Will Ghost of Atlee Hammaker (Who Isn't Dead Yet) Haunt Tim Lincecum?

Categories: Sports
Atlee Hammaker.jpg
Redrum...redrum...redrum...
As we wrote on opening day, San Francisco Giants fans have been all too well trained to listen for that other shoe to drop. A team that has never brought a championship trophy back to this city has subtly taught us that every joyous moment will be eventually ameliorated by great sadness; every scintillating win will eventually only serve to lead to someone else's hometown team piling up after the final World Series victory.

Our tradition of searching for dark clouds within silver linings goes deep. In fact, if ever I wanted to be thrown out of the window by my father all I'd have to do is this: Following Tim Lincecum being named All-Star game starter, I would simply mention two words -- Atlee Hammaker.

See? All the old-school Giants fans just tasted bile. That's because Hammaker, who sported a 1.70 Earned-Run Average heading into the 1983 All-Star Game, was touched for seven runs in just two-thirds of an inning -- including a grand slam by Fred Lynn, the first bases-loaded home run in All-Star history. It'd be simplistic to say that this was the cause of Hammaker's decline -- but he never put together another strong season after that, and will be forever known as the guy who hung that breaking ball to Jose Oquendo in Game 7 of the '87 NLCS.

Personally, I've always viewed his uniform No. 14 as the Giants' own version of Room 237 in the Overlook Hotel. And, what's more, he inaugurated a baffling tradition of Giants' pitchers getting the piƱata treatment in All-Star games:  
1989: Starting pitcher Rick Reuschel surrendered a titanic home run to Bo Jackson that sailed nearly 500 feet into the center-field bleachers. Even more memorably, one of the idiots chasing it down tripped and face-planted into the back of a chair for all the world to see;

1990: Late reliever Jeff Brantley, a man responsible for many remote controls tossed into television screens throughout the Bay Area, lost the All-Star game, surrendering the game's only two runs;

1993: John Burkett, not yet a grizzled journeyman, gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning while Rod Beck surrendered one more run -- on a double by Terry Steinbach that actually lodged in the wall, if memory serves;

1997: Shawn Estes surrenders the two-run home run that loses the game; Local sportswriters quickly feel the need to write stories titled "Estes Is Not Hammaker." That's true -- he was worse. Both were left-handed and oft-injured, but Estes turned out to be a headcase -- who memorably wandered off second base after jamming his ankle in the 2000 NLDS and was tagged out ... a move that would have been embarrassing for a Little Leaguer. After 1997, Estes never pitched at an All-Star level again;

1998: Closer Robb Nen is touched for three runs (one earned) on three hits in just one inning;

2002: Nen surrenders the tying run in an embarassing 7-7 tie;

2003: Starting pitcher Jason Schmidt blows through the first inning in five pitches en route to two scoreless frames;

2008: Closer Brian Wilson retires both men he faces.
So, those last two outings ought to aussage the fears of Giants fans. Plus, we know how silly it is to seriously pontificate that anything that took place in a 1983 exhibition game -- when Lincecum was not yet born -- will have any bearing on this week's contest.

Logic be damned, we're nervous still. There are two names we never want to hear uttered in the same breath as "Tim Lincecum": "Atlee Hammaker" and "Herb Score."

Actually, make that three names: "Tara Reid."


 


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