"Yessir, I've sure had an interesting career," said Al Oliver, brushing a fleck of dust from his new San Francisco Giants uniform. "My wife is writing a book about our lives together. I lost both of my parents young—my mother when I was 11 and my father on my first day in the big leagues. Nothing has happened since then that could shake me. Nothing can make me bitter. The trades? Well, I would've liked to have been a Pirate all my life. I started in their organization and played there for nine full seasons. I'd become part of the community. Then, for no reason I could think of, they traded me to Texas. That's baseball. I asked to be traded by Texas. And I was only in Montreal for two years. They didn't even get a chance to know me. But last year was the most depressing year of my life, and I'm not a person who gets depressed easily. We had all that talent and couldn't win. Then when they signed Pete [Rose], I thought maybe they'd trade me, but those thoughts diminished when I got to spring training, still an Expo. Actually, I was looking forward to playing with Pete. We had more than 6,500 hits between us [3,990 for Rose, 2,546 for Oliver], and as far as we could tabulate, that's more than any two guys who ever played on the same club together. The funny thing is, I'd gone to a team party the night before I was traded. And I didn't hear a word about it there. The next day, a doctor friend of mine from Columbus, Ohio heard it on the radio and called to tell me about it. But everything's in order now. Yessir."
The Giants got Oliver in return for Fred Breining, a pitcher who was subsequently discovered to be damaged goods with a sore right shoulder. It's a deal that may be adjusted if Breining's injury proves to be lasting, but the Giants have Oliver, no matter what. And they couldn't be happier because he'll fill the large hole left at first base by Darrell Evans' departure to free agency. Oliver's lefthanded bat will complement right-side sluggers Jack Clark and Jeff Leonard. With another Montreal fugitive, Manny Trillo (signed as a free agent), at second and utility man Joel Youngblood assigned permanent duty at third, the Giants have a set lineup. Johnnie LeMaster, who has blossomed in recent seasons, is the shortstop, and Clark, Leonard and a purportedly rejuvenated Chili Davis (.233 last year, down from .261 in '82) are the outfielders. But the Giants are still looking for a first-rate catcher, and their best pitcher, Atlee Hammaker, is still recovering from shoulder problems.
The exuberant Oliver should restore some levity to a clubhouse that, with the moody Clark, has been positively funereal the past few seasons. "I'm a happy man," says Oliver. "I'm a Libra. I like beauty, peace and harmony."
Greg Minton (22 saves) and Gary Lavelle (20) gave San Francisco the league's first-ever 20-20 bullpen. You had to hand it to the Giants on defense; that was perhaps the only way they wouldn't drop the ball. Giant fielders had the double distinction of making more errors (171) and turning fewer DPs (109) than any team in the majors.