Twenty- Eight Years Ago Larry Carter Almost Became the Answer to a Horrible Giants Trivia Question

(truthfinder.com/find/larrycarter file photo) Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Larry Carter is the subject of Tony the Tiger’s column He was a Giant?

Twenty- Eight Years Ago Larry Carter Almost Became the Answer to a Horrible Giants Trivia Question.

By Tony “The Tiger” Hayes

Larry Carter – RHP – 1992 – #52

He Was A Giant?

There’s a good chance that even the most attentive Giants fan would shrug and mutter “never heard of him” at the mention of Larry Carter.

But if baseball’s back room dealings had turned out differently in the fall of 1992, Giants fans would probably have a much different reaction to Carter – a West Virginian right-hander with nice curve and decent split-fingered fastball

Had the National League not reversed course and put the kibosh on the sale and relocation of the Giants to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the name “Larry Carter” would have become the answer to a most horrible trivia question.

“ Who started the final home game in the history of the San Francisco Giants.”

After decades of featuring some of most dazzling and colorful pitchers in the business (Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, John Montefusco, to name a few) it appeared the Giants would play their last game in The City with the anonymous, 28-year-old Larry Carter on the mound.

That’s right, Larry Freakin’ Carter.

Why Was He A Giant?

The Giants already had one foot squarely in Tampa Bay when Carter made his big league debut with SF in September of 1992.

Seven years into his professional career, Carter finally got a call to the bigs leagues three weeks after discontented Giants owner Bob Lurie announced the sale of the club.

After more than a decade and four failed ballot measures to construct a new downtown ball park, the frustrated Lurie had had enough. He wanted out.

So on 8/7/92 Lurie announced he had reached an agreement in principle to sell the Giants to a group of investors from Tampa for $115 million.

Once the sale was ratified, the club would wave “Bye Bye Baby”to the Golden Bay Area and say hello to the Humid Bay Area.

The news caused a dour and depressing air to hang over the Giants team and its local fan base.

It was in that environment that the wide-eyed Carter walked into a big league club house for the first time in September of 1992.

“I feel I’m a guy with a big heart,” said Carter. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it. You set your mind to it.”

Before & After

Originally a 10th round draft pick of the Cardinals in 1986, Carter was inked by the Giants as a minor league free agent in 1988 after missing all of 1987 with an elbow injury.

Though never viewed as a big time prospect, Carter proved his worth as a reliable organizational arm -capable of getting outs as both a starter and reliever.

After going 9-8, 2.95 at Double-AA Shreveport in 1991, Carter followed up with a solid campaign at Triple-AAA Phoenix in 1992, posting a 11-6, 4.37 ledger.

Upon joining SF, presumptive lame duck manager Roger Craig figured he had little to lose by inserting the eager Carter into the Giants starting rotation.

Carter would register a decision in each of his six Giants starts, going 1-5, 4.64.

Going forward as we now know – the National League never wanted to vacate the lucrative SF market. So they held off voting on the move to Florida long enough to find a local SF based ownership group.

In the end the Tampa group got huffy, about being jacked around – but SF nevertheless kept the Giants.

Carter however was not part of the Giants effort going forward.

After 1992, he remained in the minors the rest of his playing career.

He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…

Before the Giants were rescued from the evil intentions of Tampa, it looked likely that after decades of intense, personal battles, the Giants long-standing territorial rivalry with the Dodgers was coming to an sad end in 1992.

Starting in 1993, the Giants and Dodgers would be geographically separated for the first time ever.

Whether it was a coincidence of the Giants forthcoming move or not, both teams performed as if in a drugged malaise the final stages of the ‘92 campaign.

With the threat of relocation looming, the Giants sputtered to a 5th place finish, with a final record of 72-90.

The Dodgers meanwhile weren’t going anywhere – literally… and figuratively.

Sure, Chavez Ravine was still a destination spot for Angelinos – but in the standings, the Dodgers were stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits.

Tommy Lasorda’s 1992 charges finished with the Dodgers worst record since moving to California – 63-99 – finishing in the cellar of the National League West for the first time.

But when Carter took the ball at Dodger Stadium on 9/11/92, it was still SF vs. LA and that still meant something.

