The 1982 San Francisco Giants were an interesting team. We had finished 56-55 overall in strike-shortened 1981, playing better in the post-strike portion of the season. VP of Baseball Operations Tom Haller made some significant moves in the 1981 offseason, trading Vida Blue for a group of younger players. He also moved Enos Cabell, Larry Herndon, Jerry Martin, Doyle Alexander, Tom Griffin, and Ed Whitson.
As we approached Opening Day 1982, our team was a good mix of veterans and younger players. Our Opening Day “everyday” players were: C-Milt May; 1B-Reggie Smith; 2B-Joe Morgan; SS-Johnnie LeMaster; 3B-Darrell Evans. OF (L-R): Jeff Leonard, Chili Davis and Jack Clark. Many other players saw significant playing time that year: Tom O’Malley, Jim Wohlford and Duane Kuiper all had 200-300 ABs. Champ Summers, Bob Brenly, Max Venable and Guy Sularz between 100-200 ABs. After trading many of the 1981 group, the starting rotation was bereft of any established NL starters. Opening Day starter was Al Holland, who was much better as a reliever. The others (Alan Fowlkes, Dan Schatzeder, and Rich Gale) were mediocre at best. We quickly realized changes were necessary, and Atlee Hammaker, Bill Laskey, and Renie Martin were added to the rotation. Fred Breining and Jim Barr were solid starters/relievers. We had a strong bullpen: Greg Minton had a career year (30 saves); the steady and dependable Gary Lavelle complemented Al Holland in lefty relief. Manager Frank Robinson was a no-excuses taskmaster.
We started the 1982 season playing below .500 baseball. Our April W-L record was 9-11. May 12-18. June (14-13) was our first winning month. At the All-Star break we were 42-46 and not considered a postseason contender. On August 1 we were 50-54, but on August 3 we began a 10-game winning streak, featuring a Doubleheader sweep vs. Houston on Sunday August 8 at the ‘Stick, and culminating on August 11 with an 8-6, 12-inning win over Atlanta, via a walk-off HR by Reggie Smith. We were 60-55, and back in contention with the Braves (62-50) and the Dodgers (64-51).
Alas, we could not keep up that torrid pace through August. We sputtered a bit, hanging around .500 and finishing the month at 66-66. Sensing that we had as much a chance to win the NL West as any other team, we caught fire in September, going 15-5 through September 23, taking us to a huge series in LA vs. the hated Dodgers. We were now 81-71, the Dodgers were 85-67, the Braves 82-70. Four games separated the three teams, with eleven games left to play.
A personal aside here. My wonderful wife and I were a blind date on my birthday, September 10, of that year, and we have been together ever since that night. A few days after we met—as I’m intensely following our Giants—I thought to myself “I better find out where she stands on baseball, specifically Giants and Dodgers.” She had been living in Southern California for 14 years (I had relocated from Stockton five years before), and if she was a Dodgers fan…that could be a problem. I asked her, “Are you a Dodgers fan?” She answered “No, not really.” BOOM! Once I introduced her to our Giants, she became a huge fan.
Back to this crucial three-game series with the Dodgers. It was Friday-Sunday, September 24-26. We needed to win at least two of three to stay close. We won Friday night, 3-2, Holland and Minton pitching five scoreless innings to lock down the W. We won again Saturday afternoon, 5-4, scoring two in the eighth to take the lead on RBI singles from Chili and Morgan, Minton for the Save. It rained that night and into the next morning, very unusual for Southern California at that time of the year. The Sunday game would be our first Giants game together, and I was pumped but fearful that it would be rained out. There was no weather update from the Dodgers, so we went to the park and found our way to our seats. The field was covered, with no players in sight. The grounds crew came out shortly to work the field, and three hours later the game finally started. Giants won 3-2 for the SWEEP! Three runs in the fifth on a Jack Clark RBI double and an Evans two-run HR. Holland with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Save. At the end of play Sunday September 26, with seven games left for each team, the standings:
Dodgers 85-70 Giants 84-71 Braves 84-71
The remaining schedule was ideal. We had a seven-game homestand: two vs. the Braves, two vs. the Astros, three vs. the Dodgers. Braves had a seven-game road trip: two vs. us, two vs. the Dodgers, three vs. the Padres. Dodgers had two at home vs. the Reds, two at home vs. the Braves, and the last three at the ‘Stick. This was going to be one helluva week! A fortuitous work schedule had me up in the Bay Area, and I worked it so that I would be able to attend the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night games.
