Tuesday, October 4, 2011

1977 San Francisco Giants

The Jints finished 75-87, 23 games behind the hated Dodgers.  This was a team that had been in transition since the early 70's, when they allowed their nucleus of aging stars to age beyond the point of value and they traded away their young guns and got little in return.  This pattern had been occurring since the late 60's, but as long as Mays and McCovey could hit and Marichal and Perry could pitch the cracks in the foundation were not so visible.  In 1971 the aging vets finally broke out of 2nd place and won the NL West.  This would be the last hurrah for a bunch of HOF'ers.  Stupid trades like the Perry for a broken down Sam McDowell hastened the decline.  Trading George Foster for Frank Duffy makes Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi look like pure genius.  From 1972-77 the team was in the throws of 4 sub .500 finishes in 5 years.  On the bright side there were some young talented players making a name for themselves in Candlestick.  Bill Madlock, who arguably might be the best right handed hitter of his era, arrived in a deal where the Giants finally fleeced someone.  San Fran shipped Bobby Murcer, who couldn't hit anywhere besides Yankee Stadium, over to Chicago for Mad Dog.  A 21 year old rookie named Jack Clark showed flashes of what was yet to come with his quick bat, but the real story was the return of Stretch McCovey to the Bay Area.  Traded away to San Diego after the 73 seasons, the Bay area fans welcomed Stretch back with open arms.  At 39 years of age and most definitely in the twilight of a HOF career, Stretch gave the Bay area fans one last gift by hitting .280 and slamming 28 homers.  The pitching was solid, finishing 5th in the league.  Ed Halicki was 16-12 with a 3.32 ERA over 257 innings.  Gary Lavelle was a lefty closer who had 20 saves in 118 innings of work.  Righty Charlie Williams had 119 innings of work as the "long man".  Randy Moffitt's 11 saves complimented Lavelle by giving San Fran a righty/lefty combo.  Hitting would hold this team back.  Madlock (.303) was the only regular to hit over .300.  No regular hit over .270 besides McCovey and Madlock.  This team had 4th place finish written all over it, but it will be a fun group to manage just the same.

I only had to add 17 cards to complete the team set, which is roughly what I had to work on for Toronto.  Interestingly Topps must have gone on some sort of Bay Are vacation during 1976 and 1977, because most Giants' cards feature them @ Candlestick while it still had Astroturf.

"Mad Dog" was coming off back to back batting titles as a Cub in '75 and '76, so why not trade him for veteran in decline like Bobby Murcer ?  Hard to wonder why with trades like this the Cubbies haven't won a pennant since McArthur was accepting surrenders on the battleship Missouri.  Madlock continued his fine hitting in 2 1/2 season @ Candlestick.  The Giants couldn't leave well enough alone and shipped him to the Pirates for Ed Whitson, Al Holland and Fred Breining, which did nothing to help the Giants and everything to guarantee the Pirates a World's Championship in 1979.  This card was created with the photo from his 1978 Topps Card.

Knepper, a 23 year old rookie southpaw, was 11-9 with a 3.36 ERA in 27 starts.  I'm actually shocked he didn't finish in the top 10 for ROY voting, but what do I know.  Knepper would would win 17 games in '78, then post 2 consecutive sub .500 season in a row.  He was shipped out of town after the 1980 season and got new life in Houston where in 9 seasons he would make 2 All-Star appearances and pitch in 2 NLCS's.  This card was made from the photo used in a 1979 Hostess card.  It was taken at Candlestick and quite possibly could be part of the Topps batch of photos used from this time frame.

You don't earn the "coveted" Topps All-Star Rookie cup on your card if you didn't have yourself a fine inaugural campaign.  Alexander hit .305 in limited action (119 AB's in 51 games) behind the plate for the Jints.  The Giants must have seen something wrong in his game, because they were quick to unload him in a multi-player deal the following spring training.  In that deal the Giants acquired Vida Blue from the cross town rival A's.  Alexander spent the next 4 seasons playing for 3 different teams (Oakland, Cleveland & Pittsburgh) and was eventually out of baseball at the ripe old age of 28.

Poor Greg Minton.  The boys at Topps must have really had it in for him.  In 1977 he got stuffed into the bottom row of a rookie panel card.  In 1978 he was the victim of the Topps' all time worst airbrush job (click here to see this).  In '79 they used this photo, which makes him loook like the caucasian version of Stuart Scott.  Minton just couldn't catch a break with the crew from 1 Whitehall St.  On the field Minton wouldn't contribute much.  Just 14 innings in 1977, which was pretty consistent with his progress since 1975.  Finally in 1979 he would come into his own and have a string of 5-6 rock solid years as a closer.  He would finish his career with a 150 saves over 16 seasons.

