Giants starter Jim Barr had the kind of game most pitchers would be envious of: he pitched eight strong innings, allowed no earned runs on four hits, and struck out four while walking none. But he made one small mistake in the fourth inning, which cost him and the Giants the game in a 1-0 Pirates win on Autograph Night at windy Candlestick Park.
With the score deadlocked at 0-0 entering the visitor half of the fourth, Omar Moreno led off the frame with a weak dribbler back to the mound that Barr fielded cleanly and fired to first baseman Willie McCovey, with plenty of time to spare to beat the speedy Moreno. But his throw pulled McCovey off the bag, and Moreno was safe on Barr’s untimely error. Moreno promptly stole second, his 40th theft of the year, and moments later Dave Parker sent him home with a solid single to right, giving Pittsburgh the 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Buc spot starter Bruce Kison was finding himself in hot water with the officiating crew when he was accused of wetting down the ball by home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt; the ensuing debate between the two—highlighted by Kison’s colorful if not proper views on Wendelstedt’s eyesight and intelligence—resulted in Kison’s immediate dismissal from the game.
Middle reliever Grant Jackson took Kison’s place on the mound, but the Giants fared no better, connecting for just two hits during Jackson’s four-plus innings of work. On the home side of the pitching docket, Barr was eliminating Pirate batters like a man possessed, allowing only one single—to pitcher Jackson of all people—before leaving the game after eight innings for a pinch-hitter.
The situation looked bleak for the Giants when they entered the final inning: still down by just a single run at 1-0, but now having to face Pirates relief warrior Kent Tekulve, who was hungry for his 20th save but had looked a bit shaky in several of his ten July appearances. When light-hitting Vic Harris beat out a slow roller down the third-base line for a pinch-hit single, suddenly the partisan Giants crowd at Candlestick came alive, and Tekulve found himself on shaky ground once again, with just one out and veterans Marc Hill and Darrell Evans due up.
The game, however, would end in controversy, and not in the Giants favor. After Tekulve disposed of Hill on three pitches, Evans stepped up to the plate; with the fans and several teammates chanting for the home run that would propel the Giants to sudden victory, Evans instead lifted a pop-up towards the box seats in foul ground. Pirates shortstop Frank Taveras approached the low retaining wall beyond third base, gloved raised to make the third-out catch, but the ball appeared to be too deep into the stands for Taveras to make a play. That point was moot, however, as a first-row fan became entangled with Taveras, and as the ball fell into the cluster of Section 12 humanity, the umpire ruled fan interference; Taveras was credited with making the out, and the game was unceremoniously over, with the Pirates victorious by a slim 1-0 count.
As the Pirates contingent congratulated each other and made their way towards the visiting dugout, Giants players—along with screaming Giants manager Joe Altobelli—swarmed umpires Wendelstedt and Ed Montague, protesting the call vehemently, and to no avail.
“That was absolute horseshit,” stated a steaming Altobelli during post-game interviews.
See a full summary of this controversial game here.