Carter faced a lineup that included Eric Karros, Lenny Harris and Mitch Webster and he earned the only victory of his big league career, allowing just a single run in seven frames in a 7-3 Giants win.

“I think his adrenaline was flowing pitching here against the Dodgers,” manager Craig said. “He was aggressive and kept coming after hitters.”

Giant Footprint

On Sunday 9/27/92 more than 45,000 fans would cram into Candlestick Park for Fan Appreciation Day. It was the final home game of the ‘92 regular season vs. Cincinnati. And it was also looking more and more as if the Giants were playing for the final time in SF.

Despite the near-sellout, the atmosphere felt like a solemn funeral.

Fans circulated throughput the Stick as if in a daze, some carrying signs begging the team to stay; the rest just carrying heavy hearts.

Among the crest-fallen fans in attendance was the greatest Giant of them all – Willie Mays.

“You’re looking at a lot of tradition here. You’re talking about Giants tradition,” Mays said. “Now if you go to Tampa, you’ve got to change all that. I hope they stay here. I mean, I live here!”

So it was that Larry Carter took the mound vs. the visiting Reds that afternoon- an 85 -degree Indian Summer special.

Cincinnati jumped on Carter for a couple of runs early, but then the rookie settled down, and pitching well into the sixth inning. Still he took the loss in the 3-2 Reds win.

It was a few more anxious weeks before the dust settled and Giants fans learned the team was here to stay.

The Giants would return in 1993 to much fan fare, with free agent signee Barry Bonds at the center of a 103-win club.

But Carter wasn’t a part of it.

As it turned out that late September contest vs. the Reds wasn’t San Francisco’s final big league home game after all – but it was was for Carter.

 

 

 

He was A Giant? Former first baseman Mike Laga feature by Tony the Tiger Hayes

Former San Francisco Giants first baseman Mike Laga is the subject interest of Tony The Tiger’s feature “He Was A Giant?” (photo from pinterest.com)

HE WAS A GIANT? Mike Laga

Mike Laga – 1B – 1989-90 – # 21

By Tony The Tiger Hayes

He was a Giant?

Mike Laga, a persevering big lug from New Jersey whose hapless baseball story could have served as inspiration for any number of Bruce Springsteen blue collar anthems, never could catch a break in an itinerant 13-year professional career.

Despite producing Ruthian minor league numbers and receiving gold stars for his determination, Laga never got an opportunity to play a full season in the majors.

Laga would introduce himself to SF fans with a sizzling debut performance in 1989, but like his stops in Detroit and St. Louis, Laga never received much of an opportunity going forward for the Orange & Black.

In parts of two seasons backing up Will Clark with SF, Laga would appear in 40 games, batting .191 with three HRs.

Why Was He A Giant?

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson once championed Mike Laga by saying of his young Detroit Tigers charge: “He will make you forget about every power hitter who ever lived.”

That verbose prediction never materialized, but Giants manager Roger Craig, a former Tigers coach, remembered Laga fondly and recommended the Giants ink the left-handed hitter as backup 1B and pinch hitter for the 1989 season.

Before and After

Creaming minor league pitching was never Laga’s issue. By the time he received his first big league call up in 1982, he had already slammed 77 home runs in three minor league campaigns. He would go on to sock a total of 255 minor league bombs. In parts of nine big league seasons, Laga would muscle 16 balls out of the park.

At times, Laga was not shy about voicing his big league frustrations. After spending three seasons toiling for Detroit’s Triple-AAA franchise in Evansville, IN, Laga had had enough.

“I hate it in Evansville,” he blurted one spring. “I don’t want to go back!”

He got his wish, but only because unbeknownst to Laga, the Tigers had moved their top minor league affiliation from Evansville to Nashville.

He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…

In his debut game with SF, Laga would deliver the kill shot in a remarkable win that was the baseball equivalent of the movie “The Expendables.”

After the Giants fell behind early at Cincinnati (9/4/89), Giants manager Craig began removing most of the starters in favor of backups and September call-ups such as Laga.

In the end, when the Giants had overcome a 8-0 deficit to beat the Reds 9-8, Craig would call the riveting victory: “the biggest game I ever won as a manager.”

