From my remote vantage point as a daydreaming child collecting cards in Central Vermont, the San Francisco Giants of the mid-to-late 1970s were something more than a baseball team. They were also something less than a baseball team, in that they never seemed even remotely involved in the battle between the Reds and the Dodgers (and even, eventually, the Astros) for the N.L. West title. This lack of prominence lent them an air of mystery (if mystery can be sort of drab). They were like an old, obscure, slow-paced black-and-white television drama that comes on during a long rain delay between star-studded teams wrestling for a division crown. Disappointed by the rainout and by the plodding, gray replacement program, you switch around the dial for a while but then come back because beneath the tedious dialogue and uninspired staging and nondescript casting there is something weird going on that you can’t put your finger on, something that’s probably going to seep under your skin and cause you to end up staring at the ceiling at 3:00 in the morning.
Metaphors aside, I never actually saw the Giants on television. Even in the all-star game their presence was so meager that their yearly lone representative was no more noticeable than the half-second blip in the corner of the screen made by a white-shirted extra fleeing ruin in a disaster film. They were not so much a team to me as a state of being, or somehow a lack of a state of being. More specifically, they seemed to be comprised of guys who were not quite whole. They were all somewhat insubstantial guys who were also other somewhat insubstantial guys.
In the bullpen, lefthander Gary Lucas was also lefthander Gary Lavelle. In the outfield, Gary Maddox was also Gary Matthews, and then when Gary Maddox was traded to the Phillies, leaving the blurring haze of San Francisco to become a distinct personality, Gary Thomassen and Gary Alexander drifted in to fill, or rather to expand, the Garying San Francisco void. I confused Mike Ivie with Mike Lum (and also to a lesser extent Mike Vail), confused Steve Barr with Doug Bair, confused Dave Rader with Doug Rader, confused Mike Sadek with Ray Sadecki, and for reasons that I cannot explain thought of Von Joshua as the fourth Alou brother. In the coming years the fog of the mid-to-late ’70s Giants would also come to encompass blurrings of identities across the years, Bob Knepper merging into Bob Kipper, Tim Foli merging into Tom Foley, Ed Halicki merging into Mike Bielecki who then merged into Bob Milacki.
At the very center of the mystery was the man pictured here. I really can’t make many unequivocal statements about the shape-shifting mist of my childhood, but I do at least know that John D’Acquisto was John Montefusco, at least until he was traded to the Cardinals for Butch Metzger, who I then began confusing with Roger Metzger.