Game 25

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.)

Jim Bibby

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.

Baseball Reference


Game 20

May 4, 1975 –
Walkoff Win in Baseball’s Worst Uniforms

The Indians unveiled a new set of uniforms at the beginning of 1975 that are infamous as one of the worst outfits in baseball history.

The double-knit polyester pullovers featured a pseudo-Greek script that came to be known as the “Caveman font” by some. ”Sans-a-Belt” elastic waistbands replaced traditional belts. The road red-on-red uniforms were particularly hideous, although the mono-color mix-and-match nature of the uniforms were pretty bad in any combination.  

I reached out to Paul Lukas of the venerable Uni Watch for his take on the 1975 set. Paul and the Uni Watch team have written about Caveman unis several times, but he was kind enough to comment on this look, “Ah, the blood clot uni — a true ’70s classic. One of those uniforms that would look absurd if you brought it back today but somehow felt Just Right for its era.”

Game 20 of the 1975 campaign was the second half of a true Sunday afternoon double-header. The Tribe had dropped the first game 1-11 after beating the Orioles both Friday and Saturday night.

Don Baylor got the Orioles on the board in the top of the 1st with a two-run RBI double off Indians starter Don Hood.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the beloved Oscar Gamble hit a solo home run. The Tribe manufactured two additional runs in the bottom of the 4th when Buddy Bell hit a single, stole second, and was driven in by catcher Alan Ashby’s single to left field. John Lowenstein would bunt Ashby over to third.

With Tommy McCraw at the plate, Ashby stole home while Lowenstein advanced to second. Alan Ashby went on to have a very successful career, primarily with the Astros. He is now the play-by-play voice of the Astros.

The big day for catchers continued, when the Orioles evened the score in the top of the 7th with a solo home run by Dave Duncan. Dennis Eckersley replaced Don Hood and secured the last out of the 7th. Eck would retire the side in the 8th.

In the top of the 9th, Eckersley got in some trouble when he gave up a hit to Doug DeCinces and walked Jim Northrup and Ken Singleton. With the bases loaded, he got Al Bumbry to ground out weakly back to the mound.

The Indians would get runners on base in both the 9th and 10th innings, but were unable to bring them home. In the bottom of the 11th, with runners on first and third, George Hendrick hit a single off Orioles reliever Jesse Jefferson to score Frank Duffy and end the game.

The 1975 jersey has become an (ironic?) fan favorite. You can always spot at least one 1975 jersey in the stands, whether the Indians are home or away. However, I have to agree with Paul Lukas. It has not aged well when it is worn by actual ballplayers. Changes in fabric and cut are not kind to the looks of the 1970s when they are reproduced for throwback day. Case in point: CC Sebathia looking like a blood clot in 2004.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention: May 4, 1991 – Chris James Franchise Record 9 RBI

Baseball Reference Box Score