San Francisco Giants
From BR Bullpen
Franchise Record: (through 2013) 10,692-9,188-156-7
Post Season Record: 100-90-2
 Team History
The San Francisco Giants began play in 1958, when the New York Giants moved to the West Coast, at the same time as the Brooklyn Dodgers, who became the Los Angeles Dodgers. It took the team 52 seasons to win its first World Series in its new home; the dry spell ended when the Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series.
The move from New York City was highly controversial at the time, because the team had been one of the mainstays of the National League since the 1880s, winning 16 pennants during its time. However, the Polo Grounds, where they played their games, was becoming outmoded, and the team ran into difficulties with the city of New York in the mid-1950s in its efforts to find a new ballpark. As their Brooklyn brothers were experiencing similar difficulties, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to join him in moving to the west coast, which was virgin territory for Major League Baseball at the time. The decision was announced late in the 1957 season. Brooklyn took over the prize Los Angeles market, while the Giants settled for California's second largest city, San Francisco.
The Giants and Dodgers had been the class of the National League for a number of years prior to the move, between them winning every pennant in the senior circuit between 1949 and 1956 (except for 1950, when the Philadelphia Phillies barely squeezed past the Dodgers), before the Milwaukee Braves displaced them in their final season in the New York area. The Giants began play in California in 1958 using Seals Stadium, previously used by the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League as a temporary home. In 1960, they moved to purpose-built Candlestick Park, a stadium plagued by constant frigid winds coming from San Francisco Bay which made both players and spectators uncomfortable. That, and the presence starting in 1968 of the Oakland Athletics across the bay in Oakland, meant that the Giants were never able to dominate their market the way the Dodgers did in Los Angeles. They were on the verge of moving to Toronto in 1975 and to St. Petersburg in the early 1990s until the building of Pacific Bell Park, which opened in 2000 which would prove to be a much more pleasant home.
On the field, the team that moved from New York was solid, although aging. It included one world-class superstar, CF Willie Mays, who would never be as popular in San Francisco as he had been in New York, in spite of putting up superlative numbers into the early 1970s. Soon, the team began turning out a slew of great young players, including Rookie of the Year winners Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey, and pitcher Juan Marichal, all of them future Hall of Famers. The Giants of that era were known as a veritable outfielder factory: they would seemingly produce excellent young outfielders every year, but were unable to match these with pitchers and infielders of equal talent. Among the parade of great flychasers were the three Alou brothers - Felipe, Matty and Jesus; Willie Kirkland; Manny Mota; Jim Ray Hart; Ken Henderson; Ollie Brown; Bobby Bonds; George Foster; Dave Kingman; Gary Matthews; Garry Maddox; Terry Whitfield; Larry Herndon; Jack Clark and Chili Davis, bringing the pipeline into the early 1980s at which point it finally ran dry. The Giants could not possibly use all that outfield talent. They tried moving McCovey and Cepeda to first base, and Hart, Henderson and Kingman to third to keep more of them in the line-up at the same time, but mainly they traded away their surplus, but for meager returns. Most notorious is the trade of Cepeda to St. Louis in return for pitcher Ray Sadecki prior to the 1967 season. Cepeda became the National League MVP for the pennant-winning Cardinals, while Sadecki was a bust... Also worthy of note in their early years, the Giants were one of the first teams to scout the Dominican Republic; it landed them Marichal, the Alou brothers, Ozzie Virgil and Elias Sosa, among others.
In 1962, the Giants, managed by Alvin Dark, won their first West Coast pennant, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game playoff. The faced the New York Yankees in the World Series but lost in seven games. The Series was not decided until the very last pitch, when McCovey hit a scorching line drive that a leaping 2B Bobby Richardson snagged at the tip of his outstretched glove with the tying run on third base. The Giants continued to contend over the rest of the decade, but did not win another pennant, while the Dodgers won three world championships. Other key players of the era were starting pitchers Gaylord Perry and Mike McCormick, winner of the 1967 National League Cy Young Award, RP Stu Miller and Bobby Bolin, C Tom Haller, 2B Chuck Hiller, SS Tito Fuentes and 3B Jim Davenport.