“I’ve got a lot of guys. I want to give them a chance to play and boy did they ever play,” crowed Craig. “The Killer B’s (the backups) did a hell of a job, but the Killer C’s (the call-ups) won it.”

Trailing 8-0 heading into the seventh, the Giants were literally situated behind the eight ball when their bats began rumbling to life as Will Clark and Terry Kennedy crashed solo long balls off Reds starter Tim Leary.

But then Craig pulled both Clark and Kennedy, seemingly satisfied that the Giants had at least made a decent effort in what appeared to be an inevitable blow out.

Laga, who subbed for Clark, received his first Giants at bat in the eighth with two outs and infield understudy Ernie Riles on first base.

The burly 1B turned on a Leary fastball and crushed it deep into the Queen City night for a home run to make it an 8-4 game.

The Giants were now officially on a roll and that roll would not be slowed.

Flame -throwing , but wildly erratic reliever Ernie Camacho came on to face the Reds in the eighth and he struck out the side, fanning Mariano Duncan, Ron Oester and Herm Winningham in tidy fashion.

Then the Giants bats went back to work in a furious ninth.

With Norm Charlton now on in relief, super utility-man Greg Litton led off with a pinch single. Pinch hitter Candy Maldonado, scalded a line drive but it was right at Luis Quinones at second for an out.

Next, end-of -the – bench guy, Donnell Nixon slashed a single to center field , with Litton stopping at second. Grizzled pinch hitter Bob Brenly reached first on an error by 3B Chris Sabo to load the bases.

John Franco was then summoned to pitch to gray beard Chris Speier – yet another SF pinch hitter – and the veteran infielder ripped a single to center to make it 8-5.

The Reds flop sweat was now starting to form a puddle on the Riverfront Stadium artificial turf.

Catcher Bill Bathe – baseball’s version of Moses – was next, AND, he singled up the middle to plate two runs – making it 8-7.

Rob Dibble came in to face Riles, and yep, the lithe hitter slapped a knock to center to plate Speier and send pinch runner Scott Garrelts to third.

Down a touchdown and a two point conversion just three innings prior, the surging Giants had boomeranged to tie the flailing Reds 8-8.

It was the star- crossed Laga’s turn next, and with steam virtually pouring from Dibble’s nostrils, the new Giant tattooed a sharp two-hopper between first and second base to plate Garrelts with the go ahead run.

The Reds would go on to load the bases off closer Steve Bedrosian in ninth with one out. But Bedrock would retire Sabo on a pop up and negate Dave Collins on a routine grounder to close out a most miraculous 9-8 victory.

After the game the Giants clubhouse turned into a grand jubilee.

“Everybody was screaming and hollering. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m hoarse from all the yelling,” said pitcher Jeff Brantley.

“That was just a great win,” said Kennedy. “No matter what happens, this game will have a place in Giants lore.”

Keeping with his untimely history however, the man of the hour was no where to be found when his teammates began the merrymaking with chats of “Lags, Lags, Lags!”

“I was outside doing a radio interview,” a disappointed Laga said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Giant Footprint

Wherever Laga traveled in his Major League career his path was blocked by players with deep Giants ties.

At the time of his first major league call up in 1982, aging ex-Giants Enos Cabell and Mike Ivie we’re sharing the 1B position.

While passing those two veterans was not seemingly insurmountable for 1983. But Cabell repaired his swing and rebounded with a career high .311 campaign in 1983, keeping Laga in the minors.

Cabell soon skipped Motown, signing with his former Houston team.

But instead of turning to Laga, the Tigers aggressively pursued SF slugger Darrell Evans who seemingly found the fountain of youth in 1983 – belting 30 HRs while based at Candlestick Park. The Tigers also made a key trade during spring training acquiring star reliever Willie Hernandez AN ex-Giant, the steady and slick fielding 1B Dave Bergman from Philadelphia.

In 1984, a dominant Tigers team would win the World Series with Evans and Bergman, sharing 1B/DH duties. Again Laga would spend most of ‘84 in the minors.

Laga moved on to St. Louis in 1986, but without the DH in play, he was limited to 1B duty. The only problem was, the former Giants slugger Jack Clark was firmly entrenched at 1B. Clark was gone in 1988, but in a 40 game trial with the Cardinals, Laga did not produce.

