He Was A Giant? Mike Vail by Tony the Tiger Hayes

Former San Francisco Giant Mike Vail who played for the club in 1983 is the feature on today’s He was a Giant? By Tony the Tiger Hayes at http://www.sportsradioservice.com (photo ebay auction)

Mike Vail – OF – 1983 – # 32

He Was a Giant?

By Tony the Tiger Hayes

SAN FRANCISCO–From “Dirty” Al Gallagher (1970-73) to “Sweaty” Tyler Walker (2005-08), nine native San Franciscans have played for the Bay-based version of the Giants.

But we nominate Vail – a right-handed hitting journeyman OF – for being the most obscure.

Vail did not last long as a Giant and besides being born in SF, he didn’t leave much of a foot print in The City.

Vail was actually more of a product of the South Bay – having graduated from San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High School before matriculating to Cupertino’s De Anza College.

Vail would appear in just 18 games for the 1983 Giants and was long gone before the summer fog enveloped Candlestick Park.

Vail never got his bat going with the Giants – collecting just four hits for a less than robust .154 average before moving on to the Montreal Expos in a swap for the equally stark IF Wallace Johnson.

Why Was He A Giant?

Coming off a thrilling 1982 season, the Giants were forecast as a potential contender in 1983 and they did not sit pat.

SF shed veteran stalwarts 2B Joe Morgan, LHP Al Holland and 1B Reggie Smith while taking on RHP Mike Krukow, RHP Mark Davis and IF/OF Joel Youngblood.

The .279 career hitting Vail was acquired to be the right-handed counterpart to left-handed pinch-hitter Champ Summers. Vail came over from the the Reds in exchange for swingman RHP Rich Gale.

Vail was coming off a nice ‘82 season for Cincinnati, batting .276 (8-for-29) with 9 RBI as a pinch batter – the thing was he wanted to be in the starting lineup.

At first he was gung-ho about joining the Orange & Black: “It’s great to be coming home,” Vail told the local papers. “In Little League and high school, Mays and McCovey were my guys. The big thrill will be when I get out on the field at Candlestick.”

When he realized the Giants weren’t about to bench Jeffery Leonard, Chilli Davis or Jack Clark for him, Vail’s enthusiasm waned and he came off as an ingrate.

“I could write a book, and maybe I will about not getting a chance to play,” Vail proclaimed shortly before becoming an ex-Giant.

Before & After

Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, Vail made his big league debut with the New York Mets in 1975 – and what a debut it was.

Vail slashed a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat – (off no less than Houston Astros powerhouse RHP J.R. Richard.)

Then , Vail enjoyed his first multi-hit MLB game at Candlestick Park – singling twice in a 6-5 Mets win vs. the Giants (8/22/75).

Later that weekend, Vail was one of only two New York batters to reach base – he walked – as the Giants’ RHP Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets 6-0 in the nightcap of a double header (8/24/75).

The following day, Vail would bat 4-for-4 in a Mets win at San Diego.

Going forward, Vail batted safely in his next 22 games games to tie a then modern day rookie hitting streak- batting .364 over the span.

While Vail never did reach the stardom forecast after his great start, he was a reliable big leaguer – carving out a 10 – year big league career as a platoon OF.

He was a career .299 hitter vs. lefties and a credible pinch-hitter.

He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…

In one of the more bizarre games of 1983, Vail gave the Giants a 3-2, 7th inning lead when he knocked in two runs with a pinch-hit single off future Giant RHP Dave LaPoint at St. Louis (4/29/83).

The Cards retied the contest and it remained that way until the 13th when the Busch stadium lights suddenly cut out, throwing everyone into darkness.

Umpires were forced to suspend action until the following day. The clubs played three innings until St. Louis won in the bottom of the 16th inning by a score of 6-5, when C Milt May fumbled a throw to the plate on a force play.

Giant Footprint

Vail certainly wasn’t the only obscure native San Franciscan to play for the Giants.

RHP Keith Comstock made just 15 relief outings for the 1987 Giants – but he was notable for being included in the trade that brought Giants legend OF Kevin Mitchell to town.

OF Jalal Leach collected just one hit in eight games for the 2001 Giants – but he was well publicized at the time because he was a long time minor leaguer who had never played in the majors before.

And John Boccabella, a back-up C for the 1974 Giants hit only .138 in 29 games – but he was forever immortalized in pop culture by being mentioned in a script of an episode of “The Streets of San Francisco.”

Tony the Tiger Hayes does He was a Giant? features at every San Francisco Giants Tuesday night home game. Sure as the Giants orange and white creamsicle uniforms they wear on Tuesday night home games The Tiger delivers at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

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