50 Years | Giants in SF | 1977

With most of the offensive deck reshuffled and their stay in San Francisco secure (for that moment), the 1977 Giants went to work trying to rectify their losing ways. Would they improve from the previous season? Well, yes.


Record: 75-87 (Fourth, National League West)

Ballpark: Candlestick Park

Manager: Joe Altobelli

All-Stars (1): Gary Lavelle

Awards: NL Comeback Player of the Year > Willie McCovey

The Joe Altobelli era began with a return of a familiar face -- Willie McCovey -- and a bunch of unfamiliar ones. Could the new skipper turn around a franchise that had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons?

The 1977 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Gary Thomasson CF
  2. Rob Andrews 2B
  3. Bill Madlock 3B
  4. Darrell Evans LF
  5. Willy McCovey 1B
  6. Terry Whitfield RF
  7. Chris Speier SS
  8. Marc Hill C
  9. John Montefusco P

The 1977 Opening Day lineup was markedly different from that of the previous season, as only two players -- Chris Speier and John Montefusco -- were incumbents. And Speier would not last much longer with the ballclub -- just six games into the season, he was traded to the Montreal Expos for shortstop Tim Foli, who assumed Speier's role as the everyday shortstop. Terry Whitfield was acquired from the New York Yankees for infielder Marty Perez shortly before the beginning of the season, and joined a crowded starting outfield that also included longtime bench player Gary Thomasson, former first overall pick Derrel Thomas, 21-year old Jack Clark, and the displaced Darrell Evans, who was pushed to the outfield from first base due to the return of Willie McCovey. The new San Francisco Giants third baseman, former Chicago Cubs All-Star Bill Madlock, was acquired in a trade with Rob Sperring for Bobby Murcer, Steve Ontiveros, and a minor leaguer in February. Sperring's stay with the ballclub was short, since he was shipped to the Houston Astros a month later for Rob Andrews, who would play the lion's share at second base. And with Dave Rader traded away to the St. Louis Cardinals the previous October, Marc Hill -- who himself came over from the Cardinals a few seasons prior – assumed the primary duties behind home plate.

Despite all these changes, the Giants bats as a whole again proved underwhelming, and the team again failed to send a position player to the All-Star game. The offense once again flowed through McCovey (.280/28/86), who surprised everyone at age 39 and won the NL Comeback Player of the Year award. But aside from Madlock (.302/12/46), no other regular hit over .300, nor did anyone hit more than 17 home runs or drive in more than 72 runs other than Stretch. The lineup was not without some other bright spots, including Clark (.252/13/51, 12 stolen bases), Thomasson (.256/17/71, 16 steals), Evans (.254/17/72), and the switch-hitting Thomas (.267/8/44, 15 steals), and the team improved from the previous season by scoring 4.15 runs per game. However, this figure was only good for third to last in the NL, which was the same position the Giants finished the previous season.

Statistically, Giant pitching improved slightly in 1977, pitching to a team ERA of 3.75, good for fifth best in the NL. Unfortunately, one pitcher who did not improve was John Montefusco (7-12, 3.49), who pitched only 157+ innings due to arm trouble and would never pitch another shutout for the rest of his career after his no-hitter the previous season. The other owner of a Giants no-no, Ed Halicki (16-12, 3.32) pitched the season of his career in 1977, leading the team in wins, innings pitched (257+), strikeouts (168), and complete games (7); however, of the regular starters, only he and young Bob Knepper (11-9, 3.36) finished the season with winning records. The Giants lone All-Star emerged from the bullpen – closer Gary Lavelle (7-7, 2.05, 20 saves). And despite the improvement in team ERA, the Giants nevertheless allowed 4.39 runs per game -- much of the difference attributable to 178 Giants fielding errors, third worst in the NL.

The Giants began the year with a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers stadium on April 7, and though they hovered around .500 for most of the first month, they couldn't generate any sort of winning streak. During a 13-game home stand towards the end of the month, the team went 5-8 in front of sparse crowds. This was followed by a 13-game road trip in which they again went 5-8; however, the ballclub won its final two game of the road trip versus the St. Louis Cardinals, and then proceeded to win three more games for a modest five-game winning streak. This surge pulled the team to 20-23 on the season on May 27, good for second place in the NL West but already 12 ½ games behind the front-running Dodgers.

Alternating minor winning streaks with minor losing streaks, the Giants plodded on until June 20, when the nadir of the season struck. Beginning with a sweep at home at the hands of the Cubs, the Giants proceeded to lose 13 of their next 16 games, capped off by an eight-game losing streak that dropped the team to 35-48. The team responded admirably by winning its next six games, but the team still limped into the All-Star break in fourth place in the NL West, now 17 games behind in the standings.

Admittedly, the Giants played better in the second half – they had their only winning month in August (15-14), and had no prolonged losing streaks (or winning streaks, for that matter). But playing near-.500 ball the rest of the way meant no progress, and aside from a few days in third place, the team spent most of the second half in the same position they entered the All-Star break – fourth. Upon completion of the regular season on October 2, the Giants found themselves a dismal 23 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers, and not once during the regular season did they poke their heads above the .500 mark. The Dodgers, despite playing brilliantly for most of the season, met their match in the World Series, where the New York Yankees defeated them in six games to hoist the trophy for the 21st time in their storied franchise history.

So, for the fourth consecutive season, the City by the Bay suffered through a losing season, and not coincidentally, the team finished dead last in home attendance for the fourth straight year. Still, there was some noticeable improvement for the Giants – the team might have finished just one game ahead of the pace they set in 1976, but they once again had a young offensive nucleus surrounded by a cagey veteran, as well as a pitching staff that, while unspectacular, had its moments. The front office tried to augment what they had in the offseason with two significant trades. The first occurred the following February, when they swapped a former first overall pick, Derrel Thomas, for another first overall pick in Mike Ivie. The second, however, was a bit more noticed by Bay Area fans, as the Giants seven players and cash to the Oakland Athletics in a blockbuster trade for All-Star pitcher Vida Blue. How would the Bay Area transplant respond? And could these moves finally turn around a losing franchise? Stay tuned…

The complete 1977 roster:

#2 Marc Hill

#3 Mike Sadek

#10 Johnnie LeMaster

#12 Gary Thomasson

#14 Ken Rudolph

#16 Randy Elliott

#17 Randy Moffitt

#18 Bill Madlock

#19 Tim Foli

#20 Vic Harris

#21 Rob Andrews

#22 Jack Clark

#26 John Montefusco

#28 Ed Halicki

#30 Derrel Thomas

#31 Larry Herndon

#32 Tom Heintzelman

#33 Jim Barr

#34 Terry Cornutt

#35 Chris Speier

#36 Tim Foli

#36 Skip James

#38 Greg Minton

#39 Bob Knepper

#40 John Curtis

#41 Darrell Evans

#42 Gary Alexander

#44 Willie McCovey

#45 Terry Whitfield

#46 Gary Lavelle

#47 Lynn McGlothen

#49 Charlie Williams

#51 Tommy Toms

#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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