Even after the three World Series championships, I still think about the bad losses. Scott Spiezio. J.T. Snow getting thrown out at the plate. Salomon Torres and Dave Burba. Ryan Spilborghs. A.J. Pierzynski hitting a ... hey, come back here, I'm sorry, hold on, wait.
The only way to get worse than April 25, 1986, though is to adjust for importance. Spiezio is worse because it was the World Series. Spilborghs is worse because it hurt postseason hopes. But as far as pure game-related misery, there's nothing quite like a random reliever ending an extra-inning game with the only home run he would ever hit in his career.
So it's time to wish a happy birthday to one of the worst losses in Giants history. Worst? Most painful? Dumbest? Yeah, that's the one. The dumbest. It came on a walk-off homer from a reliever in extra innings. My stars, just typing that sentence made me less intelligent and itchy.
He wasn't even supposed to be there, man ...
Lefferts, who was suffering from a 102-degree fever that Friday night, wasn't even supposed to enter the game against the Giants
Your job is to seriously ponder what it would have been like as a Giants fan to watch this game. I'll do my best to paint the scene.
It's April. The season before, the Giants had lost 100 games for the first time in franchise history. Really, it's a miracle they lost only that many. But there's something about this team that you can't put your finger on. Will Clark hit a homer in his first major league at-bat, and you're thinking, maybe, just maybe. The Giants won 10 of their first 14 games, and you thought, MAYBE, JUST MAYBE.
Then they lost a tough one to the Dodgers. They still had the excellent start going for them, but a tough loss to the Dodgers sticks in your mouth for at least a day. So when the Giants took the field against the Padres, it was easy to dwell on what happened the night before.
After taking an early lead, the Padres scored four runs in the fifth on a walk, balk, single, wild pitch, walk, walk, single, walk, and sac fly. One of the singles was a 46-hopper just over second base. And now you're thinking about the stupid loss the night before, too, remembering that the Giants were awful the year before and all was probably lost.
But! There's a comeback! Candy Maldonado hits a homer, and with the grumbly Goose Gossage on the mound, the Giants score two in the ninth to tie the game. In the 12th, they take the lead on a Robbie Thompson single. "You ... simply must like these kids!" a confused ad exec might remark. "You have no other option but to enjoy these kids and how they play baseball!"
The game is already four hours old, and that's back in the day when games simply weren't four hours. Greg Minton, pitching into a third inning of work for just the sixth time in his career, immediately gave up a home run to Graig Nettles, whose name still bugs me. After after watching all that, after watching the ups and the downs, Minton gave up a homer on an 0-2 curveball.
To the reliever.
Who was sick.
Who swung the bat like this:
After coming back twice, including in the ninth inning.
Did we mention it was a reliever who hit the homer? Lefferts ended his career with a .121 average, and in 20 at-bats after getting traded to the Giants the next season, he was 1-for-20 with 14 strikeouts. At least that one hit was an RBI double against the Jose Oquendo-era Cardinals.
The Padres, as you can imagine, were thrilled. Look at how happy they were for ol' Lefferts:
Yep, they just couldn't ... wait a second, enhance.
My stars, he looks like the boss in a Colecovision game. And yes, Bruce Bochy was quite happy. Tim Flannery, too!
Seriously consider how you would feel if you were watching the game tonight, and that happened. For one, you would be super, super upset that the Padres hit a walk-off homer at AT&T Park because that's quite against the rules of baseball. But imagine it in extra innings. From a reliever. After two furious comebacks.
I cannot. The Giants ended up starting one of their most exciting periods in team history, at least since the '60s heyday, so it wasn't all bad. The Giants nabbed Lefferts the following year, and they used his help to win the NL West. They clinched at Jack Murphy Stadium, no less. Still, I'm glad I wasn't paying attention to the every single Giants game back then. It would have turned me into someone who irrationally hated the Padres, even after bad things stopped happening to the Giants and happened to them instead. Can you even imagine? Total science-fiction.
So wish this dumb thing a happy birthday, then go back to waiting for Monday night's game.
Against the Padres.
Oh, no no no no.
I'll be under my bed if you need me.