The Two Faces of "The Count of Montefusco," Brave and Bold in his SF Giants Career, after he was compared to O.J. Simpson

By JonathanMcCorkell
Sep. 29, 2016

On this day, Sept. 28, 1976, San Francisco Giants pitcher John Montefusco threw a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves in his just his second MLB season. 

Montefusco was a remarkable talent in his young career for the Giants, but in a franchise with so many all-time great players "The Count" is often overlooked. He won the National League rookie-of-the-year in 1975 and in his first major league at-bat he hit a home run as a pitcher! His bravado and willingness to challenge opposing players and teams was the stuff of legend.

In the days leading up to a July 4th, 1975 start at the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montefusco announced in radio interviews that he would beat the Dodgers. He did, with a nail-biitng 1-0, nine inning shutout.  

During a 1976 interview the reporter was discovered The Count was playing fetch with his dog. The ball he was throwing was an autographed Johnny Bench ball, which Bench had signed for The Count the previous season after he struck him out. Montefusco had went on record saying that Bench would be his 200th strikeout victim that season, and he was. In return, Bench signed the ball for him. 

A sampling of quotes from a June 7, 1976 Sports Illustrated Article entitled "The Lip Who is Split" by Ron Fimrite explains clearly that MLB had taken notice of the young, boisterous star. "He's brought new life to the game," says Charlie Hough, the Dodger pitcher. "The characters in baseball aren't like they used to be."

"I think he's got a good thing going for him with his talk," says Hough's teammate Don Sutton. "I commend him for it. It adds a little excitement to the game, ?† la Dizzy Dean. He's good for baseball. He's good for that city. San Francisco needed someone like him."

I think the guy is great...all the talking he does. He likes to beat the Dodgers. Beautiful. It draws people. The fans are going to come out here to boo him and hope to see us knock him out. That's going to attract a few thousand more fans, and that's what we are really here for."

"Everybody likes The Count," says Giant Pitcher John D'Acquisto. "He gives everybody a competitive attitude. His opponents like him because he makes them try harder. And we try harder to live up to his predictions. I can only say good things about him because he's such a good person."

But "The Lip Who is Split" also gave early hints and warning signs to his future.

"'Montefusco has a lovely airline stewardess girl friend, Dory Samples, with whom he resides in a modest rented house at Half Moon Bay, a beach community 20 miles south of San Francisco. He walks Henry and rides his horse—named, sure enough, Count—on the beach. At night he and Dory "put a few logs on the fire, eat some pizza and watch television," a routine that would scarcely intimidate Walt Frazier or Broadway Joe. Separated from the ball park and an adoring press, he is almost never The Count. "It's very confusing," says Dory. "He's really two people. Here, he's just John. Then I see him on television, and all of a sudden there's someone out there being The Count.'"... "Have we a dual personality here, a mild-mannered dog walker combined with You Know Me Al? Dory holds firm to the two-people view and clearly prefers the dog walker." 

His girlfriend eventually became his wife, Doris. 

In 1997 things turned ugly for The Count. Montefusco was arrested and charged in New Jersey with sexually assaulting and numerous other felony counts on his former wife. 

The once young couple who enjoyed pizza by the fire, had recently divorced after 23 years of marriage. He was held on $60,000 bail and was charged with aggravated sexual assault, making terroristic threats, assault, burglary and criminal mischief. Authorities at the time said, Montefusco threatened and attacked Doris. In the first incident, on Oct. 2, he was alleged to have forced Ms. Montefusco to have sex after the couple had dropped one of their two teen-age daughters at a mall. Then, a few days later Montefusco went to Doris' home, cut her phone lines, and prevented her from leaving the house, said Police Officer Joan Murphy of Marlboro, where Doris lived.

Montefusco was indicted in December 1997 and was then held on $1 million in bail. He spent two years in jail before he was acquitted of the most serious charges and found guilty of criminal trespass and simple assault and sentenced to three years of probation in 2000. 

During a March 19, 2000 broadcast on ESPN's "SportsCenter 2000," Doris Montefusco had likened her ex-husband to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted in 1995 of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. An ESPN announcer during the broadcast had paraphrased Montefusco's ex-wife as saying "the only difference between this and the O.J. Simpson case is that she's alive to talk about it. Nicole Simpson is not.

John Montefusco tried to bite back and filed a defamation lawsuit, which was dismissed and the judge ruled, "that being compared to O. J. Simpson is not defamation."