San Francisco Giants feature report: Ex-Giant Wilfong played in two games for SF in 87 and was memorable

May 12, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

by Tony the Tiger Hayes

SAN FRANCISCO–Former San Francisco Giant Rob Wilfong’s bizarre 1987 cameo. He was a Giant? Imagine it’s your debut game with a new team and phenomenally you slug a home run your first at bat. But instead of accepting the high fives and slaps on the butt from you teammates after circling the bases you keep running straight to the car and never to return.

Wilfong’s brief stay with San Francisco was 30 years ago this week didn’t play out like that but it wasn’t far off. The former second baseman for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels appeared in just two games mid way through the Giants historic 87 season , then mysteriously vanished without a trace. Why was he a Giant?

Despite his heroics for the Angels in the 1986 playoffs vs. the Boston Red Sox which included an RBI single in an infamous game five that tied the contest in the ninth inning after California Donny Moore was who pitching who coughed up the lead in the top of the frame. Wilfong failed to make the Halos 1987 roster and was subsequently signed by San Francisco.

After a brief tune up with Triple A Phoenix, the sure handed infielder was brought up to the big club in mid may and immediately was inserted into the line up at second base. On May 7, 1987 Giants manager Roger Craig batted Wilfong leadoff in a home game vs. pitcher Ed Lynch and the Chicago Cubs. Before and after a Southern California native, Wilfong broke into pro ball in 1971 in the Twins organization he debuted in the big leagues.

In 1977 Wilfong was a Junior circuit mainstay for the next decade. In 1979, Wilfong enjoyed a career season, batting .313 in 140 games and leading the AL with 25 sacrifices. In 1980 he lead all AL second baseman in fielding percentage. He never played again after leaving the Giants, but eventually returned to pro game as a scout. He wasn’t Robby Thompson. But Wilfong flew out to center in his first at bat for the Giants.

Wilfong’s second at bat was a different story. After Giants starting pitcher Mike LaCoss reached base on an error to lead off the third, Wilfong walloped a Lynch pitch pitched well over the Candlestick right field fence to break the scoreless tie. It was Wilfong’s 39th and final big league round tripper and ignited the Giants bats as SF went on to rout the Cubs 11-1.

Wilfong led off again the next night vs. the visiting the Pittsburgh Pirates May 8, 1987 and walked and scored a run in the 4-2 win. Wilfong seemed to be carving out a spot on the Giant roster. So it was a shock when the next day he abruptly announced he was quitting the Giants and retiring from baseball. The loosely worded reason given was to spend more time with his family.

Giant Footprint: Wilfong’s first professional hit as an 18 year old was a single home run for Single A Charlotte in 1972. 15 years later his final professional hit as a nearly 34 year old Giants was a home run.

Tony The Tiger Hayes is a co-host on Sportstalk Radio heard on podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

 

 

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