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In a few weeks Dr. Andrews will have an opening and the surgery will be performed. The same surgery that marked the beginning of the end of Garland's days as a major league pitcher. It is a last cruel twist in his baseball career. Who needs a second rotator-cuff operation at the age of 39?
"I think sometimes it's not worth it, having the operation, going through the rehabilitation and everything again," Garland says. "But I want to be active. I want to be able to play tennis, to bowl. Or if I got a coaching job somewhere, I'd like to be able to pitch batting practice."
He could use the job. The money is gone. He is living in Lakeland, Fla., and wondering where he will land next. Maybe he will get a job working for a beer distributor. Maybe something in baseball. He worked in a Wal-Mart last year. Then he worked in a freight room, lifting boxes. The best job was playing in the Senior League, pitching in Fort Myers, but that was where the arm blew out again. There will be no more pitching.
The day in '76 when he signed that stop-the-presses contract with the Cleveland Indians seems long, long ago. Two million dollars over 10 years. Who ever heard of such a thing? Ten years? Where is the security that was supposed to last forever? Where is the golden parachute? The damn thing never opened.
"It was unbelievable the way people reacted to the money," he says. "Every time my name was mentioned, it was Wayne Garland, Two Million Dollar Man. I think for the first years of their lives, my kids thought that was my last name. Two Million Dollar Man."
His timing was the best of anyone's in that first explosion of money. A hard thrower from Nashville, Garland finished 20-7 with a 2.68 ERA in '76 for the Orioles. He had played out his option. Twenty-six years old. He was a pitcher for the present and a pitcher for the long-distance future. Ten years, said the Indians. At the time, no one in any sport had ever been given such a long-term contract.
The money seemed so grand that real estate agents were calling as soon as he got home from the the signing ceremony. Home-improvement contractors arrived with large, inflated estimates. Strangers on the street asked for loans. The president of a bank opened the doors on a Sunday just to complete a deal with him.
"All I would hear about was the money," he says. "My wife heard it even more. People would yell at her in the stands. One guy was yelling so much, yelling things like 'Hey, Wayne, how about a loan. Hey, how about some money,' that my wife turned around and handed him a hundred bucks. Told him to shut up."
It seems that no one ever considered that maybe a right arm wouldn't last for 10 years, maybe wouldn't even last for two. The first year was all right, a 13-19 finish for a Cleveland team that bore little resemblance to the talented Orioles. But in the second season he tore the rotator cuff. He underwent surgery, then rehabilitation. He never won more than six games in any of the three seasons that followed, and he was released in 1981. His arm has never been the same.
During those last seasons, the talk about money became ugly. Garland was reminded again and again by Cleveland general manager Phil Seghi that he wasn't worth the money he was being paid. While he was on the disabled list, Garland was required to travel with the team and sit in the stands with a walkie-talkie, detailing outfield shifts. Make-work. When he pitched again, his car was vandalized in the parking lot after bad outings. His case became the classic illustration of how mistakes can be made in signing a free agent. His nickname on the team was Fool. Fool for going to the Indians. Fool for signing a contract for all that money and all that pressure.