Larvell Blanks Walkoff Homer in Pitching Duel
Pitcher Jim Bibby had been brought to the Indians in a trade for Gaylord Perry. Both were talented pitchers of the era, and both had pitched no-hitters (Perry for the Giants in 1968 and Bibby in 1973 for the Cardinals against the defending champion A’s.)
However, Perry had a long-stewing feud with player-manager Frank Robinson. In 1974 when Robinson was claimed off waivers, Perry was the indisputable leader of the clubhouse–or at least the white clubhouse. Off the field, the team was largely divided along racial lines. There was a well-publicized locker room blowup when Robinson caught word that Perry intended to demand “the same salary, plus a dollar more” than what Robinson was making.
When Frank Robinson became player-manager of the Tribe in 1975–the first black manager in baseball–Perry undermined his authority in the clubhouse on everything from the conditioning regimen during Spring Training to whether pitchers could take infield practice. By late June, GM Phil Seghi was forced to trade both of the Perry brothers in an attempt to bring peace to the locker room.
Game 25 of the 1977 season was postponed from Monday night due to the cold. The resulting double-header began at 2PM on Tuesday. Jim Bibby would face off with Jim Slaton of the Brewers in what would become a great pitchers duel.
Bibby cruised through the beginning of the game, retiring the Brewers 1-2-3 in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and eighth innings. He issued only one walk in the top of the 6th.
Slaton was less efficient, scattering five hits and issuing five walks. Both teams struggled offensively. The Indians left seven men stranded on base.
Bibby was tested in the 6th 7th and 9th innings, but he was able to get out of each jam. The Brewers were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the 9th, after a groundout by John Lowenstein, shortstop Larvell Blanks stepped to the plate. By the middle of 1977, Blanks was having his own issues with Frank Robinson. In 1976 he batted .280 while appearing in 104 games for the Tribe. Larvell felt that he ought to be starting over Frank Duffy, who was a better defensive shortstop who had only hit .212 the previous year.
Blanks launched a home run into the cold Muni Stadium afternoon. The walk off homer sealed a complete game shutout for Jim Bibby, spoiled a potential complete game for Slaton, and furthered Blanks’ case for the starting shortstop position. Discontent in the clubhouse continued to grow over playing time and personnel issues, and Frank Robinson was let go after Game 77 of the 1977 season. Larvell Blanks would see more playing time under the new manager Jeff Torborg, but would later be traded to the Rangers in a deal for Len Barker.