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After his dismissal as Minnesota's manager, it was fitting that unpretentious Billy Gardner conducted his postmortems in his room at the Super 8, the modest Roseville motel that was his home during the baseball season.
With the team in sixth place, Gardner, 57, was fired on Friday after four years on the job. As Gardner described it, when team president Howard Fox knocked on his door, he knew "that was the kiss of death. There isn't a restaurant in this motel, so it wasn't room service."
His team surprised a lot of people last year by contending until the last weekend, but lost 19 of 24 from May 21 through last Wednesday and fell 8� games out of first. The pitching ranked last in the AL, and there had been some bickering in the clubhouse. But as the lady at the motel desk said, "He was a sweetie. We're going to miss him."
Gardner's replacement, Ray Miller, the highly regarded Orioles pitching coach, got a cold send-off in Baltimore. Miller was criticized harshly by pitcher Storm Davis, who said, "When I was going good, he was my best friend, and when I was going badly, he wouldn't talk to me." Sammy Stewart said, "He was a little two-faced. He worked with some guys but not with others."
Baltimore G.M. Hank Peters defended Miller, saying, "When you have people performing far below their expectations, I guess it's not unusual to look around for a crutch."
Miller, 40, who never denied his ambition to manage, was also thought to be unpopular with the other Oriole coaches, who wouldn't comment on his new job. Miller refused to be drawn into the controversy. "Too many good things happened to me in an Oriole uniform to ever criticize someone wearing it."
After 20 years, 4,864 innings and 314 wins, Steve Carlton, off to a 1-7 start, has gone on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Until last week Carlton had refused medical examinations, relying instead on a chiropractor. But when he finally relented, doctors discovered that he has a strained rotator cuff.
"I'm sure he has been pitching in severe pain," said Phillies team physician Phillip Marone. "It is an injury that can heal itself with rest."
And what does silent Steve say? "I'll be back," he vowed to Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler. Off mike, of course.
John Tudor of the Cardinals has won his last five after a 1-7 start because his Peabody, Mass. high school catcher, Dave Bettencourt, noticed a flaw in Tudor's delivery while watching him lose to the Braves on WTBS.... Pete Rose may be the favorite player of new Reds owner Marge Schott, but she isn't thrilled that Rose is on the players' side in the present negotiations for a new contract. "As a manager, Pete should show some loyalty toward management," said Schott. But because he is a player, too, Schott says she won't pay him anything if there is a strike.... After Dwight Gooden shut out the Cubs 1-0 last week, teammate Wally Backman said, "Sometimes I'm not sure if Dwight is human or not." Well, someone asked Gooden, are you human? "Yeah, I am," he replied. "I didn't get any hits tonight."