San Francisco Giants
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The San Francisco Giants are a Major League Baseball team based in San Francisco, California. They are in the Western Division of the National League.
- Founded: either 1879 or 1883. The Troy Haymakers (or sometimes Trojans) were expelled from the National League after the 1882 season. New York had been without a club since 1878, when its club had been expelled; John B. Day was awarded the New York franchise, and so bought up the defunct Troy club.
- Formerly known as: New York Gothams (1883-1884), New York Giants (1885-1957), moved to San Francisco in 1958.
- Home ballpark: SBC Park (formerly known as Pacific Bell Park (2000-2003))
- Previous ballparks: The Polo Grounds (New York) (1911-1957), Seals Stadium (1958-1959), Candlestick Park (1960-1999)
- Uniform colors: Black, Orange, and French Vanilla (off-white)
- Logo design: The word "GIANTS" superimposed over a baseball. Alternatively, a script "G", or an intertwined "SF".
- Wild Card titles won (1): 2002
- Division titles won (6): 1971, 1987, 1989, 1997, 2000, 2003
- National League pennants won (20): 1888, 1889, 1904, 1905, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1954, 1962, 1989, 2002
- World Series championships won (5): 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954
The New York years (1883-1957)
One of the most storied clubs in American professional sports, the Giants began life as a second baseball club founded by John B. Day and Jim Mutrie. The Gothams (as the Giants were originally known) were their entry to the National League, while their other club, the Metropolitans (the original Mets) played in the American Association. While the Metropolitans were initially the more successful club, Day and Mutrie began moving star players to the Gothams and the team won its first National League pennant in 1888.
It is said that after one particularly satisfying victory, Mutrie (who was also the team's manager) stormed into the dressing room and exclaimed, "My big fellows! My giants!" From then on, the club was known as the Giants.
The Giants' home stadium, the Polo Grounds, also dates from this early era. Originally located on the corner of 110th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, the Polo Grounds moved uptown, to 155th Street and 8th Avenue. There the Giants would make their home in New York City.
Though considered "the worst owner in the world" during his time, Andrew Freeman changed the Giants' fortunes. In 1902, after a series of disastrous moves that left the Giants 53 1/2 games behind, Freedman signed John McGraw as a player-manager. McGraw would go on and manage the Giants for three decades, one of the longest tenures in professional sports. Under McGraw, the Giants would win ten National League pennants and three World Series championships. The Giants under McGraw famously snubbed their first ever World Series in 1904--an encounter with the Boston Red Sox--because McGraw considered the new American League as little more than a minor league.
The Giants already had its share of stars during its brief history at this point, such as Smiling Mickey Welch, Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Jim O'Rourke and Monte Ward, the player-lawyer who formed the renegade Players League in 1890 to protest unfair player contracts. McGraw would also cultivate his own crop of baseball heroes during his time with the Giants. Names such as Christy Mathewson, Iron Man Joe McGinnity, Bill Terry, Jim Thorpe, Mel Ott and Casey Stengel are just a sample of the many players who honed their skills under McGraw.
McGraw handed over the team to Bill Terry in 1932, and Terry played for and managed the Giants for ten years, winning four pennants and one World Series. Aside from Terry himself, the other stars of the era were Ott and Carl Hubbell, one of three pitchers in baseball history to master the screwball (along with Mathewson and Fernando Valenzuela). Known as "King Carl" and "The Meal Ticket", Hubbell gained fame during the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out--all in a row--Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin.
Mel Ott succeeded Terry as manager in 1942, but the war years proved to be difficult for the Giants. In 1948, Leo Durocher became manager of the Giants, with some controversy--Durocher had been manager of the Giants' rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he had been accused of gambling in 1947 and had been suspended and the Dodgers let him go the following year. Durocher remained at the helm until 1955, and those eight years proved to be some of the most memorable for Giants fans, particularly because of the arrival of Willie Mays and two famous games.
The Shot Heard 'Round The World (1951)
One of the more famous episodes in major league baseball history, "The Shot Heard 'Round The World" is the name given to Bobby Thomson's walk-off home run that clinched the National League pennant for the Giants over their rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. This game was the third of a three-game playoff series that was called after one of baseball's more memorable pennant races. The Giants had been thirteen and a half games behind the league-leading Dodgers, but under Durocher's guidance the Giants caught up to tie the Dodgers for the lead on the last day of the season.
