Saturday, July 22, 1978 at Candlestick Park
Game 1258 – 10/13/12

Giants starter Jim Barr had the kind of game most pitchers would be envious of: he pitched eight strong innings, allowing 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 Day at windy Candlestick Park.

With the score deadlocked at 0-0 entering the visitor half of the fourth, Frank Taveras 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 Taveras. But his throw pulled McCovey off the bag, and the batter was safe on Barr’s untimely error. Taveras 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 (4-4) 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 (6-3) 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 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 and Tekulve the recipient of his 20th save.

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.

SF - Joe Altobelli argues crop

Game Notes

• The game was played at night at site AZ8 in Peoria, Arizona, on the living room table while I listened to Moving Pictures by Rush.

• The final play of the game was, of course, the result of a Z-Play card, and reads as follows from the Out Chart: “Fan interference on foul into stands. Batter ruled out. Shortstop caught ball. Runners hold.”

• Both Bruce Kison and manager Joe Altobelli were suspended one game apiece by the NL office after the Pirates-Giants game on July 23rd; both will serve their suspension on the 25th.

• The only extra-base hit in the game was a fifth inning double by Giants catcher Marc Hill.

• Giants first baseman Willie McCovey is still three home runs shy of the 500th of his major league career.

• It was Autograph Day at Candlestick Park, so here you go:


2 responses to “

  1. I guess this is just another incident that supports “instant replay expansion”. Hopefully Harry Wendelstedt didn’t hear the rumblings of replay expansion before his passing.

    Seriously Todd, reading your account of the game is like listening to the game on the radio. It makes it so alive in my mind. I can literally hear the fans giving a sigh of relief at the “foul ball” and the low rumble of the “BOOOOOO!” as the ump calls it “fan interference, OUT!” The dejected look of the Giants players. GREAT COMMENTARY!

  2. Thank you, Deb! I try to make these summaries read like newspaper accounts or sound like radio broadcasts (if it’s possible for text to sound like something!), so I’m glad I’m able to convey that feeling to you. And thank heavens this game came out long before the idea of instant replay for baseball ever came to fruition…I don’t know how I would’ve used it in my SP78 season!

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