In what could be a new recurring series, we take a look at a random baseball game that few remember.
Throughout the season, I jot down notes for things I might want to write during the dregs of the offseason. Here is one of those notes:
Dispatches from First Base
That's the note. So if you know what that means, tweet at me or e-mail or something. I'm sure it was a great idea at one point. Looking at it now, though, it looks like something someone else wrote. It would probably be more interesting if it were "Fistpatches from Dis Base: The Story of Doug McDagger." McDagger would be a pidgin-speaking space traveler from the future. I have an outline in my head, and I can work with that. But perhaps I shouldn't.
Not all of the notes were so cryptic. And there were a couple ideas that I thought might work when there was a complete news void. On a slow day in November, it was tempting to break them out. The same goes for December. But having done this for a few years, I remember what January and February are like. So instead of a hastily written "I'LL BET THE GIANTS SIGN CARLOS LEE" post that no one cares about, allow me to introduce a new recurring feature for the slow mornings: Random box score from the past.
It's basically just a random box score from the past.
But of the past 50-plus seasons in San Francisco, I'd guess that I'm intimately familiar with only the last 15. Before that is a vast legacy of Giants-related hope and heartbreak that I haven't touched yet. My idea is to pull up a year that I don't know much about, and pick a random box score to investigate. After settling on the 1972 Giants, because they were the first bad team after the team moved from New York, I scrolled down blindly and clicked …
That date is actually a link. Secret links are the best links. There really isn't an elegant way to import an entire box score, so it's probably best to click over and take a gander.
It turns out there was a bit of a storyline to this one. I hadn't heard of about 75 percent of the Mets team. There were Duffy Dyers and Jerry Grotes. But right there in the middle of the box score, there was something of note:
Willie Mays CF
He wasn't on the Giants, mind you. Man, oh, man. Can you imagine Matt Cain on the Nationals, or Buster Posey on the Royals right now? Well, imagine it if they stick around for another 15 years or so first. Mays in a different uniform would have been so, so bizarre. And of course he killed the Giants that day, going two-for-two with two walks.
Mets 4, Giants 0. Jon Matlack shut the Giants down, and the Giants dropped to 36-49.
Danged if this wasn't a metaphor game all around. Sam McDowell started the game and did his best Jonathan Sanchez impersonation, walking the bases loaded in the first inning. Jim Fregosi killed the rally with a run-scoring double play, but McDowell walked seven in the game. Don't worry, Giants! It's only because his arm is going out! Not a big deal!
The Giants were down two Hall of Famers from 1971. Mays was 41, but in '71 he had 537 plate appearances, and he led the league in on-base percentage. His OPS+ was 158, and while that didn't crack the top ten marks of his career (!), he was still playing at a high level. The other lost Hall of Famer was Gaylord Perry, who was traded for McDowell. McDowell's walk rate almost doubled the year before -- 6.4 walks per nine innings -- and he missed several games due to injury. Other than the horrifying red flags and the fact that a 300-inning All-Star was going the other way in the trade, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
So in this game, the Hall of Famer they traded away to the Mets killed them, mostly because the player they acquired for the Hall of Famer they traded to the Indians wasn't good any more. The Giants were mostly awful from the Gaylord Perry trade to Will Clark's debut, except for a couple of over-.500, quasi-contending seasons in 1978 and 1982.
Player we would have been complaining about
McDowell, of course. But don't sleep on 23-year-old third baseman Dave Kingman, who made an error and struck out twice. It was Al Michaels who never said, "This Dave Kingman fields as if he's Dave Kingman playing third base," but he probably could have. It would have accurately described what was going on. And remember that back then, people still thought strikeouts were the end of the world. Not only did the Giants have Bobby Bonds, but now they had Kingman. The team finished third in the N.L. with 964 strikeouts.
Sample comment from the 1972 GameThread
"Don't worry. McDowell watched Matlack in a bar last night. The sound was off, but I think he got the gist of it."
Giants player in the game whom I didn't know at all
Fran Healy was a 25-year-old backup catcher. He had a 116 OPS+ the season before, and he had two seasons over a 100 OPS+ as a starter after, but not for the Giants, who traded him to the Royals.
The Giants received this guy back:
Good deal, though it took five years to pay off. Minton finished eighth in the MVP voting in 1982, but he was actually worth five wins. Bruce Sutter finished fifth in the voting, and he was worth less than a win. Go figure. Really, I just wanted to post that card again. And I certainly didn't want to shrink the image. Bask in its glory.
So that's random box score from the past. Welcome to the middle of January, y'all.