Recently, a post on Twitter included Willie Montanez’s 1973 Topps card. This “in action” shot taken during the 1972 season has always intrigued me, primarily due to half of the photo being comprised of the Giants’ pitcher’s butt. Inquiring minds want to know whose derriere filled the camera lens. Through the miracle of “Retrosheet” via “Baseball Reference,” I was able to pin down three possibilities, one stronger than the others.
In 1972, the 12-team National League played 18 games against divisional opponents and 12 against teams from the other division. Thus, the Phillies and the Giants each had six home games broken into two series. (The work stoppage at the beginning of 1972 season did alter this scheduling formula; however, the Giants versus Phillies games were not affected.)
During the Phillies’ initial trip to Candlestick in April 1972, the clubs met twice in day games. However, Willie Montanez was not involved in a play at the plate in either game. So, his slide into home had to happen during the second set of games in July.
On Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17 the squads squared off under a bright sun beating down on the rock-hard AstroTurf. Montanez scored a run in the Saturday game after being walked by Don McMahon in the second inning. He moved to second on a single by Don Money and went to third after Oscar Gamble walked. Catcher John Bateman singled, scoring Montanez.
This could be the play at the plate, provided Bateman’s single was of the infield variety or a shallow “Texas Leaguer.” Otherwise, Willie could have walked home on a routine shot to the outfield. The “San Francisco Examiner” sports page for Sunday, July 17, is not helpful. The game summary does state that Montanez scorede, but there is no mention of a play at the plate. Therefore, it is possible that the photo shows the “arse” of the veteran “slabsman” McMahon.
In this same game, Chris Speier of the Giants hit an inside-the-park home run off Steve Carlton. Speier has a 1973 card showing him sliding into home with the Phillies catcher, John Bateman, attempting to tag him. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Montanez’s slide occurred on July 16 since the photographer may have attended both games.
In fact, a more plausible play at home occurred in the next day’s game. In the top of the 4th inning, Montanez singled to center off the Giants’ starter, Jim Barr, and took second on an error by Gary Maddox. He then scored from second on a single by Don Money.
In many instances, scoring from second on a single will draw a throw home, resulting in the runner sliding. Of course, this would mean that Jim Barr is the pitcher whose backside is seen “up close and personal.” Alas, the Monday, July 18 “San Francisco Examiner” offered no supporting evidence, since it failed to mention Willie’s run at all.
Although not definitive proof that the photographer attended both tilts, the 1973 Topps in game action photos for Phillies pitchers Barry Lersch and Dick Selma were clearly taken at Candlestick. Lersch pitched on Saturday and Selma on Sunday. So, the photographer could have been at both games. But this is not a certainty because both pitchers appeared at “the Stick” during day games on April 26 (Lersch) and 27 (Selma).
To completely muddy the waters off Candlestick Point, this photo could conceivably be from 1971! In the first game of a double header on June 6, 1971, Montanez doubled to center off Steve Stone in the 6th inning.
He scored from second on a single by the next batter, ironically Ron Stone. On June 7, 1971, “The San Francisco Examiner” stated that Willie “streaked to the plate.” Of course, we still don’t know if there was a throw, necessitating a slide into home. So, Steve Stone’s “bum” could be front and center in the photo.
The odds still favor 1972. Barry Lersch did pitch in the second game of the June 6, 1971 doubleheader, but Dick Selma didn’t pitch at Candlestick during the day in 1971. Photos from two separate years seems unlikely but not impossible.
If you are still with me, you are probably asking yourself, “who the hell cares about Willie Montanez sliding into home or pitchers’ butts?” Without a doubt, these are valid questions. My retort is this: I used this as a forum to show some of the great “warts and all” action photos from this era. To me, these photos are exponentially better than modern shots. The backgrounds and multiple players provide clues and context lacking with today’s cards. Besides, it’s important to know which long ago Giants hurler left his butt in San Francisco!