THIS DAY IN SP78 HISTORY
December 19, 1988

Exactly ten years after I’d traveled north to Washington for a move there from San Diego, I was living in Arizona, decorating a Christmas tree, and playing a game of Statis Pro, all at my AZ3 apartment in Tempe. In a meeting of the first-place Giants and the last-place Pirates at Candlestick Park, the Giants riddled Bucs starter Bruce Kison with seven hits and six runs over the first two innings, and Vida Blue went the distance for Giants to earn his fifth win, as San Francisco bombed Pittsburgh 9-2. Six SF batters had two hits apiece, with Jack Clark knocking in three runs with a pair of singles, while Dave Parker connected for his 4th home run for the Pirates.  (Game #365,  5/9/78)

Major League Baseball

My Card, Sir

On this date in 1992, on my last day of taking a semester-long film course at UCLA, I stopped by the student union and had a few dozen of these business cards printed up at a do-it-yourself vending machine. Someday, I hope, I’ll be able to don my favorite tuxedo and attend the Governors Ball, and while enjoying a glass of Romanée-Conti Grand Cru and a plate of imported Cheez-Its, have the opportunity to say to someone, “My card, sir.”

SP78 - business card crop

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Happy Birthday, Johnny!

Johnny Bench 1972

Rookie’s Pinch-Double Moot as Cubs Thump Cards

A capacity crowd of 37,741 was on hand at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon to not only cheer their hometown Cubs to victory, but to see if a 15-year-old Cardinals rookie would get a hit in his first major league game. As it turned out, both of those outcomes were realized, as Springfield phenom Todd Benefiel laced a double in his first and only plate appearance, and the Cubs rode the 4-hit pitching of veteran Ray Burris to a 4-1 win over the visiting Cards, taking two of three games from their division rivals in a midweek series at Chicago.

CHI-N - Ray Burris pose“I felt good out there today,” Burris told C-SPAN Radio after the game. “Every pitch went where it was supposed to go, except for those two smacked by Tempy and the new kid.”

The ‘new kid’ being Benefiel, whose major league debut came in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game, pinch-hitting for starting pitcher Rob Dressler with two out and nobody on. On a 2-2 count, the left-hand-hitting Benefiel laced a low pitch from Burris into the gap in left-center, which was chased by Dave Kingman and Bobby Murcer to the wall; by the time the ball made it back to the infield, Benefiel was on second with a stand-up double, the first Cardinals player to reach base since the second inning—a string of 18 batters mowed down by Burris. With time called, shortstop Ivan DeJesus flipped the ball to the freshman baserunner, who then tossed his new keepsake to the visitor’s dugout.

With the go-ahead run now on second base, Garry Templeton followed with a high fly out to Larry Biittner in right field, ending the inning and the St Louis threat. “That was cool of Ivan,” Benefiel said from his locker during post-game interviews. “I just wish my hit would’ve meant something. A double in my first at-bat at a packed Wrigley is more than I could’ve hoped for…but I’d trade it for a win in a heartbeat.”

The Cardinals opened the game’s scoring in the first, when Templeton led off with a double down the line, moved to second on a groundout, and scored when Keith Hernandez slapped a slow roller towards first, which Bill Buckner fielded and threw home, but not in time to nail the speedy Templeton. The Cubs knotted the score two innings later when Manny Trillo opened the frame with a base hit, advanced on a fielder’s choice to short, moved to third when Burris’ sacrifice attempt was botched by Hernandez, and when DeJesus hit a hard grounder to second, raced home ahead of the desperate peg by Mike Phillips.

The score would remain deadlocked until the last of the eighth, when Chicago broke the game open: an RBI single by Bobby Murcer scored one, and when Cardinals middleman Tom Bruno was replaced by Mark Littell, clean-up batter Dave Kingman greeted the right-handed ace with a titanic blast over the ivy in center field, good for two more runs and a 4-1 Cubs lead they would not relinquish. For Kingman, it was his 28th HR of the season, CHI-N - Ken Holtzman poseequaling his output for the actual 1978 season, but it still left him ten behind Reggie Smith’s league-leading 38.

Ken Holtzman then came on in the ninth to shut the door on the Cardinals, pitching a solid 1-2-3 inning and earning his second save while securing the win for Burris (7-9). For Holtzman, it was a much-needed boost after a rocky first four months of the ’78 campaign, where he went 1-4 with an 8.30 ERA through the end of July. “It’s about time I turn it around,” he said from the trainer’s table. “I think we can make a run at the Phillies, and I want to be a positive part of that when it happens.”

The win pushed the second-place Cubs a half-game closer to the idle Phillies; with a record of 52-54, Chicago is now 14½ games behind front-running Philadelphia in the NL East, with the Expos coming to town for a 4-game weekend set beginning Friday. The Cardinals, who had hoped to turn their frustrating season around with a new attitude heading into August, dropped to 41-67 and remain in the East cellar, 26½ games out of first.

“I still have faith in this club,” said St Louis manager Ken Boyer, “and I still like what I see. We may not finish first, but we sure as hell ain’t gonna finish last, either.”

For more notes from the game, and to see photos of game action, click here.

Welcome Back, Merv!

For Angels reserve outfielder Merv Rettenmund, his return from the emergency 75-day disabled list has been a disorienting one.

“I went to rent a VHS movie for the kids, and I couldn’t find a video store,” said Rettenmund from his home in Poway, California, shortly before catching a flight to Anaheim for that evening’s contest between Oakland and California. “Hell, I couldn’t even find my kids.”

After becoming the first SP78 player this season to be placed on the 75-day DL, due to injuries he sustained when he collided with fellow outfielder Lyman Bostock during a May 18th game against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, Rettenmund spent 24 years out of action, watching helplessly as the outside world continued on without him. “I missed two whole months of the season…both June and July, just plain gone. And the loss of two decades…I can’t even begin to grasp that concept.”

CAL - Merv Rettenmund poseInterestingly enough, it was Rettenmund who replaced an injured Ken Landreaux in center field in the third inning of that May 18th game, after Landreaux was hurt diving for a sinking line drive off the bat of Jorge Orta. One inning later, both Rettenmund and Bostock were out as well, forcing California manager Dave Garcia to move first baseman Ron Jackson to left, and slugging designated hitter Don Baylor to center. Continue reading