Mike LaCoss:An Unsung Giant I Will Sing About
By Gary Oversen
Well probably not sing. But tell you an amazing story about one of our San Francisco Giants that made it through their career without much fanfare. But they were actually really, really good. We just didn’t have as much social media back then to be informed of amazing feats. The east-coast bias is real, and once they go to bed in New York and Bristol, our part of the country is no longer viewed by more than half of the country. (It’s not their fault, they do have to go to work the following day.)
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The day was August 16th, 1987. Just like today, it was a Sunday game against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park.
Here were the starting lineups:
LA: SS Mariano Duncan, 1B Danny Heep, RF Ken Landreaux, CF John Shelby, C Mike Scioscia, 2B Steve Sax, LF Chris Gwynn, 3B Phil Garner, P Bob Welch.
SF: CF Mike Aldrete, 3B Kevin Mitchell, LF Jeffrey Leonard, RF Candy Maldonado, 1B Will Clark, C Bob Brenly, 2B Robby Thompson, SS Jose Uribe, P Mike LaCoss.
If this game were played today, Mike LaCoss would be followed around by TMZ Sports for at least a couple of weeks. The popularity would be enormous in San Francisco based on what he did and who it was against. SO let’s take you back to that day and see how LaCoss became Le Boss.
It was one of those Roger Craig/Tommy Lasorda games. Both teams relying on their pitching to keep them in the game until one of them could call a hit and run. Then maybe a late squeeze to put the team ahead to stay.
But this one really stayed in the center as far as momentum for much of the game. Both starters were throwing darts.
Duncan actually started the game off by laying down a bunt, which Clark took to first unassisted. After that, LaCoss set down the next seven until Sax hit a single in the third. But he was immediately cut down at second by Maldonado trying to stretch his single into a double.
Another single by Welch in the third inning was wasted by a ground out by Duncan, and that would be the last threat until much later in the game.
Things were quiet offensively for the Giants that day. Welch retied the first seven with ease, and pitched out of a mini jam (two-on two-out) in the third.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Giants got a single from Brenly, but he was caught stealing, and then Thompson walked. Uribe then reached on an error by SS Craig Shipley (who had replaced Duncan), and LaCoss bunted them to second and third with two outs. But Welch struck out Aldrete to end the threat.
Both pitchers pitched through the eighth, with Welch batting the the top of the ninth, but replaced by reliever Tim Leary to open the bottom of the inning.
LaCoss, with the score still 0-0, gave up a single to open the ninth, but after Welch grounded into a force, he got Shipley to ground into a double-play to end the inning.
Leary set the Giants down one-two-three in the bottom of the ninth, and LaCoss made his way out to the mound to begin the tenth. Heep walked to open the inning, and Landreaux bunted him over to second. LaCoss then struck out Shelby, intentionally walked Scioscia, and got Sax to ground into a force to end the inning.
The Giants then got a two-out pinch-hit single by Chili Davis (who was hitting for LaCoss) and then an RBI double by the Eddie Milner (who passed away just this past November) to win the game.
LaCoss got the win, pitching 10 complete, and is the least pitcher in franchise history to pitch 10+ innings (and most likely last to do so with pitch counts). He gave up three hits in his ten scoreless, and struck out four while walking three (one intentional).
The game was played in front of 52,374 and the Giants were tied for first place with the Cincinnati Reds.
LaCoss finished 13-10 on the year with a respectable 3.68 ERA. He even had another complete game that year, and was a huge shot in the arm for the team as it made its way to a rare playoff appearance.
LaCoss was one of the original Yusmeiro Petit‘s who play a very important role on a team due to their production and unselfishness. They are better than what their numbers show, and without them, teams would not make the playoffs. Even in the World Series year of 1989, LaCoss went 10-10 with 6 saves and a 3.17 ERA. If those numbers look strange, they are. He started 18 games and finished 16 games. A 3.17 ERA pitching the combined roles is very impressive.
(He even had a .230 batting average, with 14 hits in 1986)
LaCoss was an All-Star with the Reds in 1979, and definitely deserved at least one trip while with the Giants. But if we look at just this one impressive outing against the one team that you want to see them do it against, you realize just how much of an unsung Giant Mike LaCoss really is and was.
Thank you Mike, you are now…..”sung”.
It is interesting to note: This game was played predominately by the starters. Milner came in to run for Aldrete in the eighth and then stayed in to play center field. And Davis pinch hit for LaCoss. Shipley replaced Dincan in the fourth, and Leary came into the game in the ninth. Length of the game: 2:52.