San Francisco Giants feature report with Tony the Tiger: JIM KING – Who the Heck is that Playing Next to Willie Mays?

June 14, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

Topps 1958 baseball photo: Former Giants outfielder Jim King the subject of Tony The Tiger’s feature piece and his brief career in San Francisco in 1958

by Tony the Tiger Hayes

SAN FRANCISCO–Not only was Jim King a Giant, he played a historic role in San Francisco Giants history. King was the starting left fielder in the club’s first ever game played in City by the Bay.

Never heard of King? Don’t beat yourself up, fog banks often lingers longer in the City than King did.

A career journeyman with more stops than a greyhound bus, King was signed to the club just days before San Francisco welcomed the team with a parade down Montgomery street and departed before the All-Star break.

Why was he a Giant?

King had been part-timer in three big league seasons with the Cubs and Cardinals when he won a job with the Giants as a backup outfielder and pinch hitter after a strong spring camp in 1958.

He was not expected to be the Giants opening day left field starter in the first major league game played in California. That slot was supposed to go to the savvy veteran Hank Sauer, a former NL MVP and All-Star.

But the night before Opening Day, SF manager Bill Rigney noting a strong wind towards right field decided to play the percentages against right-handed Dodgers starter Don Drysdale and swapped the left-handed hitting King for the righty Sauer. He batted King second in the lineup in the Giants 8-0 rout (4/15/58).

Before & After

After making Rigney look like a genius with a superb opening day game, King settled on to the Giants bench as Sauer was given most of the left field starts. King was eventually shuttled to Triple-A Phoenix to make way for youngsters like Leon Wagner and Felipe Alou. Later in ’58, King was dealt to Toronto of the International League. King finished with a .214 average in 34 games with the Orange & Black.

King eventually resurfaced in the American League and enjoyed a nice run at Washington where he was a starter for six seasons.

He wasn’t Willie Mays. But…

In the first major league game played in California, King batted 2-for-5 with an RBI as the Giants stomped the Dodgers 8-0. After grounding out in the first, King rapped an RBI single in the third and singled again in the sixth.

Giant Footprint

Not only did King take part in the first ever major league game held in San Francisco, he also played in the first big league contest hosted by Los Angeles, walking in a pinch hitting appearance in the sixth inning of a 6-5 defeat at the L.A. Coliseum.

By the way King Street in which AT&T Park borders and shares with 24 Willie Mays Plaza was not named after the obscure original San Francisco left fielder.



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