Early in the year, on April 23, 1958, the St. Louis Cardinals played the Giants in Seals Stadium and jumped out to a 5-0 lead in their very first time up, knocking Gomez out before he could retire more than two batters. The Giants, over the course of the next seven innings, managed to scratch out a couple of runs. In the fourth inning, when they scored their first run, Whitey Lockman batted for Thomas, the starting catcher, who was then replaced by Schmidt. But the Giants still trailed 6-2 going into the bottom of the eighth.
In that inning, however, San Francisco rallied for two more runs, and in the course of the uprising, Ray Jablonski pinch hit for Schmidt and singled. Rigney, who would use twenty-four players in the game, brought Testa in to run for Jablonski. Testa doesn't remember that today, but according to the box score, he remained on first as the Giants were finally retired.
What Testa remembers is going in to catch the top of the ninth.
"I was ready. Oh, I was ready to go," Testa says. "I ran down the right field line from the bullpen, got my stuff on, and was all ready. Nobody said anything. It was 'just do it.'"
Marv Grissom was the Giants pitcher when Testa went in. "He kept shaking me off a lot and moving me around from one side of the plate to the other. I just kept putting down fingers 'til he got what he wanted."
In his first outing in the major leagues, Testa made an error on a wind-blown pop foul that looked as if it would land in the grandstand between home and first base. He followed it over to the stands and then the infamous freezing, swirling San Francisco winds blew it back and it landed near the first base coaching box. "It just sort of drifted. Neither I nor Cepeda touched it, but I was the nearest to it, so I got the error," he says. "I looked at him and he looked at me and I just put on my mask and sort of hid behind home plate."
In that top of the ninth, the Cardinals scored again. "On that occasion, Grissom threw his sinker -- he referred to it as a screwball -- to Stan Musial," Testa says. "It was just where he wanted it -- low and outside. I thought it was a perfect pitch, and 'The Man' obliged by hitting a line-drive double down the left field line. It knocked in a run and put them
ahead by 7-4."
In the bottom of the ninth, however, the Giants came back to load the bases. "There was either one out or no outs [there were two outs]," Testa says, "and I was on deck. [Giants shortstop] Daryl Spencer was up. I was sure I was going to get an at-bat, and I was ready to swing at anything because I knew I would not get many chances to hit after that. I'm thinking, 'First thing that's over.' I was ready to take my hack. I figured I'd try to go up
the middle with it, not pull it. That's the way I hit mostly. So I had a sort of game plan about how I'd hit.
"So what does Spencer do but hit a grand slam in that wind and the game was over. He hit a shot. Into the wind and over the left field fence. Boy, he had a lot of power. I think he led the Japanese league in home runs a few years later. Anyway, I'm on deck and I'm hoping it wouldn't go out. As I shook his hand when he crossed home plate, I didn't exactly compliment him. I cussed him out. I said, 'You son of a so-and-so.' Later, in the clubhouse, I congratulated him, but I still let him have it for not giving me a chance to hit."
About his own play that day, Testa says, "Afterward, I was relieved that I got into a game, but it was bittersweet. I was happy I had it under my belt, but I had mixed emotions about my performance, the error, and not getting to hit."
From Once Around the Bases by Richard Tellis.
Copyright © 1998 by Triumph Books and Richard Tellis. Reprinted with permission.