The Giants returned to the postseason in 1971, under manager Charlie Fox. With Mays and Marichal at the end of their dominance, McCovey, Bonds and Perry were key factors in securing a first NL West title, but they were beaten by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS. The Giants made another fateful trade after that season, sending future Hall of Famer Perry to the Cleveland Indians for fireballer Sam McDowell. However, McDowell was nearing the end of his usefulness, while Perry, although the same age, still had a decade of excellent pitching left in him. Over the rest of the decade, the Giants were decent, but were outdistanced by the resurgent Dodgers, and by the Big Red Machine - the Cincinnati Reds -, who between them represented the National League in six of seven World Series between 1972 and 1978. The Giants had some isolated good performances during that era: lefty Ron Bryant had a dominant season in 1973, winning 24 games, then injured himself in a swimming pool accident the next year and never was effective again; they had a string of great rookie seasons by Garry Maddox in 1972, Gary Matthews who won the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year Award, and P John Montefusco who did the same in 1975. In 1978, led by the young Jack Clark and a strong starting rotation featuring Vida Blue, Ed Halicki, Bob Knepper, Jim Barr and Montefusco, they made a run at the Dodgers but finished in 3rd place. When the pitchers did not perform as well the next season, manager Joe Altobelli was fired and replaced by old-school Dave Bristol, and the team sunk in the standings.
With Frank Robinson, the first black manager in National League history, at the helm, the Giants made an unexpected run at a division title in 1982, but fell short on the season’s last week-end in a three-team race with the Atlanta Braves and Dodgers. The keys that year were 2B Joe Morgan, who played very well in his only season in a Giants uniform, and team mainstays Clark and Darrell Evans, and a very strong bullpen that relied on Greg Minton, Gary Lavelle, Al Holland and Fred Breining. That performance was a flash in the pan though. The early 1980s are better remembered as an era of underperformance, with chronically weak-hitting SS Johnnie LeMaster the poster boy for the era. Things turned around in 1987 when manager Roger Craig made the team jell, and a number of bold mid-season trades brought in pitchers Rick Reuschel, Dave Dravecky, Don Robinson and Craig Lefferts to back up a strong offense led by 1B Will Clark, OF Chili Davis, Jeffrey Leonard and Candy Maldonado, and 3B Kevin Mitchell, another of the key mid-year acquisitions. That team took the St. Louis Cardinals to the 7th game of the NLCS before bowing out. The same core of players, with 2B Robby Thompson and P Scott Garrelts also contributing, took the Giants back to the postseason in 1989. This time, they defeated the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS to reach the World Series for the first time since 1962. This was the infamous Earthquake Series, suspended for ten days after the Loma Prieta earthquake shook Candlestick Park a few minutes prior to the start of Game 3 on October 17. The Giants had lost the first two games to the Oakland Athletics, and would be swept when the series resumed for its anticlimactic finish after the earthquake’s debris had been cleared.
The 1990s were marked by a dramatic free agent signing before the 1993 season, when Barry Bonds left the Pittsburgh Pirates to come to San Francisco, where his father Bobby had starred in the early 1970s. That first season, the team won over 100 games and was locked in a tremendous pennant race with the Atlanta Braves, which ended on the season’s last day with the Giants coming up short. Benefitting from the Chicago White Sox’s "White Flag Trade" in 1997, the Giants returned to the postseason, but were beaten by the wild card Florida Marlins in the NLDS. In 2001, Barry Bonds began a string of herculean seasons that would later be tainted by the stain of steroid allegations. That year, he shattered Mark McGwire's record of 70 home runs in a season, banging out 73, then over the following seasons would attain unbelievable summits in OBP, OPS, OPS+, bases on balls and intentional walks as pitchers began to walk him systematically when he came up to the plate with men on base, while he would crush home runs at an alarming rate when they would dare to pitch to him. That performance, backed by some solid teammates in 2B Jeff Kent, SS Rich Aurilia and C Benito Santiago, brought the Giants back into the postseason in 2002. They made it all the way to the World Series, where they faced the Anaheim Angels. Bonds was absolutely dominant, but the Giants' pitchers - Livan Hernandez, Russ Ortiz, Kirk Rueter, Robb Nen... - were unable to contain the Angels' powerful bats. Leading 3-2 in the Series, the Giants had a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of Game 6, but their bullpen collapsed, giving up 6 runs in the 7th and 8th after manager Dusty Baker removed starter Ortiz from the game. The Angels then got 4 runs over the first three innings of Game 7 against Hernandez, and won that game 4-1 to claim their first World Championship, leaving Giant fans stunned.
