Former Giants shortstop Spencer dead at 88

January 4th, 2017
New York Giants third baseman Daryl Spencer is tagged out by Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella in a 1953 game. Spencer, who played parts of 10 seasons with four teams, died on Monday. He was 88. (AP)HH/AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- Daryl Spencer, who hit the first home run in San Francisco Giants history, died Monday, according to a report in the Wichita Eagle. He was 88.

Playing shortstop and batting sixth, Spencer went deep against Los Angeles right-hander Don Drysdale with one out in the fourth inning at Seals Stadium in the inaugural Major League game on the West Coast. The date was April 15, 1958, less than a year after the Giants and Dodgers announced plans to leave New York for California.

Some observers might have considered the initial homer of this new era more authentic had it been hit by a veteran slugger such as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges or Willie Mays -- all of whom started that game.

However, it was no fluke.

Ahead of his time, Spencer was among relatively few middle infielders who possessed legitimate power. He belted 11 or more home runs in each of his first seven full Major League seasons (1953, 1956-61). Spencer had one of his best years during the Giants' first San Francisco campaign in 1958, batting .256 with 17 homers and a career-high 74 RBIs.

Interviewed in Steve Bitker's 1998 book "The Original San Francisco Giants," Spencer said, "I hear that as a trivia question every once in a while: Who hit the first Major League home run on the West Coast?"

The Giants traded Spencer in the 1959-60 offseason to the St. Louis Cardinals, who swapped him to the Dodgers during the 1961 season. Spencer's gut reaction upon being jettisoned by the Giants was shock.

"Yeah, I grew up with the Giants, and back in those days you had a lot of loyalty," Spencer said in the book. "You'd talk to the owners and everybody was family. It was so much different than it is now."

Spencer continued to cross paths with the Giants. On April 12, 1960, he started at shortstop and batted second for St. Louis in the first game at Candlestick Park. The Giants won, 3-1. He also was a Dodgers reserve in 1962 when they lost a three-game playoff to the Giants for the National League pennant. Spencer quite literally drowned his sorrows after the playoff finale.

"I think I drank a fifth of [whiskey] in about 30 minutes, and I don't even drink," Spencer said in the book.

The Dodgers released Spencer in mid-May of the 1963 season. The Reds signed him but released him two months later. In 1,098 big league games, Spencer hit .244 with 105 homers and 428 RBIs.

Spencer finished his career with the Hankyu Braves of the Japanese Pacific League. He spent seven years with the Braves (1964-68, 71-72), amassing 30 or more homers in three of his first four years with them.

A native of Wichita, Kan., Spencer was a 2004 inductee into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.