Dade himself wonders why it took so long for him to get his chance. He figured he was ready for the big leagues as soon as he completed high school in Seattle. Before the Angels drafted him, they tested their prospect by making him bat against a 6'5" pitcher from their Triple A team. According to Dade, "I took him out of the yard to all fields." So when he failed to reach the majors, he decided, "Somebody in California must have said something against me. But it wasn't right. I busted my butt in this game. I always knew I could do the job, and the setbacks just put more fight in me. I'd see other people being brought up, and I'd say, 'What's going on here?' When the Angels sent me down in 1976, I cried. And when that season ended I cried again—from happiness—because I knew that now somebody had to give me my chance."
The man who did was Seghi. "Dade can throw, run and hit," the general manager says. "When he became available, I was interested. I felt strongly that he had not been given the opportunity he deserved. I can relate to a player sitting on the bench, making big noises. He can get a reputation."
When Dade signed, he celebrated at his home in Renton, Wash. by drinking a lot of Michelob and promising his wife that this time he was definitely going to make it. Now he admits that "maybe the beer made me boast," but he kept his word. He emphatically fulfilled the pledge he made to himself that he would "show the people what they been missing." After a month of coming off the Cleveland bench, he was promoted to regular status on May 11. At the end of June he was batting .350, second in the league to Rod Carew. He ended the season with a .291 average, third highest on the team, and he proved himself remarkably versatile, starting at all three outfield positions, at third base and as the designated hitter. He batted everywhere in the order except ninth. A severely bruised thigh muscle prematurely ended his season on Sept. 25, but when he returns next year, Torborg hopes to play him in right field and bat him second.
In keeping with his personality, Dade managed to draw attention to himself in other respects than his fine play. He chose his uniform number, 00, he says, to represent his anonymity when compared to most of the free agents. He was also frequently found guilty by the Indians' Kangaroo Kourt for hot-dogging and fraternizing with the opposition. "I guess Paul is what you'd call a blithe spirit," says Torborg. "It just took a while for everybody to understand him."
In fact, Dade is quite easy to understand once his insecurity is recognized. It is as obvious as the number on his back. Even now he says, "I'm scared. They might not want me after next year." Dade will probably worry about that all winter, at least when he is not sitting in his new reclining chair in his new house, watching football games on his new 25-inch color television set. Now that Dade has made the big leagues and paid his bills, he figures he can start to enjoy life a little. "I've finally come through the door," he says.
Bonda claims he does not regret signing either of the two free agents. "Absolutely, I'd do it again," he says. "Dade had a fine season, and Garland was the backbone of the staff, even if he didn't have the won-lost record to show for it. This team may still be ready to blossom. If we become a contender any time in the next five years, it will still be worthwhile."
Despite Bonda's optimism, Cleveland's experience with Garland and Dade will not be lost on the other 25 clubs in this week's draft. Some will be hesitant because they fear they could be squandering their investment on a 19-game loser. Others will be bold because .291 hitters are hard to come by at any price these days. And a large number will not sign anybody because they think there are better uses for their money. Prominent in this group are the two expansion teams, Seattle and Toronto. Lou Gorman, the Mariners' director of baseball operations, says, "Rather than sign one guy for a million and a half dollars, we would prefer to sink the money into a farm and scouting system and perhaps develop two or three star-class players of our own for the same amount of money."
Surprisingly, one of the teams that will be active is Kansas City, even though the Royals stood pat during last year's draft and repeated as division champions. Owner Ewing Kauffman says it will be different this season because, "Last year we took care of our own. [ George Brett and Hal McRae, for example, both signed multi-year contracts valued at more than $1 million.] Now I believe our guys realize that the players becoming free agents have taken a risk. So I don't think they will be concerned if we have to pay a free agent slightly more than they are receiving. We want to keep improving our club. We'll be bidding."
Kauffman will be glad to hear that the bidding will probably not be as high this year. At least, it will not be if the owners stick to their intention of being more astute about whom they go after and how much they offer. "Much of last year's bidding was created by the impression that if you didn't bid, you were a cheap bum," says White Sox President Bill Veeck. "Now fans have seen the experience of teams like Milwaukee and California, and they aren't going to exert the same kind of public-opinion pressure."
Another reason for moderation is expressed by San Diego GM Bob Fontaine. "Last year a lot of glamorous players were available," he says. "Now there are a few quality players, but they don't have the known appeal of a Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi or Rollie Fingers."