From a researcher’s notebook (S.F. Giants edition)
In the course of tracking down a quote for this post about the late Stu Miller, I finally engaged in a long-delayed mini-project that involved leafing through an excellent (and rare) book of interviews with San Francisco Giants. I still haven’t read the whole book and might never read the whole book, but I did run across a few items that I’d either forgotten or never known, and I’d like to share them now …
– You probably heard last fall that Brandon Finnegan is the first pitcher in history to pitch in both the College World Series and the real World Series. As near as I can tell, that’s true! What I never knew was that a young man named Bob Garibaldi nearly did the same thing, 52 years earlier. Garibaldi pitched for Santa Clara in the 1962 College World Series, and was named the tournament’s outstanding player even though the Broncos lost to Michigan in the championship game, on a 15th-inning gaffe. Almost exactly a month later, Garibaldi debuted with the big-league Giants, pitching a scoreless eighth inning in a loss to the Mets. His second outing came the very next day, when he replaced Stu Miller with two outs in the ninth and retired Rod Kanehl to earn the save. According to Garibaldi, he was on the Giants’ World Series roster that fall, and might have warmed up once. But of course he never actually got into one of games, as manager Alvin Dark used only seven pitchers.
– One of my favorite stories involves another relief pitcher, Al Worthington. I knew that Worthington had become opposed to sign-stealing on religious grounds, which led to him leaving the Chicago White Sox in 1960. What I didn’t know is that he’d left the Giants for the same reason after the ’59 season. Worthington’s ethics essentially consigned him to the minor leagues for all of 1961 and ’62, before he returned to the majors in ’63 with the Reds. And in ’64, after getting purchased by the Twins at the age of 35, Worthington discovered a sidearm curveball and suddenly became a significantly better pitcher. From 1964 through ’68, he posted a 2.47 ERA. In 1968, he was 39 years old and led the American League with 18 saves.
– And then there’s Don McMahon. Weird little thing about McMahon: He pitched in 10 postseason games in his long career, and pitched pretty well. But his team lost all 10 of them. Anyway, McMahon didn’t reach the majors until he was 27, but pitched exceptionally well as a rookie. That was in 1957. In 1973, when he was 43 years old, McMahon went 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 22 appearances with the Giants. Even more interesting? McMahon was also the pitching coach. Most of the time, when manager Charlie Fox called the bullpen he knew who he wanted. But every so often, McMahon said, Fox “would call down and ask me who to put in … and sometimes I would say, ‘Put me in.’” That went on until the middle of the ’74 season, when the owner cut McMahon loose as a pitcher. But he’d always been a fastball pitcher, fastball with natural movement, and he was still throwing hard enough to get guys out.
McMahon remained in baseball for the rest of his life, serving as pitching coach, scout, or instructor for various clubs. In 1987, he suffered a fatal heart attack while pitching batting practice for the Dodgers. As Ira Berkow wrote in The New York Times, McMahon died with his spikes on.
– Finally, I just love this story about Sam Jones’ legendary curveball, told by catcher Hobie Landrith …
And there was a game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1956 when we were with the Cubs. The first pitch of the ballgame, Pee Wee Reese was the batter, and I called a curveball. And Jones threw the curveball, and you’ve never seen a curveball until you’ve seen Sam Jones’ curveball. If you were a right-handed hitter that ball was a good four feet behind you. It took a little extra courage to stay in there because he was wild and he could throw a fastball very hard. So you had to wait until the last fraction of a second before you pulled out. At any rate, Pee Wee Reese was the batter, and he threw a curveball. Pee Wee’s hat flew one way, his bat another, and he just laid flat on the ground. Larry Goetz was umpiring, and he went, “Stee-k!” And Pee Wee looked up at Goetz and said, "Larry, it couldn’t have been…" And Goetz looked down at Reese laying there, "Well, Pee Wee, one thing’s for sure. You’ll never know because you weren’t here to find out.”