Sunday, December 26, 2010

Phil Nastu in the Orange and Black?

In addition to the fine Christmas presents I received from my family -- an official Giants World Series coffee mug and pennant -- I also received a 1979 souvenir program that has Jack Clark and Vida Blue on the cover with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

One of my sisters, who's expert at garage sales, apparently figured correctly that I'd be interested in having such a document. Did you know that Spec Richardson and Bing Devine were running the front office that year? It turned out that 1979 was kind of a disaster, given how high expectations had been raised in 1978. The coaches were Dave Bristol, Jim Davenport, Tom Haller and Larry Shepard.

In short, it was a lousy year for the Giants, who went 71-91. Clark hit 25 HRs and had 86 RBIs and Bill North and Darrell Evans led the team in onbase percentage with over 90 walks each. The starting pitching was lousy with Montefusco going 3-8 and having the only ERA under 4.00. Greg Minton and Gary Lavelle were pretty good in relief.

The program says Ed Halicki was on the DL (he started two days later), which may be why there was some guy named Phil Natsu starting and getting knocked out in the second inning of the nightcap game of a doubleheader on July 1. He was yanked after giving up a walk to Heity Cruz and a single to Rick Auerbach. I don't if he got injured or if Joe Altobelli decided "I've seen enough" in the middle of an at bat to the immortal Vic Correll, but he got replaced by Tom Griffin, who proceeded to walk Correll and then let in all three runs.

The Giants came back and won the game 7-3 to sweep the doubleheader, which must have been one of the highlights of the year. In fact, Minton and Lavelle combined for SEVEN INNINGS of shutout relief in that game -
- shades of Game 6 of this year's NCLS!

That sweep may have well been the high point of the year. It put the Giants one game over .500 at 40-39 and it was the last time they were over .500 all year. They proceeded to go 31-52 the rest of the way.

And what of Phil Nastu? His high point probably came nine days earlier when he beat the Reds by holding them to two runs at Riverfront and pitched into the 9th, when Griffin came in got the last two outs. Altobelli probably figured he had the Reds' number when he started him July 1.

The June 22 game was the last decision he ever got in a three-season career -- most of it in 1979, when he appeared in 25 games and started 14. I suppose that my point is that you can count yourself as a true Giants fan if you remember Phil Nastu, because I certainly don't. I remember virtually everyone else on that 1979 team -- even lesser lights like Rob Andrews, Max Venable, Roger Metzger, Joe Strain, John Tamargo and Dave Roberts -- but Nastu somehow had escaped the reach of my memory until today.

The Giants traded Nastu and Strain in December 1980 to the Cubs for Jerry Martin and Jesus Figueroa. Nastu never made it back to the bigs. He spent 1981 and 1982 in the minors and called it a career at age 27.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I played with Nastu in the minors. He was great! Probably had arm problems when he was in the Majors. But I remember him. A great guy as well. I think he became a policeman in his hometown of Bridgeport, CT.

9:02 AM  

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