50 Years | Giants in SF | 1976


Posted May 25, 2007


Drama surrounded the Giants before and after the 1976 season. During? For most fans, it was more of a melodrama, as the season was one long disappointment with the exception of a few bright spots.

A combination of something old (Bill Rigney) and something new (the rest of the young team) took the field in 1976, but the Giants faced an even larger nemesis off the field -- Toronto.

 

THE 1976 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

 

Record: 74-88 (Fourth, National League West)

Ballpark: Candlestick Park

Manager: Bill Rigney

All-Stars (1): John Montefusco

Awards: NL Rookie of the Year > John Montefusco

 

 

For the 1976 San Francisco Giants and their fans, perhaps the biggest drama began prior to the start of the regular season.  Losing money due to poor attendance at chilly Candlestick Park (the team was last in the NL in attendance for two straight years), longtime owner Horace Stoneham wanted to sell the team to Labatt Brewing Company in Toronto, Canada.  The team was saved from moving in early March, however, as a group led by local real estate giant Bob Lurie stepped in to buy the team from Stoneham (for just $8 million, folks!).

 

Thus the team’s residence in San Francisco was secure.  But would fans be saved from watching another mediocre season?  They and new/old manager Bill Rigney would find out soon enough.

 

The 1976 Opening Day Lineup:

 

  1. Derrel Thomas 2B
  2. Von Joshua CF
  3. Bobby Murcer RF
  4. Gary Matthews LF
  5. Willy Montanez 1B
  6. Chris Speier SS
  7. Ken Reitz 3B
  8. Dave Rader C
  9. John Montefusco P

 

Like the Giants ownership, the roster also experienced some changes from this initial lineup.  Young outfielder Larry Herndon -- who came over to the Giants when they traded away former 24-game winner Ron Bryant to the St. Louis Cardinals during the previous season -- replaced last year’s surprise, Von Joshua, in the starting lineup for most of the season.  Another midseason trade – this time in June 1976 with the Atlanta Braves -- jettisoned starting first baseman Willie Montanez and three other players, and netted the team a brand new right side of the infield, first baseman Darrell Evans and second baseman Marty Perez.

 

Offensively, the 1976 squad was underwhelming.  For the first time in San Francisco history, the Giants sent no hitters to the All-Star game.  It was telling that Gary Matthews (.279/20/84) led the team with a .279 average.  First and third base -- traditional power positions -- yielded a combined 17 home runs for the entire season from starters Evans (.222/10/36), Montanez (.309/2/20), and Ken Reitz (.267/5/66).  The Giants tried to compensate for this power outage somewhat by generating scoring with running – four players had 10 or more stolen bases – but no Giant scored more than Matthews’ 79 runs, and the team finished third from last in the NL with 3.67 runs per game.

 

Giants pitching improved as a whole from the previous season; however, statistically they were again middle-of-the-road in terms of team ERA (3.53).  The staff was led by the lone Giants All-Star, last year’s Rookie of the Year John Montefusco (16-14, 2.84), and last year’s Opening Day starter, Jim Barr (15-12, 2.89).  But after these two and Ed Halicki (12-14, 3.62), the dropoff was significant, as reliever Gary Lavelle (10-6, 2.69, 12 saves) was the only other pitcher to have at least 10 victories.

 

Aside from a memorable game in late September, the first two weeks of the 1976 season were the most memorable for San Francisco.  Montefusco and the Giants won the opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 37,000 at Candlestick Park on April 9, with Matthews and Bobby Murcer hitting home runs.  But after again defeating the Dodgers on April 11 to complete a rare interrupted two-game sweep in three days, the Giants began an eight-game roadtrip by getting swept by the Houston Astros at the Astrodome.  The team righted the ship with two wins in Cincinnati and one in Atlanta, and after returning home and winning the first two games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants sat atop the NL West at 7-5.

 

Unfortunately, that would be the last time the Giants would see first place for the remainder of the season.  Five- and six-game losing streaks soon followed, and despite some notable efforts -- such as a 1-0 victory against the Braves on May 23 in which Montefusco pitched three-hit ball until the winning run scored in the bottom of the tenth -- a heartbreaking seven-game losing streak in the middle of June dropped the team to 23-42, dead last in the NL West and 17 games behind the front-running Cincinnati Reds.  Though the team began to play better after this slide, the Giants still entered the All-Star break in the cellar -- the first time in San Francisco history that they had such a distinction.

 

The second half went much better for the team -- the Giants actually had a winning record, winning 39 versus 36 losses -- but it was much too little and too late to save the season.  Giants bats rarely barked loudly all season, but the second half featured much-improved pitching from a Giants staff that gave up a whopping 93 less runs than they did the first half of the season.  No Giants pitching performance, however, shined greater in 1976 than the one put on by Montefusco in the third to last game of the season, when he no-hit the Braves at Fulton County Stadium in front of a paltry 1,369 fans.  Reflecting on the 9-0 Giants victory, Montefusco later explained that he was motivated to defeat the Braves because of former teammate Willie Montanez, who openly voiced his desire to be traded away from the team.

 

The rest of the 1976 team could not match the Count’s abilities and motivation, however, and the end result was another losing season in which the world again saw the Cincinnati Reds reign supreme as world champions.  As it turned out, the end of the season yielded another managerial change for the Giants, as three-time minor league manager of the year Joe Altobelli succeeded Rigney.  Also in the offseason the Giants lost their best offensive player -- Matthews -- to free agency, but management hoped to make a splash with fans by bringing back 39-year old Willie McCovey and trading for young All-Star Bill Madlock.  Would these moves turn around a struggling franchise?  Stick around…

 

 

The complete 1976 roster:

 

#1 Marty Perez

#1 Craig Robinson

#2 Marc Hill

#3 Mike Sadek

#10 Johnnie LeMaster

#12 Gary Thomasson

#14 Dave Rader

#15 Chris Arnold

#16 Steve Ontiveros

#17 Randy Moffitt

#19 Von Joshua

#20 Bobby Murcer

#21 Ken Reitz

#22 Jack Clark

#22 Willie Montanez

#25 Rob Dressler

#26 John Montefusco

#28 Ed Halicki

#29 Bruce Miller

#30 Derrel Thomas

#31 Larry Herndon

#33 Jim Barr

#34 John D'Acquisto

#35 Chris Speier

#36 Gary Matthews

#37 Mike Caldwell

#39 Bob Knepper

#41 Darrell Evans

#41 Greg Minton

#43 Glenn Adams

#45 Frank Riccelli

#46 Gary Lavelle

#49 Charlie Williams

#51 Tommy Toms

#58 Gary Alexander

#60 Dave Heaverlo



Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the ’02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn’t finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at dongsoo411@yahoo.com to commiserate, cheer, and complain.

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