By the time he reached SF, Laga was pretty much labeled a 4A player. And with Will Clark in front of him, he had no shot of seeing any meaningful action.

It wasn’t until 1991 when Laga received a shot to play in the majors- however it was the major leagues of Japan.

Laga flourished for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks of the Pacific League, playing in 124 games and batting .236, 32, 81.

At last there were no former Giants blocking his path – not even ex-Yominuri Giants.

 

He Was a Giant? Former A’s and Giant pitcher Brian Kingman feature By Tony the Tiger Hayes

Former Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Kingman featured with the A’s Five Aces in 1981 on Sports Illustrated (top far right) is today’s He Was A Giant? Feature (file photo from newsbreak.com)

HE WAS A GIANT?

By Tony The Tiger Hayes

BRIAN KINGMAN: Oakland’s Big Time Loser, Was Worse with San Francisco

Brian Kingman – RHP – 1983 – # 25

If a 20-game win season is the magnum opus for a starting pitcher, you would figure that 20 losses would be the equivalent of finding a turd in the punch bowl.

But not for Brian Kingman.

Since losing 20 games for the 1980 Oakland A’s, Kingman has not only accepted his place in the 20-game loss fraternity, he has became the ignominious club’s self-appointed president, treasurer and spokesperson.

His 20 -game loser status has became Kingman’s calling card – his reason to be remembered.

“I feel sorry for all those guys who (only) get to 19 wins – all that frustration and never be talked about,” Kingman, tongue pressed only partially in cheek, once said. “They might as well take the final step and lose 20.”

Kingman did not lose 20 games for the Giants in 1983 – in fact he had no desisions in the three games he appeared.

But the Los Angeles native did something as a Giant that he didn’t do quite as often as you might have thought in his Oaklandish 20-game loss season.

As a Giant, Kingman pitched exceptionally ghastly.

Why Was He A Giant?

After going 4-12, 4.48 for the 1982 A’s, Kingman was dealt to the Red Sox in a cash deal. But Kingman failed to make the Boston roster the following spring and wound up hooking on with San Francisco.

He debuted in Orange & Black at Candlestick Park in a pair of games vs. Montreal in early June and was promptly battered by Expos hitters.

After two relief outings he was suffering from a 13.50 ERA, which was worse than the 9.00 figure posted by slugger Dave Kingman after his two random mop-up relief appearances for the 1973 Giants.

Before & After

As a rookie in 1979, Brian Kingman was one of the bright spots for Oakland, going 8-7, 4.31 for a confused Green & Gold club that lost a staggering 107 games.

But the A’s made an incredible turnaround the following season after the hiring of fabled firebrand skipper Billy Martin.

An unforeseen Oakland team stunned the Junior Circuit posting a winning record (83-79) with an appealing brand of baseball that relied on daring base running, power hitting and macho starting pitching.

A’s iron -armed starters would complete a staggering 94 games that season. Kingman threw 10 of those full-games, but even that meaty figure ranked fifth among A’s starters.

Despite his very reasonable 3.83 ERA over 211.1 innings, Kingman frequently pitched in tough luck in ‘80.

He lost six one-run decisions. The A’s were shutout in five of his starts and OakTown scored a paltry average of 2.8 runs in his 30 starts.

Kingman had lost nine decisions in a row when Martin mercifully (Billy had a ❤️!) yanked the righty from the rotation late in the campaign with 19 losses on his ledger.

Still, like Wilbur Wood, Jerry Koosman and Phil Niekro, the three previous 20 game losers prior to Kingman – it seemed Kingman was destined to be a historic flop.

Ironically, Kingman’s 20th loss came in relief in a game he would have normally been scheduled to start.

Kingman was forced into the game in the second inning of a game vs. the visiting White Sox when starter Matt Keough was pulled from the game with an injury.

Kingman would allow just two earned runs over 5.2 innings of work in a 6-4 home defeat, but he absorbed the loss when the A’s kicked the ball around like FC Barcelona, committing four errors (9/25/80).

“I thought I was going to be stuck 19,” Kingman quipped at the time.

More than 20 seasons would pass before Mike Maroth of Detroit became baseball’s next 20 game loser. There have been none since.

