NEW YORK — There were rain and Reagan and more huffing and puffing about scuffing in the National League playoffs Monday.
There was no game, though. National League President Chub Feeney made it as far as the Mets' on-deck circle before waving off Game 5 at 4:22 p.m. (EDT), 75 minutes after its scheduled start.
At the time, a steady drizzle was falling, just as it had been since mid-morning. The problem, however, is that the forecast is for a downpour today, when Game 5 has been rescheduled for a 1 p.m. (EDT), start.
Had Feeney chosen to wait much longer--it had stopped raining by early evening--the network televising the game, ABC, would have risked a conflict with President Reagan's summit address, and later on with "Monday Night Football."
Feeney's decision to have baseball bow out left the President, as well as the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, with an open field.
Astro rookie Jim Deshaies, who was to have started Game 5, was the biggest loser Monday. Deshaies, who set a major league record by striking out the first eight Dodgers he faced last month, was bumped out of his start by Nolan Ryan, who will now get his accustomed four days' rest after losing the second game, 5-1.
The Mets' pitching plans remain unchanged. Dwight Gooden is scheduled for Game 5, followed by Bob Ojeda in Game 6 and Ron Darling in a seventh game, if one is necessary.
Houston's starters for Games 6 and 7 are Bob Knepper and Mike Scott, although Astro Manager Hal Lanier said he might bring Scott back in Game 6 if there's another postponement today.
Scott will pitch, that is, provided he is not prosecuted, pilloried, or hanged by his neck from a tree in the Shea Stadium parking lot.
The same New York City tabloids that gave us "Son of Sam" now give us "the Split-Fingered Slasher," the label attached to Scott by columnist Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News after the Astros' alleged baseball scuffer had beaten the Mets for the second time in two playoff starts Sunday night, 3-1.
Lupica wrote that Scott is "the greatest cut man never to work a boxing corner."
How serious is this scuff stuff becoming?
Well, the Mets showed Feeney part of their collection of marked balls, and Feeney plans to meet with Frank Cashen, the Mets' executive vice president.
"We'll get to it before (Scott) pitches again," Feeney said.
The managers, Davey Johnson of the Mets and Hal Lanier of the Astros, were both called to the witness stand in the Scott case.
What about the umpires' contention that the Mets may have tampered with their purported evidence of Scott's wrongdoing, and were scuffing the balls themselves?
"I'll take a lie detector test," Johnson said.
Lanier, when told what Johnson had said, replied with a touch of annoyance: "Am I supposed to take one, too, or what?"
Most of the suspect baseballs were collected by Met infielders Wally Backman and Howard Johnson, which gave Lanier another idea.
"If Backman and Johnson are such big fans of Scott, why don't they bring (the balls) over and he'll autograph 'em," Lanier said.
Doug Harvey, chief of the umpiring crew, was then summoned to offer a little historical perspective.
On July 14, 1978, Harvey ejected pitcher Don Sutton for scuffing baseballs in a game he was pitching for the Dodgers. In that instance, Harvey said, he had three baseballs thrown by Sutton that were clearly scuffed.
"They were all scuffed on Chub Feeney's name," Harvey said.
The umpire said he warned the pitcher after the second one and ejected him after the next.
"Don Sutton ran into the dressing room and came out with a typewritten order," Harvey recalled. "He said, 'You'll be hearing from my lawyer.' I crumpled it up and told him where he could stick it."
Sutton could have been given a 10-day suspension but instead got off with a warning from then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Harvey, who looks and sounds a little bit like Judge Wopner, described himself as an "officer of law on the field of baseball." He could check Scott's glove or cap if he suspected anything, Harvey said, but there was nothing to suspect.
"He's as clean as this desk, gentleman," Harvey said.
"The man is one hell of a pitcher. We've checked 65 or 70 baseballs this season. Like in San Francisco, Roger Craig, the man who showed him how to throw the pitch, started on Scott in the first inning.
"In the second inning, I took the ball to Roger and said, 'It's clean. Do you want it?'
"Roger said, 'I know what he's throwing, I'm just trying to get to his mind.'
"Are the Mets trying to get to his mind? I don't know, but that's possible."