The game is also remembered for Russ Hodges' commentary for WMCA Radio:
Bobby Thomson up there swinging...He's had two out of three, a single and a double, and Billy Cox is playing him right on the third base line...One out, last of the ninth...Branca pitches and Bobby takes a strike call on the inside corner...Bobby hitting at .292...He's had a single and a double and drove in the Giants' first run with a long fly to center...Brooklyn leads it 4-2...Hartung down the line at third not taking any chances...Lockman without too big a lead at second, but he'll be running like the wind if Thomson hits one...Branca throws...There's a long drive...It's gonna be...I believe...THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!...BOBBY THOMSON HITS INTO THE LOWER DECK OF THE LEFT FIELD STANDS!...THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT AND THEY'RE GOING CRAZY! THEY'RE GOING CRAZY!...YAAAYHO-O-O!!!
The Catch (1954)
In game one of the 1954 World Series, Willie Mays makes "The Catch" -- a dramatic over-the-shoulder catch of a line drive by Vic Wertz to deep center field which would otherwise have given the Cleveland Indians the lead. New York goes on to win the World Series in four games.
The Move Westward (1957)
The Giants' three final years in New York City were unmemorable. The Giants stumbled to third place the year after their World Series win and attendance plunged. Horace Stoneham, the Giants' owner, enter into negotiations with San Francisco mayor George Christopher around the same time that Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley was courting the city of Los Angeles. In the summer of 1957, both teams announced their move West, and the golden era of baseball in New York City ended. New York would remain a one-team town until 1962, when the Mets brought back National League baseball to the city.
The San Francisco years (1958–)
In sharp contrast to the New York years, the Giants' fortunes in San Francisco have been mixed. Though recently the club has enjoyed sustained success, there were also prolonged stretches of mediocrity, along with two instances when the club's ownership threated to move it out of San Francisco.
After a brief sojourn in Seals Stadium, the Giants moved to Candlestick Park a stadium built on a point in San Francisco's southeast corner overlooking San Francisco Bay. The new stadium quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most inhospitable in baseball, with swirling winds and cold temperatures making for a torturous experience; the radiant heating system installed never worked. Candlestick Park's reputation was sealed during the 1961 All-Star Game, when gusts of wind blew pitcher Stu Miller off the mound.
The Giants have played in three World Series since moving to San Francisco, but have yet to win one. In 1962, they lost 4 games to 3 to the New York Yankees. In 1989, they faced the Oakland Athletics in the "Bay Bridge Series." The series is perhaps best remembered for when the ground shook on October 17, 1989 before game 3 at Candlestick Park. The 7.1-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake caused a ten-day delay in the series. Oakland went on to sweep San Francisco 4 games to none.
Following the World Series defeat, a local ballot initiative to fund a new stadium in San Francisco failed, threatening the franchise's future in San Francisco. After the 1992 season, owner Bob Lurie, who had previously saved the franchise from moving to Toronto in 1976, put the team up for sale. A group of investors from Saint Petersburg reached an agreement to purchase the team and move them across the country. However, Major League Baseball blocked the move, paving the way for the team to stay in San Francisco with an ownership group lead by Peter Magowan, the former CEO of Safeway. Before even hiring a new General Manager, Magowan signed superstar free agent Barry Bonds, a move that shaped the franchise's fortunes for more than a decade.
Following division championships in 1997 and 2000, the Giants reached the World Series again in 2002 as the wild card team. As underdogs in 2002, they defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS 3 games to 2, and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS 4 games to 1, to stake claim to their first NL pennant since 1989. The Giants faced their wild card counterparts from the American League, the Anaheim Angels. The Giants took a 3-2 lead in the series and were up 5-0 in the seventh inning of Game 6, just eight outs away from their first championship since moving to San Francisco. The Angels rallied to win the game as the bullpen collectively fell apart and defeated Liván Hernández in game seven to win their first World Series in franchise history.
In 2003, the Giants recorded 100 victories for the seventh time in franchise history and the third in San Francisco. With their 100-61 record, the Giants spent the entire season in first place in the NL West. They became just the ninth wire-to-wire winner of a division or pennant in baseball history. The previous three were Baltimore in 1997, Cleveland in 1998, and Seattle in 2001. They lost to the wild card Florida Marlins 3 games to 1 in the 2003 National League Division Series.
In 2004, the Giants ended the season one game behind the Houston Astros for the wild card race, and two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divison race. It was only the second time in the decade the Giants failed to make the postseason. Barry Bonds received his fourth consecutive MVP award as well, marking the fifth consecutive year a Giant has received the award—Jeff Kent received it in 2000—a feat no other team has accomplished.
What has not changed was the Giants' share of stars gracing the field. Willie Mays, one of the last holdovers of the New York years, thrived in San Francisco, as did Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Jack Clark, and Juan Marichal. Recent stars include Will Clark, Matt Williams, Barry Bonds, and Jason Schmidt.
Players of note
Not to be forgotten
- Hynd, Noel (1988). The Giants of the Polo Grounds: the glorious times of baseball's New York Giants. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-23790-1.
- San Francisco Giants official web site (http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/sf/homepage/sf_homepage.jsp)