By the way, the Giants have not had a 20 game loser during their SF era.

He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…

Several days after his distressing Giants debut, Kingman made his third and final Giants appearance at Atlanta and pitched decently – allowing three hits and one unearned run over two innings in a 7-3 loss to the Braves (6/10/83).

But it was too little, too late and Kingman was soon optioned to Triple-AAA Phoenix. He pitched in the Giants system through 1984 but never returned to the majors.

Giant Footprint

In the World Series era, 189 pitchers have lost at least 20 games in a MLB season. The group includes several excellent pitchers including a few of immortals, including Hall of Famers Niekro, Steve Carlton, Cy Young and Walter Johnson

That fact has helped Kingman salve the sting of being labeled a big-time loser.

“That would be like if you were a scientist getting linked to Einstein or something,” Kingman said. “I was being mentioned with Walter Johnson and Cy Young.”

He Was A Giant? Jose Cardenal 1963-64 seasons feature By Tony the Tiger Hayes

Jose Cardenal as a San Francisco Giant who played in San Francisco during the 1963 and 1964 seasons (Amazon file photo)

HE WAS A GIANT?

JOSE CARDENAL – OF – 1963-64 – # 10

By Tony the Tiger Hayes

If you collected baseball cards as a kid in the 1970s there were three givens: “bubblegum” that crumbled into brittle shards the moment you touched it; hideous air-brush art work, and, finally, the incremental Chia-Pet like growth of Jose Cardenal’s unwieldy Afro. (Think TV artist Bob Ross.)

A fiery competitor with a stylish hairdo, Cardenal was a career .275 hitter and a familiar presence on the MLB scene for parts of five decades as both a player and coach.

But before the Cuban fly chaser picked his hair out to resemble a spinning classroom world globe, Cardenal broke in with the Giants, appearing in 29 games over 1963-64.

Why Was He a Giant?

Cardenal was one of the last ball players to escape Cuba before Fidel Castro shut the island’s borders. He was just 17 when the Giants paid him $200 to sign with the organization in 1960.

Though off the field he struggled with assimilation process – fueled by being cut off from family back in Cuba – Cardenal had no such issues in the batters box and produced gaudy minor league numbers.

Cardenal was just 19 when he broke camp with SF in 1963. He came and went a few times over the next couple of seasons but never could crack SF’s All-Star studded lineup.

Before & After

Despite great reviews for his on field play in the Giants farm system – hitting for power and stealing bases like a bandit – Cardenal developed a reputation of being a bit of a scoundrel.

As a young man he got into scrapes and arguments with teammates and ran afoul of team management and opposing clubs.

In one 1962 incident, when he was with the El Paso Sun Kings, Cardenal menaced the opposing Austin Senators dugout with a letter opener.

Mouthy bench jockeys had gotten under the young Cuban’s skin by calling him a “Castro Lover” and a “Communist.”

Cardenal became so enraged he considered skinning an entire minor league club. He was stopped however before he could initiate his Davy Crockett routine.

“There’s a lot behind the boy’s flare up,” said El Paso manager George Genovese after Cardenal was placed on Texas League probation. “He is immature all right but he hasn’t been home in a long time and hasn’t seen his family in two years. And there’s a language problem.”

Due to his hair-trigger temper and the fact that the Orange & Black were already brimming with talented OF prospects, the club moved on from Cardenal after the 1964 campaign, trading him to the Angels in a swap for C Jack Hiatt.

Cardenal jumped from team to team for awhile before finding a home with the Cubs for much of the ’70s. He later appeared in the 1980 World Series with Kansas City.

From 1993-2003 Cardenal was a major league coach for several teams including the 1996 World Series Champion Yankees.

He Didn’t Get His Own Bobblehead Doll (Or Chia-Pet). But…

Cardenal smacked the only hit of his Giants career in his second MLB at bat, lining a two-run, pinch hit single to left off the Cardinals Curt Simmons. Cardenal was then nabbed however trying to steal second base in a weekday afternoon 4-3 home loss (4/24/63).

Giant Footprint

It was against the Giants that Cardenal assembled a career best six- hit game at Candlestick Park (5/2/76), batting 6-for-7 with four RBIs in a 6-5, 14-inning Chicago win at Candlestick in the matinee of a double header.

