Great Moments In Giant History: John Montefusco's Debut
As a kid, I watched every baseball game I could. Of course, back in those ancient times, I suppose I should have been grateful we had a color television and - with cable - about 6 or 8 channels. Every Giant-Dodger game from Los Angeles was televised along with another 10-20 Giants game plus the game of the week with Curt Gowdy. If you were like me, all of those Giant-Dodger games were big events. While there were a number of memorable games between the two rivals, I'll never forget the debut of "The Count."
Unfortunately, a quick check of baseball-reference.com shows me I didn't remember it as well as I thought, but the main facts are still pretty clear. Ron Bryant, a 1973 24 game winner for the Giants, started the game after the Giants took a 2 run lead in the top of the first. It did not go well. When "The Count" was summoned to the mound, The Giants already trailed 3-2, the bases were loaded, and there was still nobody out. It was noted at the time that Montefusco had arrived at the ballpark about 45 minutes before the game. Whether he came by bus or plane from Phoenix, I can't remember.
Montefusco retired the first batter he faced on a ground ball fielder's choice to make the score 4-2, but then struck out the next two hitters.
Montefusco batted in the top of the second and walked in his first plate appearance, eventually scoring on a Gary Matthews grand slam. which gave the Giants a 6-4 lead. The Count got through the bottom of the second facing the top of the order, allowing 2 singles and a walk, before retiring Ron Cey on a ground out to end the inning.
After a two out hit batsman in the top of the third, Montefusco cemented a place in history by smashing a two run homer off Charlie Hough. The Giants were up 8-4.
I can't remember if it was the sixth or seventh inning, but a Dodger hit a line drive off Montefusco's shin for a single. The trainer went out to check him and he stayed in the game. No way would that happen in today's game. The Giants led 9-5 going in to the bottom of the ninth. Ron Cey singled to lead off, and with one out, Willie Crawford added another single. For you youngsters out there you might not believe what happened next. The Count - who was given that nickname that very night - stayed in the game and retired the last two hitters for his first major league victory.
Montefusco did not get credit for a complete game as he entered the game in relief, but he did retire 27 batters. He allowed 1 earned run, striking out 7 and walking 5. I'd be curious to find out his pitch count! Add in a home run in his first official major league at bat, and I'd say you have one of the greatest debuts in major league history!
Just to make sure I give credit where credit is due, many of the details of the game were looked up on baseball-reference.com. A magnificent site you should check out if you like to check out the details of any game you have ever seen or heard about.
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