Montefusco familiar with guaranteeing wins

Montefusco familiar with guaranteeing wins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans whose allegiance dates to the mid-1970s should have shrugged and yawned when they learned of Jonathan Sanchez's bold predictions for this weekend's showdown against San Diego.

John "The Count" Montefusco, who at the outset of his career was to the Giants what Tim Lincecum is now, made a habit of insisting in advance that he would subdue an opponent.

That was a major difference between Montefusco's forecasts and the one Sanchez issued last Sunday, when he declared that the Giants would sweep San Diego en route to reaching the postseason.

"I only made predictions for myself," Montefusco said Tuesday, explaining that he wouldn't refer to games in which he didn't pitch. "Granted, with [Matt] Cain, Lincecum and [Barry] Zito, they can sweep any team easily."

Montefusco, who met Sanchez during a June gathering of Giants pitchers who had thrown no-hitters, was surprised that the usually soft-spoken left-hander had made such a boast. Told that Sanchez's remarks followed a disappointing four-inning outing Sunday at Atlanta, Montefusco theorized that the pitcher might have been goading himself to stay in his next game longer -- and trying to coax manager Bruce Bochy to keep him on the mound an inning or two more.

"Hopefully it instills confidence in him," Montefusco said of Sanchez. "He'll go out there and shut them out or hold them to one or two runs."

That's usually what Montefusco accomplished in his early years as a Giant, which prompted his brash prognostications.

"I could throw a 96 mile-an-hour fastball and a 90-mph slider," Montefusco said. "Most of my predictions came true."

One of his first didn't. Shortly after reaching the Majors as a September callup in 1974, Montefusco blanked Cincinnati on seven hits. He guaranteed that he'd duplicate the performance when he faced the Reds six days later. Instead, he allowed five runs and was knocked out after two innings.

En route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1975, Montefusco announced in radio interviews in San Francisco and Los Angeles that he would beat the Dodgers on July 4. He clung to a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning when Los Angeles put two runners on base with two outs. The Dodger Stadium crowd of 52,621 smelled blood -- Montefusco's -- and rocked the ballpark.

"The mound had to be bouncing six or seven inches from the vibrations from all those people," recalled Montefusco, who coaxed Bill Buckner's foul popup to end the game.

By the following season, Montefusco mostly held his tongue.

"After those first three or four years, the hitters know what you've got, you get knocked around and you struggle," he said.