#CardCorner: 1987 Donruss Mike Krukow

Part of the CARD CORNER series
Written by: Tom Schott

Mike Krukow put together his best season when the San Francisco Giants needed it most.

It was 1986 – 30 years ago – and the Giants were coming off their second straight last-place finish in the National League Western Division and the only 100-loss season in the franchise’s tradition-rich history. Owner Bob Lurie had given new general manager Al Rosen and new field manager Roger Craig a “mandate for change,” which led to the roster being thoroughly revamped following the 1985 season.

One of the few Giants’ holdovers was Krukow, a right-handed pitcher who was in his fourth season with San Francisco. During spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., the fiery competitor declared that he wanted to win 20 games.

That’s precisely what he did.

Krukow posted a 20-9 record with a 3.05 ERA, ranking among the National League leaders in wins (second), ERA (eighth), complete games (10–fourth), shutouts (2–tied for fifth), innings pitched (245–sixth) and strikeouts (178–ninth). He finished third in balloting for the Cy Young Award, behind Mike Scott of the Houston Astros and Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Along the way, Krukow was selected to the National League All-Star team. He was also included in a set of Donruss All-Stars trading cards, created by Leaf, Inc. and released the following year. From 1983 to 1989, Leaf produced a variety of Donruss All-Stars card sets, in addition to its annual base sets.

1987 Mike Krukow Donruss card. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The 1987 set consisted of 60 cards (including a checklist) of 1986 All-Stars, each card measuring 3 1/2 by 5 inches, bigger than the more traditional dimensions of 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. Krukow is depicted on card No. 58, although the photograph of him – following through in his distinctive pitching delivery – is not from the 1986 All-Star Game, which was played at the Astrodome in Houston. Krukow is wearing the Giants’ grey road uniform; the National League All-Stars wore their home garb since the Astros were a member of the Senior Circuit at the time.

Other aspects of the card, however, are All-Star Game-centric. The front has the stately National League shield logo. The back features Krukow’s statistics from the game (in which he threw one scoreless inning) and the 1986 Midsummer Classic logo, along with his standard biographical information, career highlights and the Giants logo.

Krukow, whose repertoire included an overhand curveball that routinely mesmerized batters and froze them at the plate, became San Francisco’s first 20-game winner since left-hander Ron Bryant went 24-12 in 1973. Krukow also became the franchise’s winningest right-hander for a single season since Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry compiled a 23-13 record in 1970. It took Krukow the full extent of the regular season to reach the milestone; he picked up victory No. 20 on the final day, an 11-2 decision over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. He helped his own cause by driving in the Giants’ first two runs.

There were two other high points from that season:

* Krukow earned his 100th career win with a complete-game, 5-1 decision (and a career-high tying 12 strikeouts) against the Dodgers at Candlestick Park on Aug. 15.

* He equaled his career best with a two-hit, 1-0 shutout of the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium on Sept. 7 en route to earning National League Player of the Week and Pitcher of the Month honors.

Meanwhile, the Giants finished 83-79, producing the greatest one-year turnaround in San Francisco history. After leading or sharing first place in the Western Division for 47 days, the surprising Giants wound up third, 13 games behind Houston.

A native of Long Beach, Calif., Krukow started his career with the Chicago Cubs. He pitched for them from 1976 to 1981 and for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1982 before being traded to the Giants on Dec. 14, 1982. The deal sent Krukow, left-handed pitcher Mark Davis, and minor league outfielder Charles Penigar to San Francisco in exchange for future Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan and left-hander Al Holland.

After his career year of 1986, Krukow went only 5-6 with a 4.80 ERA during the 1987 season, but he authored a nifty complete-game, 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He scattered nine singles (four of them consecutively in the second inning, when the Cardinals scored their two runs) and one walk, while striking out three batters. Krukow continued to pitch for the Giants through their 1989 pennant-winning campaign.

In seven seasons with San Francisco, Krukow compiled a 66-56 record with a 3.84 ERA in 186 games. His overall 14-year career statistics included a 124-117 record with a 3.90 ERA in 369 games.

Known for his strong presence in the clubhouse, Krukow was the back-to-back recipient of the Giants’ “Willie Mac” Award in 1985 and ’86. The award is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership displayed by Hall of Famer Willie McCovey throughout his career.

In 1999, Krukow was selected by Bay Area media as the starting right-handed pitcher on the Giants’ All-Decade team for the 1980s. In 2008, he became an inaugural member of the Giants’ Wall of Fame, a tribute to the organization’s greatest players.

With charisma that made him a fan favorite, Krukow seamlessly moved from the pitching mound to the broadcast booth, where he has served as a color analyst for the Giants on television since 1991 and on radio since 1995. He teams with former Giants second baseman Duane Kuiper to form one of the game’s most entertaining broadcast duos, regarded equally for their baseball acumen and sense of humor.

An eight-time Emmy Award winner, Krukow was named the 2015 California Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Krukow’s scorecard from Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in 2014 is part of the collection at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

In 2006, Krukow was diagnosed with inclusion-body myositis, a degenerative muscle disease. Although not life-threatening, it is life-altering, and there is no cure. Krukow, who did not make his condition public until 2014, wears braces on both legs and relies on a cane or walking stick and a motorized scooter to get around. On Sept. 20, 2015, Krukow addressed the crowd at AT&T Park in San Francisco prior to the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks so as to raise awareness and money for the Myositis Association.

Predictably, the 64-year-old Krukow has handled his physical challenge with the same character and spirit that has defined his playing and broadcasting career.

Tom Schott is a baseball historian and collector.
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Part of the CARD CORNER series