Giants honor pitchers and catchers

Giants honor pitchers and catchers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum recently brought a thrill to the Bay Area when his pitching dominance landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Along with Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, Lincecum made headlines for his high strikeout totals before the All-Star break.

That type of pitching excellence hadn't been seen in San Francisco since the late 1970s, when Vida Blue, Ed Halicki, Jim Barr, John Montefusko and Bob Knepper tore through opposing lineups and made the cover of The Sporting News in 1978.

That staff, along with 47 other pitchers and catchers in Giants history, was honored at AT&T Park on Saturday afternoon for an anniversary reunion celebrating the club's 50 years in San Francisco. The former players were introduced individually on the field before the game, each receiving applause from the Giants faithful in the stands. Current Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow made a brief speech before six of the former players joined Lincecum to throw out ceremonial first pitches.

In '78, San Francisco finished third in its division despite an 89-73 record. The starting rotation tallied 63 wins and 644 strikeouts, and Montefusco and Blue each surpassed the 100-strikeout mark before the Midsummer Classic -- something Lincecum, Sanchez and Cain did this season.

"They look real good right now," Montefusco said of the Giants' current rotation. "I think this might be the best rotation since the one we had in the late 1970s. I keep track of them all the time."

Montefusco and Blue noted similarities between the staffs, but also pointed to one important difference -- age. The strikeout leaders of the '78 staff, Blue (171) and Montefusco (177), were 28.

The Giants' current K leaders, Lincecum (135), Cain (126) and Sanchez (115), are 24, 23 and 25 years old, respectively.

"Of course, there are things that are the same, but they might have a bigger edge than us because of the age," said Blue, who waxed about the current Giants' live arms and explosive stuff. "In my opinion, there's not too much of a comparison, because they're simply better than we were."

The similarity between the players is located more in the clubhouse than the field. Blue said the 1978 starters enjoyed trying to one-up each others' performances, just like today's pitchers.

When one guy strikes out 10, the next guy wants to do the same. Blue figures that competition will lead to wins sooner rather than later.

"Players like having that challenge," Blue said. "We're all competitive. If I pitched a two-hitter or someone else threw a shutout, the other guys want to duplicate that. You feed off one another, and that's a good thing."

David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.