The last several innings of that game can be viewed on You Tube – providing a good look at Cardenal’s glorious Afro in action and a rare look at the Giants much maligned mid-1970s AstroTurf era.

Tony the Tiger does He Was A Giant? features weekly on http://www.sportsradioservice.com

He was a Giant? Feature on former Giant Rick Leach by Tony the Tiger Hayes

Rick Leach former San Francisco Giant on his 1990 Mother’s Cookies baseball card (ebay photo image)

HE WAS A GIANT?

Rick Leach – OF/1B – 1990 – # 25

By Tony the Tiger Hayes

In 1990, the “San Francisco Treat” didn’t just refer to the family of tasty Rice-A-Roni dishes, it also described the City’s gourmet collection of quarterback talent.

That season a pair legendary Hall of Famers: Joe Montana and Steve Young, topped SF’s depth chart. Waiting deeper in the wings was the athletic passer Steve Bono.

But Candlestick Park was also home to another record setting signal caller whose college career rivaled all three of those Forty Niners QBs.

This south-paw passer was a four-year Michigan starter, Sports Illustrated cover boy and noted Ohio State killer: Rick Leach.

A college contemporary of Montana, Leach choose to persue a pro baseball career after leading the Wolverines to three straight Rose Bowl appearances in the 1970s.

In a backup role for the Giants in ‘90, Leach batted .293 in 78 games before abruptly leaving the club under a cloud of suspicion in mid-season.

Why Was He a Giant?

After seven checkered seasons in the American League – he went AWOL from a couple of teams – the Giants took a flyer on Leach after Atlanta released him in spring training of ‘90.

Before & After

Leach was the rare athlete whose lengthy big league career was considered an after -thought to his amateur completion in another sport.

Leach will forever be known first and foremost for his quarterback play at Michigan from 1975-78 when he led Big Blue to three consecutive Big 10 Conference Championships.

Though he went 0-3 in the Rose Bowl, Leach is an icon in Ann Arbor because of his ability to beat bad blood rival Ohio State. Leach compiled a 3-1 career record vs. the Buckeyes.

Though he dominated on the collegiate gridiron, Leach was considered an even better pro baseball prospect.

Along with fellow Michiganensian Kirk Gibson – who starred at the same time in both football and baseball at Michigan State – Leach signed with the home state Detroit Tigers in 1979.

Though he never reached star status on the diamond, Leach was a serviceable back-up, compiling a career average of .268.

He was actually having one of my his best MLB seasons with SF when he suddenly vanished with a puff of smoke in early August of ‘90.

Actually that may have been the problem. After one of his previous unexcused absences with Texas, authorities discovered a stash of weed in his hotel room.

On 8/7/90 it was announced that Leach had failed a league mandated drug test and was suspended 60 games – effectively ending his season – and as it turned out his baseball career.

He Never Got His Own (Giants) Bobblehead. But…

After Giants opening day starting RF Kevin Bass was shelved with knee surgery in late May, Leach became the Giants de facto starting RF for a spell.

He was particularly adapt at hitting in difficult Candlestick Park, batting .341 there, a full 100 points better than his road average.

In a 7-3 home shellacking of Houston (6/3/90), Leach tied a career high with four hits, going 4-for-5, with an RBI.

Later, in back- to -back 4-3 home wins over division rival Cincinnati (7/26-27/90), Leach bashed a HR in each contest- his only long balls for the Orange & Black.

He socked a two-run dinger off Jose Rijo in the first game and ripped a solo round-tripper off Scott Scudder in the later.

Giant Footprint

Leach was a productive and popular Giant, making it all the more difficult for the club when it was announced he was suspended for the remainder of the ‘90 contests season.

“This is a real shock. He’s devastated,” said Giants manager Roger Craig. “He’s done so much for us. He’s been a real leader. We’re going to have to pick up from here.”

A year after winning the NL pennant in 1989, the Giants would finish third, six games behind Cincinnati.

Leach was with the Giants in spring training in 1991, but was a late cut. He never played organized ball again.