Jack Clark was the future of the Giants by 1977.  After a mediocre performance as a part time rookie in 1976 he was ready to start in right field.  13 homers and a .252 average in 136 games showed signs of improvement.  1978 would be his breakout season hitting .306 with 25 homers and 98 RBI's.  Jack Clark was a superstar in the making.  In 10 seasons by the Bay he would hit just a tad under .280 and compile 163 homers in a pitcher's park.  When he was traded to STL at the age of 29 he had 2 seasons where he was a mega-star hitting homers and driving in runs while playing in an even bigger ballpark.  Clark would finish his career as a 4 time All-Star and a 2 time silver slugger winner.  He finished in the top 10 for MVP voting 4 times.  His original rookie card was a Topps Rookie 4 player panel card.  This updated card features an 8x10 glossy taken @ "the Stick sometime in the late 70's.

This was the 9th and final season of Rudolph's career as a backup catcher.  With a career average of .213 one did not expect much from his bat and when he hit .200 in 11 games nobody was disappointed.  On July 27th his contract was sold to the Baltimore Orioles who needed depth at the catching position.  Rudolph finished out the season in Baltimore and never played another inning in the majors.  This card was created using a rare 8x10 signed glossy photo found on ebay.

After having 3 consecutive 200+ inning seasons in St. Louis McGlothen was dealt to the Giants for Ken Reitz.  He was an utter disappointment going 2-9 with a 5.63 ERA in only 80 innings of work.  Basically the Giants got themselves damaged goods.  They didn't wait too long to see if he recovered his form and dealt him midway through the '78 season to the Cubs for Hector Cruz.  He rebounded with two solid, not spectacular, seasons on a poor Chicago team, then fell off the cliff once again.  His 16-12, 2.69 season in 1974, where he made the All-Star team for the Cardinals was his peak season.  He finished his career with a 86-93, 3.98 record, which to his credit was compiled while playing exclusively with mediocre or second division teams.

A career minor leaguer, who specialized in spending more time in AAA than the majors.  While with the Padres he spent 3 straight seasons with their AAA affiliate in Hawaii, which might have been the reason he didn't want to head back to the mainland.  After a 3 year absence from the majors Elliott returned in 1977 and had his best year ever.  In 167 AB's he had 7 homers and hit .240.  He would then disappear for another 3 seasons then resurface back across the bay in Oakland in 1980.  This card was created using his 1978 Topps card photo

After 2 average seasons in Houston he was dealt to San Fran for a fading Willie Crawford.  The Giants would get three decent seasons from Rob at 2nd base.  In '77 he would hit .264 in 127 games, but with no punch whatsoever.  Then again, who expected a secondbaseman to hit with punch, unless his name was Morgan, back then.  After the '79 season, where he hit .264 and had two homers (career high) he was released by the Giants and wound up in the Met system, where he never got back to "the show".  Why a guy would be released and farmed out after hitting .264 is still a mystery to me.  Maybe they thought he was his brother, the infamous Mike Andrews ?  You remember Mike ?  The guy who played second base for the A's in the '73 World Series ?  The guy who made a key error and was asked to fake an injury by Charlie Finley, so he could be replaced on the roster ?  We will try to track down what exactly happened, but until I do all I can share with you is that his new card photo was taken @ the Stick and was used for his '78 Topps card.  His '77 card pictures him on the Astros.

In 10 games, encompassing 15 AB's Skip hit an admirable .267 for the Giants after being called up from their AAA team in Phoenix.  He was 27 years old and was labeled a "career minor leaguer".  He would get a similar opportunity in '78 and hit .095 in 41 games, thus proving if you overexpose some players the league will figure them out.  His final season would be played for Milwaukee's AAA affiliate in Vancouver in 1979.  The photo used for this card came from his 1977 minor league card.

Cornutt pitched in 28 games for the Giants in '77, all in relief but 1 start.  He complied 44 innings and a 3.86 ERA to match his 1-2 record.  He only gave up 38 hits in those 44 innings, but his 22 walks when compared to his 22 strikeout were alarming.  He only played 1 game for the Giants in '78 and never returned to the majors.  Interestingly his minor league stats in '77 for Phoenix were worse than his major league stats for the Giants, but his record was 2-1.  Go figure...This photo comes from his minor league card.  I airbrushed the blue Phoenix cap and made it black then pasted a Giants logo on it.

