Cleveland had not been Garland's first choice, or his second, or even his third. He had hoped to get a five-year, $1 million contract to play in Boston, California, Texas or New York, but none of those franchises showed much interest in him. When his agent, Jerry Kapstein, told him that Cleveland was offering more than twice what he had hoped for, Garland was flabbergasted. In fact, it was so much money that for tax purposes he declined to take a $300,000 signing bonus and told the Indians to dole out the amount piecemeal in his salary checks. Instead, he took only enough cash up front to make a down payment on a 12-room, $150,000 home in a Cleveland suburb. He was now making $230,000 a season (10 times his Baltimore salary), and he would continue to make it unless he did something crazy, like injure himself skiing, skydiving or performing some other risky stunt specifically prohibited by his contract. Garland remembers that soon after he signed, "I called my mother and told her, 'Mom, I didn't get my million.' And she said, 'Well, son, money isn't everything.' Then I said, 'No, I got two million!' "
After just three major league seasons—only one of them with a winning record—Garland had struck it rich. Now all he needed to do was deliver his sinker and slider in the same smooth, compact motion and with the same stunning success he had achieved with the Orioles in '76.
Garland could not do it. In spring training he developed a sore arm and spent 2� weeks throwing at a picture of a truck tire on the outfield wall of Tucson's Hi Corbett Field to get back into shape. When the season began, he says, "I wanted to impress people too quickly, and I tried to rush my development." Instead, all he did was pitch terribly and enrage Cleveland fans.
Among them was a man from Warren, Ohio who wrote the pitcher a letter in mid-June that said, "Your performance for our team is a disgrace, to say the least. I am sure your teammates must feel an equal degree of disgust with your pitching to date. They, however, are not free to say what others say. Only you know how you rest with your conscience after pulling this dirty trick on Cleveland."
And there were the taunts from the stands. Garland heard one kid say. "I don't want that guy's autograph. He ain't worth a damn." One man called him a bum for an entire game, and Garland says he would have gone into the stands after him had Torborg not talked him out of it.
Garland realizes that he was not the pitcher he should have been. "There were one or two times that I thought maybe I was lousy," he says, "that maybe last year had been a fluke." But he also knows that the criticism and pressure were magnified by his contract. "Everywhere I went, everyone I saw talked about the money. People must think they dropped it all on a table and said, 'Have fun, don't spend it all in one place.' What they don't realize is, with the way things are going in baseball, I could be underpaid in 10 years. And if this club folds, I wonder if I'll be left out in the cold."
For a while, Garland seemed to be overpaid. Four times teams rallied to beat him in the last three innings. And he beat himself, too, losing one game on a wild pitch in the ninth and another on a wild pitch and a home run in the last inning. But as the season progressed he began to pitch better. Although he won only six of his last 15 decisions, his ERA in his last 16 starts was 2.63. He finished the year among the league's top five pitchers in starts, innings and complete games and with a 3.60 ERA. By his reckoning, he had done his job.
"All I wanted to do was be recognized as a consistent pitcher," Garland says, "and I feel I was that. There is no doubt in my mind that my record should have been a lot better than it was. In the second half of the season I pitched as well as, or perhaps better than, I did last year. Maybe now people can say I'm not such a bad pitcher after all." Did the money make the abuse more tolerable? "Even though I feel I did the right thing for me and my family, I'd like to forget this year," says Garland. "But I know I never will."
Paul Dade will remember 1977, too, but for very different reasons. In seven previous professional seasons he had consistently pounded minor league pitching for high averages, but in 24 major league games he had batted an unprepossessing .179. Although he was California's first-round draft choice in 1970, the Angels had no intention of bringing him up to the majors in '77. And when his name was put before the other 23 teams in last year's reentry draft, the Indians were the lone club to select him and make a serious bid for his services. Oakland also drafted Dade, but the A's were not really interested in signing him. Under the reentry rules, which are designed to ensure competitive bidding for all free agents, Oakland's lack of fervor once again made Dade available to all teams. The White Sox offered a one-year contract and bonus of $40,000, but they gave no guarantee that he would make the club. Only the Indians agreed not to send him back to the minors without his consent.
Teams were unwilling to commit themselves to Dade because he was thought to be a disciplinary problem. He came by the reputation early, drawing two fines in his very first week as a professional with Idaho Falls—one for missing the bus on a road trip, the other (shades of Dick Allen) for showering while a game was still under way. There were also his bad credit rating and his penchant for speaking loudly in his own behalf, even if no one particularly cared to listen. He might have been considered a smaller risk if he had had some major league success and, as one Indian official suggests privately, if he had not been black.