After that great weekend sweep vs. the Dodgers, we came home and lost two ugly games to the Braves. First game 7-0, as Phil Niekro threw a two-hit shutout and Martin got blasted for six runs in 3 1/3 innings. Second game 8-3, as Laskey gave up four runs in 2 1/3 innings, and a tired bullpen coughed up four more. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were playing the Reds, who were having an awful season (they finished last in the NL West). But they rose up and beat the Dodgers twice! First game 6-1, second game a thrilling extra-inning 4-3 win, as they scored three in the eighth and the winning run in the tenth. Go Reds!
The Braves were now in first place, one game ahead of the Dodgers, two ahead of us. Every game was essentially a must-win, and I was there to root for my Giants! First game vs. Astros we took care of business, winning 6-1 behind Hammaker and Lavelle, Chili and Hacman with HRs off Joe Niekro. The second game was the stuff of legends and has been discussed in detail over the years, on this blog and elsewhere. The Astros jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but our Giants battled back with three in the seventh and two in the eighth to tie the game. Great ABs and clutch RBIs up and down the entire line-up. We were NOT going to lose this game! Top of the ninth, Rich Gale is on the mound for one inning, but gives up a HR to Harry Spilman (a future Giant favorite), and we’re down 6-5. I never liked Gale, and I was screaming at him as he walked off the mound after being yanked by Robinson.
The bottom of the ninth was all-time classic Giants baseball. Again, guys stepping up with huge ABs. Clark flied out to LF, Evans drew a walk, and Smith popped up to SS. Down to our last out of a must-win game, Hacman blooped a broken-bat single into LF. Jim Wohlford, batting for Lavelle, worked a 12-pitch walk to load the bases. Huge AB. Ron Pruitt was then called on to pinch hit for LeMaster. Pruitt was an eight-year veteran who had an undistinguished career in the AL and was a late-season addition to our roster. This was his first AB of the year for the Giants. He worked it to a full count (of course), then dropped a duck-snort single into very shallow RF. Running on contact, Evans and Leonard scored, Giants win 7-6! The crowd of 13,082 went nuts, including totalfan62! I’m running up and down the aisle, high fiving anyone who held up their hand, screaming GIANTS!! and generally losing my mind. What a win! Meanwhile, the Braves and Dodgers split the two games in LA, so Friday morning the Braves were one game ahead of the Giants and Dodgers. Friday night, a raucous crowd of 53,281 fans packed Candlestick Park for a classic showdown, Dodgers vs. Giants. That was the most intense and passionate Giants crowd I have ever personally experienced.
Another personal note: I’m in line at the concession stand pre-game, and I look up to see Peter O’Malley (the Dodgers owner) directly in front of me! We happened to make eye contact, and (wearing my Giants jacket and cap) I said “Peter O’Malley. Welcome to the ‘Stick.” He smiled and said, “Your Giants have been playing great baseball.” I replied, “Thanks for that, but we’re gonna take the title away from you.” He smiled, said nothing, and turned to place his order. Prophetic in an ironic way!
Back to game one. it was Jerry Reuss vs. Breining. Our guy battled through 7 1/3 innings, scattering seven hits and six walks. His last pitch was a meatball that Rick Monday hit into the right centerfield upper deck for a grand slam. Ballgame. We all knew it, and we knew it was probably the end of this wonderful comeback season. The next day, down two games with two to play, we were blown out 15-2 and were eliminated. We were out…but the Dodgers hadn’t won it yet, either. The Braves had a one-game lead as they played the Padres on the last day of the season and would clinch the division with a win. But the Padres rose up and beat the Braves 5-1. If the Dodgers could beat us, there would be a three-game playoff series for the NL West title. We all know how that worked out. Joe Morgan hit a three-run HR, Giants won 5-2, and Tommy was sad!
1982 was a very memorable year. Jack Clark had his best year as a Giant. Greg Minton had a career year. Joe Morgan won the Willie Mac Award and was the heart and soul of the team. Darrell Evans and Reggie Smith were rock solid and steady. 37 players wore the Orange and Black in 1982, and nearly all of them made significant contributions to this great season. My postseason joy was seeing all my Dodgers fans friends, at work or play, and being able to say, “we’re not going to the postseason, but neither are you!” 1982—a great season in San Francisco Giants history.
Programming notes from DrLefty
Thanks to TF62 for that great blog post! If any of you want to try your hand at a guest post, just let me know. It could be anything–a first-person story of your history as a Giants/baseball fan, your memories of a particular game, a topic you’d like to explore. We can use some variety as our coronavirus baseball blackout continues!
Save the date: Opening Day watch party!
Surf Maui and I are working on arranging some watch parties to while away the coming weeks, and we thought this Thursday, on what was supposed to be Opening Day, would be a great time to start. We’re working on something fun–real-time watching, talking, and chatting together via Zoom! Watch for more details to be posted in this space on Thursday morning, but we’re looking at 5 p.m. PDT on Thursday for our kickoff event.