San Francisco Giant feature with Tony the Tiger Hayes: JOHN PREGENZER : The $100 Giant

July 21, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

tacomaathletic.com photo: Former San Francisco Giants pitcher John Pregenzer circa early 1963 in a Tacoma Giants uniform

By Tony the Tiger Hayes

SAN FRANCISCO–He was a Giant?

John Pregenzer may be obscure to modern day Giants fans, but in his brief stint with the Orange & Black in the early 1960s, the husky reliever was the toast of the town, for being, well…obscure.

The professorial looking right-hander with a thick neck and even thicker eye glasses, caught the imagination of the city after, “O’Hara”, compiler of the Chronicle’s popular “Question Man” column, publicized Pregenzer’s humble baseball pedigree.

According to legend, the Giants had acquired the 6-foot-5, 250 pound pitcher from Pittsburgh in 1960 for a measly $100. The “Question Man” – who in reality was a woman – wondered why she couldn’t pick up a pitcher herself at the same cut-rate price as the Giants did.

As Pregenzer’s legend expanded, a fan club was established that grew to some 3,000 members. Among the hijinks was a baked pheasant testimonial dinner held in his honor where the husky hurler was presented a scroll proclaiming him honorary mayor of Fresno.

Why was he a Giant?

Well, initially, there was that alleged $100 transaction. Once in Giants hands, Pregenzer showed he was more than a farmhand. In Single-A Springfield in 1962, he went 14-9, with a 2.85 ERA. By the start of the 1963 campaign Pregenzer, 30, broke camp with the club, compiling a 4.82 ERA in nine outing before retuning to the minors. 1964 saw another return to the Giants and more action, as he went 2-0, with a 4.91 ERA in 13 relief outings. Overall he pitched in 22 games equalling 27.2 innings for SF.

Before & After

Clearly the Wisconsin native was not viewed as a prospect when he was signed by Pittsburgh at the advanced age of 25 in 1958. But he kept the dream alive by never giving in to the doubters. The first two batters he faced in a major league game were future Hall of Famers (the Cubs Ron Santo and Ernie Banks) and Pregenzer retired them both. Pregenzer pitched a couple more seasons in the Giants farm system before moving on to the real world. In eight minor league seasons he was 66-49, with a 3.67 ERA.

He wasn’t Billy O’Dell. But…

Pregenzer won his only two big league decisions and coincidently both in Pittsburgh against the club that unloaded him for the price of a nice dinner.

In the first win, Pregenzer retired two more future Hall of Famers (Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell) in 1.1 innings of relief work in a 2-1 win at the Steel City (8/2/64). In the second victory he retired yet another future HOFer (Bill Mazeroski in one inning of action in a 9-6 win (9/7/64) at fabulous Forbes Firld.

Giant Footprint

After his playing days ended Pregenzer became a school teacher in Tacoma, he stayed active in baseball as a youth sports referee.

 

 

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