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Random Game Callback, June 21, 1976
2006-06-21 03:59
by Bob Timmermann

It was a day of near no-hitters in baseball. In Oakland, Bert Blyleven of Texas gave up just a fifth inning single to Ken McMullen as the Rangers beat the A's 1-0 in 10 innings. And earlier in the evening, Baltimore's Wayne Garland went eight innings before giving up a hit in a 2-hit, 2-0 win over the Red Sox at Memorial Stadium. Blyleven would throw a no-hitter in 1977, but this game was the best game of Garland's career.

Garland was a 25-year old righthander who hadn't done much in his first four years with the Orioles under Earl Weaver. In the spring, Orioles management decided to cut Garland's salary by 20% as he had declined to sign a contract and was hoping to cash in on the new free agency rules that were going to be put in place in the offseason. Garland had toyed with a no-hitter in 1974 in Oakland holding the A's hitless until the ninth, but ultimately losing that game 6-4.

Shortstop Mark Belanger supplied all the offense that Garland would need with a solo home run in the third off of Boston starter Luis Tiant. It was the only home run Belanger would hit in 1976. Despite his reputation as a banjo hitter, Weaver had Belanger batting seventh in this game ahead of third baseman Brooks Robinson, in his 23rd and final season in Baltimore, and catcher Dave Duncan. Robinson would bat .149 in his final season and Duncan hit .204.

Garland was on his game, striking out ten and walking just one batter. Boston third baseman Rico Petrocelli reached second on an error by center fielder Paul Blair that did not seem to spur any controversy over the scoring. Petrocelli would get a clean single in the eighth to break up the no-hitter. Rick Miller had an infield hit in the ninth.

The Orioles second run in this game scored in a very atypical way of an Earl Weaver team. In the seventh, right fielder Reggie Jackson led off with a single. That brought up first baseman Lee May. Weaver had May sacrifice Jackson over. May had only nine sacrifices in his career and the Orioles had a major league low of 35 sacrifices in 1976. Designated hitter Ken Singleton doubled home Jackson.

After the game, Garland told the Washington Post's Orioles beat writer, Thomas Boswell, that he had become a more effective pitcher by getting rid of an ineffective knuckleball and curve ball and working with just a fast ball, change, and slider.

Garland was now 7-0 on the season and had an ERA of 1.94. This earned him a spot in Baltimore's four-man rotation along with Jim Palmer, Rudy May, and Mike Cuellar. Ross Grimsley would also get some starts for the Orioles. Also, a few days before this game, the Orioles restored Garland's 20% pay cut.

Baltimore and Boston would finish second and third in the AL East in 1976. Baltimore won 88 games and Boston, the defending AL champs, won just 83. The Yankees won the division with 97 wins.

Garland finished the 1976 with a 20-7 record and a 2.67 ERA. He picked up just one Cy Young Award vote. Teammate Jim Palmer won and Detroit rookie sensation Mark Fidrych was second. Nevertheless, when the season was over, Garland cashed in under the new free agency rules, signing a 10-year $2.3 million deal with Cleveland. Garland would lose an AL high 19 games for Cleveland in 1977 (going 13-19) and then suffer through a torn rotator cuff in 1978 that curtailed his career. He had one last hurrah on July 3, 1980 when he threw a 2-hitter against the Yankees. But Garland would be released by Cleveland after the 1981 season and would go down as one of the worst free agent signings in the history of the Cleveland Indians.

One of Garland's teammates, Jackson, would fare a bit better on the free agent market, both in terms of money and success on the field.

Sources: Retrosheet,, Washington Post

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