Tony the Tiger Hayes does He was a Giant? features at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

They were SF Giants? Chris Bourjos, Al Hargesheimer, and Mike Rowland former Giants history

Topps 1980 baseball card rookie card of San Francisco Giants Chris Bourjos, Al Hargesheimer, and Mike Rowland

Chris Bourjos – OF – 1980 – # 18

Al Hargesheimer – RHP – 1980-81 – # 40

Mike Rowland – RHP – 1980 – # 28

By Tony The Tiger Hayes

They Were Giants?

Unlike the “Chicago Eight,” the hirsute counterculture contingent of Yippies, socialists and Black Panthers that gained noterity for their arrests at the bloody Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention – this Giants’ “Chicago Three” were never accused of Inciting to Riot or Conspiracy.

Not unless you believe this trio – who were all born in Chicago -conspired to make their MLB debuts at the same time for old school, tobacco spittin’ manager Dave Bristol and the woebegone 1980 San Francisco club.

Then they would have been guilty as hell.

Why Were They Giants?

Two years removed from the revolutionary 1978 season, the Giants bottomed out in a big way in ‘80, finishing 17 games off the pace of the NL West Champion Houston Astros. In the process the Giants drained the minor league system looking for anyone that might help going forward.

Among the dozen or so call ups that season were this trio of Windy City natives who would have been in high school when Bobby Seale, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and the other four All-Star Protesters were running amok in the streets of Chicago in ‘68.

Before & After

Bourjos (free agent, 1977), Hargesheimer, (free agent, 1978) and Rowland (22nd round, 1975) were all signed and developed by SF.

Bourjos, a Pete Rose lookalike, played four seasons in the Giants minor league system and jumped around each year. After batting .295, 9, 86 for Phoenix in ‘80, Bourjos was called up to the parent club in September.

After his Giants cameo that month – 13 games – he was traded to the Astros, but never got another shot in the majors.

The athletic Hargesheimer made a similar swift rise to the Giants, debuting in the summer of ‘80 and winning his first two starts. He finished the season at a respectable 4-6, 4.32. He returned briefly in 1981, but was soon traded to his hometown Cubs.

The burly Rowland – with his unruly curls and droopy mustache looked as if he may have picked up a few style tips from Abby Hoffman – toiled in the minors six seasons before joining the SF bullpen.

“I want to get there, I want to get there bad,” said Rowland prior to his promotion. “But I don’t think I’m obsessed with it.”

Despite better than expected results, turns out the Giants weren’t obsessed with Rowland.

He would stay up with SF just parts of two seasons, despite fashioning a 1–2, 2.74 record in 28 contests.

They Never Got Their Own Bobbleheads. But…

In a game at Cincinnati late in ‘81, Hargesheimer was dominate, putting a major roadblock in the way of the Reds postseason goals, allowing just four hits in seven scoreless frames. Greg Minton pitched the final two frames to preserve the W for Hargesheimer and a 4-0 shutout (9/28/81).

“He kept them off balance all night. I think he was more relaxed tonight. He was a little bit more prepared for this start,” said Giants manager Frank Robinson.

Rowland and Bourjos’ top performances as big leaguers came in the same Candlestick Park game vs. the soon to be ‘80 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies (9/3/80).

After starter Allen Ripley and reliever Tom Griffin allowed four runs through six innings, Rowland came on and pitched a perfect three frames, in the process getting Pete Rose on a grounder and striking out Mike Schmidt.

Philadelphia starter Dick Ruthven took a 4-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth when SF’s bats suddenly came alive.

Joe Pettini, another of the rookie call ups led off with a line drive single to left. With Rowland due up next, Bristol called on Bourjos – who had yet to collect a big league hit – to pinch hit.

On a 1-1 count, Boujos connected with a Ruthven fast ball and slugged it high and far into the warm September night for a breathtaking home run.

Unfortunately the Giants would lose 4-3, but it was still a memorable night, especially for Bourjos, who in his excitement sprinted around third base and had to put on the brakes before bypassing Pettini.

“I just couldn’t trot. I was too exited,” said Bourjos post game. “Right now I just feel full of energy.”

Giant Footprint

In the psychedelic era, head shop owners couldn’t keep “Chicago Eight” posters in stock. They were staples of radical college students dorm rooms everywhere.

