Sunday, December 31, 2017

I Love The 80s - 1981 San Francisco Giants

In 1980 and 1981, the Giants were transitioning into a new era. The strategy seemed to be to add some veteran pieces to a fairly young roster - the results were mixed at best. There was some improvement in 1981 - The Giants hired Hall of Famer Frank Robinson to manage the team and brought in Joe Morgan to provide leadership and some star power to the lineup. They finished in 4th place in the NL West, but could hang their hats on a winning record overall. 

here are the backs . . .

Topps Traded #806 Joe Morgan - One of the greatest second basemen of all time, Morgan came to play for the Giants in 1981. He toughed out a down year in the strike shortened 1981 season to have a bit of a late career renaissance in 1982. He won his only career Silver Slugger award that season, hitting 14 homers and reaching base at a .400 clip. He also stole 24 bases at the age of 38.

Fleer #444 Ed Whitson - Whitson came up to the majors with Pittsburgh, and was part of the trade that brought Bill Madlock to the Pirates mid way through the 1979 season. He would miss out on that championship season, but he would get another shot at the post season with the 1984 San Diego Padres. His lone All-Star selection came in 1980 as a Giant, he topped 200 innings pitched but only surrendered 7 home runs on the season. The rate of .3 homers per 9 innings was best in the National League. He would retire in 1991 having given up 2440 hits in 2440 career innings.

Fleer #451 Larry Herndon - Like Whitson, Herndon would play in the 1984 World Series, but Herndon was playing for the AL champion Detroit Tigers. His 2 run Homer in Game 1 would be the decisive runs in the contest, handing the win to Jack Morris and the Tigers. In 1980, Herndon played all three outfield positions for the Giants and racked up 11 Triples on the season.

Donruss #433 Vida Blue - The Giants gave up 7 players and $300,000 cash to get Vida Blue from Oakland in 1978. It wasn't cheap, but may very well have been worth it. Blue came in 3rd place in the Cy Young voting in 1978, but the Giants also settled for 3rd place in the Standings. Despite hurling over 1100 innings for the Giants over 6 seasons, the team never finished better than that during his tenure. He was an All-Star in 1980 and 1981, though he ultimately was unable to match the superlative start to his career with the A's.

Fleer #440 Jim Wohlford - That big leg kick did not translate to big power for Wohlford, who hit just 1 homer per season in 1980 and 1981.  For the Giants, he served as a backup outfielder and in a pinch he played a little third base for the team as well. He was a more regular player for Kansas City in the early to mid seventies, playing primarily Left Field. His career high in hits was 136 which came with KC in 1974.

Drake's Big Hitter's #15 Jack Clark - Clark was the team's big bat for a good part of the late 70s and early 80s. Injuries forced him to leave the outfield for the relative comfort of first base. Though he spent 10 seasons in San Francisco, he is probably better known for his 3 seasons in Saint Louis (or his one season in New York). Clark was the Giants' team leader in homers in both 1980 and 1981.

Topps #648 Darrell Evans - Evans became the poster-old-man for guys that aged gracefully. Evans' 1987 season was memorable because he led the AL with 40 homers, but he was also 38 years old. He was a teammate of Larry Herndon's in 1984 with the Tigers. In 1980 and 1981, he was playing a solid third base and providing his usual 20 plus homer power in the heart of the Giants' lineup.

Topps #279 Bob Knepper - Knepper was traded following the 1980 season to Houston for Enos Cabell. He responded with an All-Star season for the Astros and helped propel the team to the post-season. He would be a key part of the Astros rotation for the rest of the 80s, returning to the Giants as a Free Agent late in 1989. His 1980 campaign was subpar compared to his averages. For his career, Knepper tossed 30 shutouts, leading the NL in the category in 1978 and 1986.

Fleer #434 Willie McCovey - "Stretch" as he was known in his early days in the Bay Area, played his final game in July of 1980. Appropriately for a Giant, his final at bat led to a victory over the Dodgers, with a pinch hit sac fly. His 521 career home runs equalled that of Ted Williams, and if not for debilitating leg injuries, could have been much more. McCovey is beloved in San Francisco, and his name graces the body of water just beyond the Right Field wall at their home ballpark, christened McCovey Cove. 


  1. I always enjoy these, good work as always. The picture on that Vida Blue card is great and but I really dig the orange uniform on the McCovey.

  2. Wow. They made Drakes cards back in 1981? Gotta look through that checklist. Anyways... 1981 was the first year I started ripping into baseball card packs and I remember organizing my cards by teams. I definitely remember owning the Fleer McCovey and the Donruss Blue. Happy New Year!