Baker was replaced as skipper by Felipe Alou in 2003. Bonds had another great season, the team won 100 games, but they once again ran into the Florida Marlins in the postseason. A key error by Gold Glove OF Jose Cruz in the 11th inning of Game 3 was the turning point in their 4-game loss in the NLDS, denying the Giants a chance to return to the World Series. Bonds was slowed down by injuries starting in 2004, but still eclipsed Hank Aaron’s career record for home runs in 2006. However, he found no takers for his contract after the season and was forced to retire while the Giants chose to head in a new direction. In 2005, the San Francisco Giants became the first franchise in major league history to reach 10,000 wins (including the results of the New York Giants and their predecessors).
Signs of a renaissance became apparent in the late 2000s with the emergence of young Tim Lincecum as one of the best starting pitchers in the major leagues. He won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, and youngsters Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter in 2009, joined him to give the team the core of a solid young starting rotation. 3B Pablo Sandoval emerged as a fan favorite that year while Brian Wilson established himself as a top closer, then in 2010, the team caught lightning in a bottle. Free agent 1B Aubrey Huff had a tremendous year, rookies C Buster Posey and P Madison Bumgarner emerged as top performers, and suddenly the team was again a contender. They trailed the San Diego Padres for most of the season before catching them in early September, trading the lead back-and-forth over the next few weeks, and finally clinching the division title on the season’s last day. They then defeated the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the first two rounds of the postseason to meet the Texas Rangers in the World Series. After a slugfest in Game 1, which they won 11-7, the Giants' pitching took over, with Cain and Bumgarner leading the team to shutouts in Games 2 and 4, and Lincecum finishing off the Series by giving up a run over 8 innings in Game 5. The Giants had finally won their first World Championship in San Francisco !
After a disappointing season in 2011, the Giants were back in strength in 2012, winning another NL West title, and then staging back-to-back tremendous comebacks in the first two rounds of the postseason, first coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, and then from trailing 3 games to 1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. The surge came in spite of Lincecum having the worst season of his career and closer Wilson being injured all season, while Huff was relegated to a part-time pinch-hitting role. The new heroes on the mound were Cain, author of a perfect game during the season, and Bumgarner, and the re-born Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. Posey led the offense, backed by CF Angel Pagan and Sandoval. The season almost went pear-shaped in mid-August when LF Melky Cabrera, who was the team's best hitter until that point, was suspended for the rest of the season because of a failed drug test. The Giants could have reeled from the blow, but instead quickly cut ties with the disgraced outfielder and regrouped in exemplary fashion to reach the 2012 World Series, where they faced the Detroit Tigers after winning three times while facing elimination in both the NLDS and NLCS. It was a different story in the Fall Classic, however: carried by an outstanding performance by their starting pitchers and a three-homer game by Sandoval that set the tone in Game 1, they swept the Tigers to win their second World Championship in three years.
 Further Reading
- Dan Fost: Giants Past & Present, MVP Books, Osceola, WI, 2010.
- Andrew Goldblatt: The Giants and the Dodgers: Four Cities, Two Teams, One Rivalry, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003.
- Matt Johanson: Game of My Life: San Francisco Giants, Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL, 2007.
- Chuck Nan: Fifty Years by the Bay: The San Francisco Giants, 1958-2007, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN, 2007.
- John Thorn: Total Baseball, Total Sports Publishing, 1989, 1995
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
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