in its lopsided defeat. Managers are old hands this year
''No experience necessary'' has been the watchword for post-season managers the last few seasons. Four of the eight men who have taken their teams all the way to the World Series in this decade - Dallas Green, Jim Frey, Harvey Kuenn, and Paul Owens - did so in their very first year of big league managing. And two of the other four - Joe Altobelli and Whitey Herzog - were making their initial appearances in the fall classic.
That's not the way things look this year, though. Experience, in fact, is the main common denominator among 1984's playoff pilots. All of them have ''been there before,'' as the saying goes - at least to the playoffs, and in most cases beyond. Taken together, their combined post-season experience must surely be greater than that of any similar quartet since these league championship series began back in 1969.
The two real ''old hands,'' of course, are Detroit's Sparky Anderson and San Diego's Dick Williams, who between them have managed in eight playoffs and seven World Series. They even managed against each other once - in 1972 - with Williams's Oakland A's beating Anderson's Cincinnati Reds four games to three.
All-in-all, Anderson's succession of Big Red Machine teams in the '70s made the National League playoffs five times, won them on four of those occasions, and were 2-2 in their World Series appearances. Williams, meanwhile, led the 1967 Boston Red Sox to their ''Impossible Dream'' American League pennant, then piloted the A's to three straight American League West titles in 1971-72-73, going on to win both the pennant and the World Series in the latter two years.
Chicago's Frey, of course, is no newcomer now either, having managed the Kansas City team that defeated the Yankees in the 1980 American League playoffs to put the Royals in their first-ever World Series. (An irony here is that Dallas Green, who managed the Philadelphia team that beat Frey's club in that classic, is now the Cubs' general manager and the man who hired Jim for his current job).
Kansas City's Howser is thus the only one of the four who hasn't already managed in at least one World Series, but he's certainly no stranger to any of this pressurized post-season activity. Dick managed the Yankee team that lost to Frey's Royals in 1980, then switched to Kansas City the next year and led that club to a half-season championship and a spot in the ''mini-playoffs'' which followed the strike-abbreviated '81 campaign. And, as noted above, he was the New York third base coach for many years, including three playoffs and three World Series appearances. Fill-in umpires got a break
The onesided nature of both opening games made things relatively easy for the substitute umpires who worked the two contests in place of the striking regular arbiters.
With both the Cubs and Tigers jumping out to big early leads and coasting to victory, the newcomers got a welcome chance to ease into their roles and get acclimatized without facing any tough calls in pressure situations.
Bill Deegan, a former 10-year major league umpire, was behind the plate and headed the six-man crew that worked the AL opener. The National League opted to dispense with the foul-line umpires who usually work playoff games and use a four-man team which had worked together in college ball this past spring and had also filled in for big league umpires previously during a seven-week strike in 1979. Many records fall on first day
All sorts of playoff records were established in the Cubs' first-game demolition of the Padres Tuesday, including team marks for most home runs (5), most hits (16), most extra-base hits (8), most total bases (34), and largest margin of victory (13 runs).
Gary Matthews, who hit two of the Chicago homers, set an impressive individual mark that will be hard to match. The Cub outfielder, who won MVP honors in the 1983 National League championship series while with Philadelphia, has now hit at least one home run in four consecutive playoff games.
Meanwhile in the AL opener the Detroit offense, while a bit overshadowed by the explosion at Wrigley Field, looked pretty potent in its own right. With Alan Trammell's 3-for-3 day (home run, triple, single, 3 RBIs) leading the way, the Tigers pounded out 14 hits of their own to make ace right-hander Jack Morris an easy winner in his playoff debut.