Whitfield spent parts of 3 seasons in Pinstripes before being dealt to the Giants for Marty Perez.  Obviously the Yankees felt bad for fleecing the Giants in the Bobby Murcer for Bobby Bonds deal, so this mover was done primarily to cover reparations.  In any case, Whitfield had 4 above average years in the Bay are, never hitting below .285, which was what he hit in '77 in 326 AB's.  After the '80 season he took his show on the road and became a mega-star in the Japanese league.  He would return in 1984 to play for the Dodgers, but he never readjusted to major league pitching.  During his 4 year stint he his .289 for San Fran with 26 homers and 138 RBI's.  Those numbers seem like a season from Jack Clark, which means that Whitfield didn't exactly hit for enough power to occupy a corner slot.  This card photo came from his 1978 Hostess card, which was taken @ the Stick.

Foli arrived in San Fran early in the '77 season in an exchange of shortstops that sent Chris Speier to the Expos.  Call this a change of scenery type of trade, since both guys had similar career stats and value.  Foli was a rock solid fielder, who didn't hit for a high average, but was know for getting that clutch hit when needed.  For some reason he fell out of favor with new Expo skipper Dick Williams and off he went for Speier.  In his one season with the Jints he hit only .228 and sometimes let his lack of hitting affect his fielding.  He would be dealt back to the Mets, where he originally started, after the season and rebounded to hit almost .260.  The Mets would reward him by sending him to Pittsburgh, where he would solidify their infield and win a World's Championship in 1979.  In 16 seasons Foli hit .251, had over 1,500 hits and was an above average glove man.  His stop over in the Bay Area was a mere blip on his resume.  This card was created with the photo used in his '78 Topps card.  His '77 card obviously had him on the Expos, since he was dealt mid season.

Heintzelman played in just 2 games for the Jints in '77 and did not get a hit in his 2 AB's.  In '78 he got a chance to play in 27 games and hit just .229 and was never heard from again.  He first burst on the scene as a late season call up by the Cardinals in 1973, where he hit .310 in 33 plate appearances.  Getting more exposure he following year did not do him much good as he hit .230 in 74 AB's and was sent back down to the far, where he spent 3 seasons before resurfacing with the Giants in '77.  This photo came from his 1977 Minor League card while playing with Phoenix.  I decided against doing any extensive airbrushing due to the fact that he only played in 2 games and did not even get on base.

In 1975 Toms got into 7 games for the Giants and finished 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA.  In '76 he had the same amount of activity and virtually the same record.  In '77 he only saw action in 4 games and sported a 2.08 ERA.  His reward for improving ?  Bannishment to the minors with no return ticket to the majors.  He must have taken his demotion hard, because his next two minor league seasons were horrible and by the end of 1978 he was back home getting a real job.  This card photo came from his Phoenix minor league card.  No airbrushing was needed since the logos were nicely concealed.

Vic Harris was a career utility infielder who hit .217.  1977 was his "breakout" year.  He hit .261 with 2 homers in 165 AB's, while playing all 3 outfield positions plus 2nd and short.  In '78 he would serve the same roll, but hit just .150 which earned him his outright release.  Milwaukee picked him up and after a full season in AAA he returned for one final shot in 1980 as a utility man.  This card photo came from his 1978 Topps card.

 Stretch McCovey just might have been the San Francisco Giants most popular player ever.  Sure Mays was the greatest, but he belonged to New York.  McCovey was San Francisco's "guy".  After winning the rookie of the year in 1959 at the age of 21 STretch found himself in a platoon situation for the next 3 or 4 years bevore his breakout 44 homer season in 1963.  After that he was a mainstay at first base and by the end of the 1960's was the most feared hitter in the league.  As the Giants declined as a team in the early 70's McCovey was shipped to San Diego for an unproven lefty named Mike Caldwell.  Call it an insult if you want, I call it just another dumb baseball move.  Stretch had two subpar seasons in a Padre uniform and actually wound up being dealt to the A's at the end of the '76 season to help them as a DH for the stretch run.  As a free agent at the age of 39 there was one destination for him to go...back to San Fran, where he had his final big season, which was a huge treat for him and the fans.  Stretch would stick around for 3 more seasons, but his production would decline as would his playing time.  Still the Giant fans' loved him to death and were sad to see him retire after the '80 season with 521 lifetime homers (469 in SF).

Pictured to the left is the original Topps Airbrush card for Stretch for 1977.  No way we let a future HOF'er of his stature get this type of treatment.  The above card that I created is taken from a Baseball Digest Cover Photo during the '77 season.  I airbrushed out the crowd and the cover article banners.  Fittingly he gets an action shot for his new card minus his old mustache.

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