Tuesday, October 9, 2012

#223 John Montefusco - San Diego Padres

It looks like John Montefusco is pitching in front of a parking lot here on his 8th Topps offering.  The inset shows him with quite a mischievous grin, one that appeared on many of his cards.

Player:  John Montefusco was a late bloomer and went undrafted.  After pitching in semi-pro ball and community college he signed with the Giants in '72.  Despite a humble start to his career he reached the majors by the end of the '74 season.  He made quite an impression in his first month with the Giants, hitting a home run in his first at bat and tossing a complete game shutout and hitting a second homer on 9/22.

Montefusco, dubbed "The Count" by then Giants broadcaster Al Michaels (a take on the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo"), was still officially a rookie in '75 and had a great year.  He went 15-9 with a 2.88 ERA (133 ERA+) in 243 innings.  He was rewarded with the NL Rookie of the Year and finished 4th in Cy Young voting.  Montefusco followed it up with a nearly identical season in '76 and made the All Star team.  He threw an NL best 6 shutouts, won 16 games, and posted a 2.85 ERA in 253 frames.

Little did anyone know that Montefusco would never really pitch as well as he did over the '75-'76 seasons.  He was effective but missed time with injuries in both '77 and '79 as his ERAs crept up to 3.49, 3.81, and 3.94.  The outspoken Montefusco had fallen into disfavor with the Giants and 1980 would be his last with the team as he went 4-8 with a 4.37 ERA in 113 innings of work.

Montefusco was dealt to the Braves for Doyle Alexander and had a 3.49 ERA in 77 innings as a long reliever and spot starter.  He signed in the offseason with the Padres and although healthy enough to make 32 starts, he completed just one during the '82 season.  He won 10 games and posted 4.00 ERA and logged 184 innings but returned to the swing man role the following season in '83.  He was doing a decent job for San Diego when he was traded to the Yankees late in the '83 season.  He made six starts for New York winning five with a 3.32 ERA.   

Things really fell apart for "The Count" in '84.  A variety of physical problems limited him to just 74 innings over the next three seasons.  With a degenerative hip condition he retired following the '86 season.  He finished his career with a 90-83 record and a 3.54 ERA in 1,652 innings.

Stuff: 90 mph sinking fastball, slider, change, forkball

Flipside:  Montefusco's 215 strikeouts were the most by a National League rookie since Grover Cleveland Alexander's 211 in 1911.

Oddball: On September 29, 1976 "The Count" pitched a no-hitter against Atlanta, as a Jerry Royster walk was the only Brave baserunner.  Too bad only 1,369 people were in attendance. 

History:  Montefusco had a great start to his career but his peak was over before he turned 27.  He has a great bio on the SABR website which details some of the many run ins he had with his managers during his playing days. 
Although he never pitched in the postseason he is a memorable player due to his brash outspoken nature.  While with the Giants he made enemies with Johnny Bench, Reggie Smith, Tommy Lasorda and the entire Dodger franchise.

1 comment:

  1. I had a chance to get Montefusco's auto on a ball with 1975 NL ROY inscription and I passed. I am kind of kicking myself now... I collect all baseball stuff from 1975, and I was thinking about going after the award winners... Ughh...