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35 years ago, the Giants scrapped a controversial coloring book giveaway

The latest edition of our “Orange & Past” series reveals that the Giants of the 1980s didn’t quite embrace the weirdness of their city like the 21st century team does.

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With so many stories to recall in its storied franchise, our new “Orange & Past” feature series will spotlight some of those that had been lost to time...

If you read the previous entry in “Orange & Past”, then you know it’s based on archival research and footage whenever possible. This story, however, just fell into my lap. Since becoming managing editor, I receive story pitches on a daily basis. Occasionally, I’ll get a juicy lead on a story that hasn’t been broken and move on it. This was one of those times.

It’s 1983. The Giants have just come off a season where they ran down the division-leading Dodgers to a final weekend showdown to win the division. What started as a 9-game deficit on September 1st had been winnowed down to a single game heading into play on October 1st. The Giants didn’t wind up winning the division, but they went into this new season with plenty of optimism and a little bit of swagger.

So, the team thought they might have a little bit of fun with one of their giveaways, and commissioned San Francisco artist Kirby Gufflow to put together a colorful comic book that captured the rapscallion-y nature of this Giants team. Clearly, there was some sort of miscommunication, because what the Giants got instead was today’s equivalent of an adult coloring book. On the other hand, knowing Gufflow’s penchant for rapscallionry, he probably knew exactly what he was doing when he sent the Giants these proofs... which they promptly discarded.

But somehow, some Giants fan got hold of these and sent me their scans. I can see why the Giants ditched them, but I enjoy how era-specific they are.

The image file says this is Jack Clark, and there he is suggesting that kids hide things in their toilet tanks. I think this pretty clearly shows that the Giants intended their giveaways to be mainly for children and had that in mind when reviewing the work. Just leave the toilet tanks alone, kids. You’re only going to break something, and then we’ll have a whole different mess to deal with.

It’s unclear to me if Gufflow overheard Jack Clark say this at some point, if he interviewed him, or if he just pulled the quote plain out of his doped-out mind (Kirby Gufflow was renown for his dope parties on Potrero Hill), but whatever the case, it’s definitely the 1983 version of “subversive”. That was a time when you could simply pose a non sequitur and people would lose their minds with how non-conformist it was.

Speaking of which, here’s closer Greg Minton:

Gufflow is clearly mocking baseball’s stodgy place in history and mainstream America and it seems like the Giants’ front office was wise to his shenanigans when they canceled the giveaway. I mean, here’s what he did for Darrell Evans, the Giants’ home run leader:

Maybe Evans had opinions on the 1970s gas crisis, but they simply had no place in a coloring book for kids that was supposed to be a comic book for baseball fans.

This bit of Giants history is best consigned to the digital dust bin from whence it came.