Now, you won’t find much Giants memorabilia in Haight – Ashbury stores that sell funny pipes, but the “Chicago Three” did something the bull-horn toting crowd never did.

They got their own baseball card.

Topps “Future Stars” card No. 502 of the 1981 set pictured in neat alphabetical order left to right Bourjos, Hargesheimer and Rowland in clear head shots taken on spring training fields.

Now that was something to shout about.

He was a Giant? 50 Years Ago Giants Mexican Rookie Was Orange & Black One Hit Wonder

San Francisco Giant pitcher Migel Puente in 1968 file photo from JG Preston Experience wordpress.com

He was a Giant?

By Tony The Tiger Hayes

Cinco De Mayo Special

50 Years Ago Giants Mexican Rookie Was Orange & Black One Hit Wonder

MIGEL PUENTE

RHP – 1970 – # 41

In the spring of 1970, Norman Greenbaum – a an unknown San Francisco songwriter – became an improbable overnight sensation with his unorthodox divine anthem “Spirit in the Sky.”

Greenbaum’s take on psychedelic gospel rose as high as no. 3 on the Hot 100 – shockingly, competing for airtime with the Beatles and Jackson 5 – before his star soon faded.

Though the groundbreaking rock track would live on in cover versions, commercials and soundtracks, the name “Norman Greenbaum” would never again pass the lips of Casey Kasem.

During that same time frame, the Giants celebrated a one-hit-wonder of their own in Mexican pitcher Puente, who on his birthday came out of obscurity to knock ‘em dead for one night – and one night only – on center stage in New York.

But like Greenbaum, Carl Douglas and the Starland Vocal Band, Puente’s follow-ups went straight to the cut-out bin.

Why Was He a Giant?

A native of the central Mexico city of San Luis Potosí, Puente was discovered by Giants scout Dave Garcia who would manage Puente as a first-year pro at Single-A Fresno in 1968.

After pitching a Texas League no-hitter at Double-A Amarillo in 1969, the right-hander with a big kick found himself being compared to, you guessed it, Juan Marichal.

Puente shadowed his idol the following spring training, even picking up Marichal’s signature screwball pitch.

“(Marichal) didn’t teach it to me,” Puente told reporters. “He’s a star and he’s very busy, so he wouldn’t have time to teach me. But I stood around in spring training and watched him and just copied him.”

Before & After

Ironically it was when the “Dominican Dandy” was shelved with an adverse reaction to a penicillin shot early in the ‘70 campaign that Puente got a call-up to the bigs.

Overall Puente was not impressive as a Giant. He was shelled for five or more earned runs in three of his six appearances. Puente’s Giants record stood at 1-3, 8.20 and he never played in the majors again.

Puente would soon return to his native Mexico where he continued to pitch professionally for the remainder of the 1970s.

He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…

New York City was abuzz on the night of 5/8/70. At Madison Square Garden, the Knicks dramatically won the NBA Championship, beating the Lakers in a dramatic Game 7 (the Willis Reed game) to give NYC it’s third pro championship in a year.

Meanwhile more than 40,000 fans turned out a across town to see the visiting Giants take on the defending MLB champion Mets on a cool evening at Shea Stadium.

Puente, who turned 22 that day, would go the distance vs. New York, allowing seven hits, walking four, while striking out seven.

Powered by a pair of HR by Willie Mays and another off the bat of Bobby Bonds, the Giants won easily 7-1.

“There were so many people watching,” Puente said as teammate Tito Fuentes presented him with a huge wedge of birthday cake. “I have never pitched before so many people before.”

Giant Footprint

Probably the most famous birthday performance by a Giant came on Barry Bonds’ 39th when the HR King crushed a walk-off solo blast off Mike Myers at Pac Bell Park to settled a spirited 3-2 win over Arizona (7/24/03).

But you can’t go wrong with Bob Knepper’s 25th b-day party of 1979 when the lefty starter went 7.1 innings, earning a win, and hit a solo HR high into the night sky off future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro in 6-4 home defeat of Atlanta (5/25/79).

P.S. Believe it or not, San Francisco has had just two other Mexican born players: RHP Miguel Del Toro (1999-2000) and IF Tony Perezchica (1988, 1990-91).