When one thinks of storied franchises in Baseball the Yankees immediately come to mind, thanks to Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and 27 titles. One can even think of the Dodgers. It was in Brooklyn where the color barrier was broken and in Los Angeles where for a 5 year period a LHP pitcher dominated the game like no other. However, the very fabric of our National Pastime is sewn with the Giants.
Starting back in 1883 through 1957 some of the best to ever walk onto a baseball field walked onto that field wearing a Giants uniform. Legends such as Christy Mathewson (373-188, 2.13 ERA and 79 shutouts), Carl Hubbell (best known for mastering the screwball and for fanning Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons and Cronin in succession in the 1934 All-Star Game), Mel Ott (the 1st NLer to surpass 500 HR‘s), Bill Terry (341 career BA and the last NLer to hit over 400), ‘Iron Man’ Joe McGinnity (246 wins in 10 years) and Roger Connor (baseball’s original HR king) all played for the Giants.
They were managed by John McGraw, the 2nd winningest mgr ever. McGraw compiled a .586 winning percentage over 33 years. In 1904 the Giants won the pennant but McGraw refused to let his team play in the World Series. The American League was ‘inferior’ as he put it and they didn’t deserve to be on the same field with his team.
In 1951, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 ½ games on August 11. Although Brooklyn played well down the stretch (26-22) the Giants took it to another level, playing an unfathomable 841, going 37-7. It was arguably the greatest comeback ever. It culminated with Bobby Thomson’s HR in a playoff game against Brooklyn to determine the pennant. Thomson’s HR is considered the greatest ever in Baseball history. Russ Hodges’ cry of ‘The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!’ has gone down as perhaps the most memorable line ever spoken by a broadcaster.
Willie Mays catch in 1954 is the best and most famous defensive play in World Series history.
It was October 1956 and as usual, Brooklyn was battling the Yankees in the Fall Classic. But as the Yankees prevailed in 7 games there was a storm brewing. Rumors were intensifying that the Dodgers as well as the Giants were considering moving.
Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was seeking a new home. Ebbets Field, while beloved by faithful fans, was becoming run down. The surrounding neighborhood was unsafe. In spite of the teams unparalleled success throughout the 1950’s the small stadium rarely sold out.
O’Malley was butting heads with Robert Moses, the construction coordinator for the city. O’Malley set his sights on a plot of land at the Brooklyn waterfront. Moses, however, had the power to condemn the land. And he did just that. Instead, he tried to bully O’Malley into moving to Flushing Meadows. O’Malley was irate and began looking elsewhere. The exact spot that Moses had in mind would later be the site of Shea.
O’Malley was heavily courted by city officials from Los Angeles. At the time baseball did not extend beyond St. Louis and it would be too costly to fly to California for just one team. O’Malley needed someone else to move.
Enter Horace Stoneham, principal owner of the Giants. Stoneham was also looking for a new home. Their stadium, the Polo Grounds, was also badly in need of repair and Stoneham, like O’Malley, was getting nowhere with city officials. He had been leaning towards moving his Giants to Minneapolis. However, he was being enticed by officials from San Francisco. That, along with O’Malley’s skill of persuasion, convinced Stoneham to head west.
When the Giants Board of Directors voted, there were only two individuals who voted for them to stay put: Joan Whitney Payson and M. Donald Grant.
Grant would become the Chairman of the Mets. It was he who was the driving force in bringing Gil Hodges ‘home to New York’ in 1968 to manage.
Joan Payson would become the first principal owner of the Mets. But she never stopped loving her Giants. It was she who was very influential in the design of the ‘NY’ logo on the Mets cap. As a tribute to the city’s baseball heritage, she wanted to use the exact same NY insignia as her Giants wore-Giant orange but now on a Dodger blue background. It was also Payson who was prominent behind the Mets getting Willie Mays in 1972. She was determined to have her idol finish out his career in the city he started.
In spite of many great players playing in San Francisco, a championship has alluded them. Only the Cubs and Indians have gone longer without winning.
As an organization the Giants have won 21 pennants, but 17 came in NY. They’ve won 8 World Series but all of those were in NY as well.
In 2002, they lost the World Series in 7 games to the Angels. In 62, they again lost in 7 games, this time to the Yankees. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th in game 7, the Giants put the tying and winning runs in scoring position but Willie McCovey lined out to end the series.
In 1989 they got swept by their cross-bay rivals, the A’s. But that series was more remembered for the massive 7.1 earthquake that hit the Bay Area. The quake hit at rush hour, 5:04 pm. 63 people were killed that day. But many had left work early and were in Candlestick Park or at home preparing for Game 3. Had the Giants not been in the World Series experts calculate the death toll would have been between 400-500.
Since moving west the Giants have had 9 MVP’s and 4 Rookie of the Year’s. In 1981 they became the first team in the NL to hire an African-American manager. 2 of the top 4 HR hitters of all time, 3 of the top 18, all played in SF.
The NY/SF Giants have won more games then any other team. They have 28 players enshrined in Cooperstown, also more then any other team.
Some of the biggest stars of the last half century have been San Francisco Giants. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Will Clark, the Alou brothers, Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent have all played for this team. In spite of this, the Giants have yet to win a Series.
Based on that, it’s almost hard to imagine them winning it all with Posey, Lincecum and Huff. It’s hard to believe that Matt Cain can do what Marichal couldn’t. But isn’t that what makes this game great?
It’s World Series time. Welcome to October…