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 8¼ 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."
Reggie Jackson went 35 days without a homer, then hit three in four games to pass Mel Ott (511) and Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks (512) and move into 10th place on the alltime list. Of his 10 homers this year, only two have been to right. Says Angels manager Gene Mauch, "He exhilarates, he agonizes, and he hits a nice ball to left center." ...Boston's Tony Armas may be on the disabled list with a torn calf muscle, but at least he's using a bat as a cane.
On Tuesday, the catcher slid into home plate...before the game...from the wrong direction. "I wanted to do something different to shake the team up," said Ernie Whitt, who "slid" home with the Blue Jays' lineup card instead of walking it to the plate in Milwaukee. It didn't work: The first-place Jays went out and lost their sixth straight game.
On Wednesday, the manager spent nine innings in his bullpen. That worked: The Jays won 5-1. "I figured they were tired of hearing me yell and scream," Bobby Cox said. "It was a brilliant piece of psychology. But it's a horrible view. Can't tell a thing. All you can see is a swing once in a while."
BALL PARK FIGURES
Demie Mainieri has been the baseball coach at Miami Dade-North Community College for 25 years, during which time he has sent 20 players, including Kurt Bevacqua (page 60), to the big leagues. The others:
Ray Bare, p
Glenn Borgmann, c
Randy Bush, 1b*
Steve Carlton, p*
Harry Chappas, ss
Warren Cromartie, of
Bucky Dent, ss
Craig Eaton, p
Mark Esser, p
Bob Fallon, p*
Tim Hulett, if*
Greg Keatley, c
O. McDowell, of*
Pat Putnam, 1b
Mickey Rivers, of
Bob Stinson, c
Bob Sykes, p
John Tamargo, c
Oscar Zamora, p
*currently in the majors
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RICKEY HENDERSON: The Yankees' centerfielder batted .607, reached base 24 of the 36 times he batted, hit three homers, drove in eight runs, scored 11 runs and—whew!—stole eight bases.