NEW YORK — Wally Joyner was very nearly an eyewitness to a knifing in the Bronx Tuesday night.
Joyner was walking off the Yankee Stadium field alongside Mike Witt, the winning pitcher in the Angels' 2-0 victory, when a large metallic object thrown from the stands hit the first baseman on the right forearm.
"I thought it was a big comb at first," Joyner said.
Then Joyner looked down on the ground. What he saw, what had just bounced off him, was a folding knife. A big folding knife. And it was open.
"The next thing I saw was the back of the dugout wall," Joyner said. "I was out of there."
Joyner escaped without any injury, save for maybe some frazzled nerves. "It just nicked me," he said. "The side of it hit my arm and glanced off it."
Witt was only a couple of feet away. He saw the object hit Joyner but also had no idea it was a knife. "If I did," he said, "I would've ducked."
Angel Manager Gene Mauch retrieved the knife and handed it to a security guard.
"Where'd that come from?" the guard asked.
Mauch pointed to the upper deck. "Up there," he said.
The knife was nearly a foot long, according to Mauch. "You wouldn't have too much trouble killing a bear with it," he said.
Now you know why they call this place The Bronx Zoo.
"There are places I'd sooner play than Yankee Stadium," Mauch said. "I've been hit with nuts, I've been hit with bolts here. But that's the first knife I've ever seen."
Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann was a little stronger in his assessment of Yankee Stadium.
"There are some sick (bleeping) people here," he said.
The Angels made their escape from New York with their health intact, which they considered a bargain at any rate.
The gravy was a two-game sweep of the Yankees, the continuation of a three-game winning streak and another game up on Texas in the American League West standings. The first-place Angels lead the Rangers by four games.
Again, Witt was the difference. He allowed only four hits--all singles--and none after the fifth inning. He retired the last 14 batters he faced, earned his third shutout of the season and won his seventh straight decision, improving his record to 16-7.
Witt now owns the lowest earned-run average in the league--2.52 to Roger Clemens' 2.53.
"Mike Witt is the best pitcher in the game right now," the Angels' Reggie Jackson proclaimed. "I've played on teams with Catfish Hunter, Ron Guidry, Jim Palmer, and he's as good as any one of them. He's our big man."
Jackson, who once was the Yankees' big man, made what might have been his last appearance at Yankee Stadium. If he isn't re-signed by the Angels, as Jackson has stated, and if no other team offers him a contract, Tuesday night was Jackson's farewell to the ballpark.
He made his exit somewhat less noticeably than Joyner.
After walking and scoring a run in the second inning, flying out in the fourth and striking out in the sixth, Jackson was lifted for the pinch-hitting George Hendrick in the eighth. There were no final bows for Jackson--only chants of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" throughout Hendrick's at-bat.
Jackson, who spoke loudly and boldly Monday about going out in style, was barely audible when asked for his reaction to coming out for a pinch-hitter. He was subdued. There would be no controversy this night.
"I wouldn't have minded getting another at-bat," he said softly. "But I know the game, and Gene talks to me enough and I know what's happening. I just sat down and rooted for George to get a hit."
Mauch pulled Jackson because the Yankees had just switched pitchers, replacing right-hander Doug Drabek (3-6) with left-hander Rod Scurry. Hendrick bats right-handed.
"I don't have a heart of stone," Mauch said, "but I gotta do what I gotta do."
Jackson was asked what he felt when he heard the cheers for him even after he had retired to the dugout.
"Nothing," Jackson said. "Just, 'Go sit down.' "
Jackson sighed. "I'm talked out," he said. Then he excused himself and headed to the showers.
Jackson had scored the only run Witt needed, coming home from second base on a ground-rule double by Jack Howell in the second inning. Howell later scored on a single by Dick Schofield.
The game also featured another team record-breaking hit for Joyner. In the eighth inning, Joyner singled off Drabek for his 148th hit of the season. That broke the Angel rookie record for hits--147--which was set in 1975 by Jerry Remy.
"It's great," Joyner said, "but I'd trade it all for a playoff bid."
Joyner was more excited about the prospect of no more visits to Yankee Stadium until 1987.
"It's crazy, it's unbelievable," he said, glad to be in one piece.
And as he inspected the postgame buffet in the visitors' clubhouse, Joyner could be heard happily singing:
"We don't have to come here no more . "