The History of the San Francisco Giants in the World Series

With his beloved Giants up 1-0 on the Detroit Tigers, Jim Jividen takes time to reflect on San Francisco’s track record in the World Series.

 

I’ve been rooting for the San Francisco Giants for most of my 42 years, my very first gift was an autographed ball from the 1970 team collected before I was born, and have been writing about them nearly as long. This week is the fifth World Series appearance in SFG history. Here is that history.

1962 – Yankees d. SFG 4 Games to 3
The best team in San Francisco Giants history was the ’62 club, the only SFG team ever with a hundred Pythagorean wins – at 94 wins, the Yanks were terrific, but you would have considered SFG the side were you investing.

The Giant “ace” in ’62 was Billy O’Dell; his Wins Above Replacement for the season placed him behind both Jack Sanford and Juan Marichal – but he got the nod against Whitey Ford in Game One. We were at home – a World Series wouldn’t open in San Francisco again for nearly half a century.

We lost 6-2; Roger Maris doubled home Bobby Richardson and Tom Tresh in the first and then they left two on in the second. O’Dell got out of that jam, however, getting Richardson to end the inning – and in our half we got one back; Jose Pagan bunting for a base hit with two outs to score Willie Mays. O’Dell walked two in the third, but struckout Moose Skowron to escape, and we tied it in the bottom – Mays singling home a run, giving us two on and one out before the inning ended in an Orlando Cepeda double play.

Ford wriggled out again in the 4th – putting 2 on with 2 out before getting Harvey Kuenn. Both pitchers largely settled down over the next few innings until Clete Boyer led off the 7th with a homer from which SFG wouldn’t recover. The Yanks got 2 more in the 8th, the second coming off Don Larsen, and then one more off Stu Miller in the 9th for the 6-2 win.

Jack Sanford threw a 3 hit complete game shutout in Game 2. Chuck Hiller led off the second with a double down the right field line off Ralph Terry, was moved to third on a Felipe Alou bunt (yes, a no out second inning sacrifice to move a runner to third) and scored when Matty Alou hit the ball the other way, grounding out to second. The Yanks got a runner (Tresh) in scoring position in the 4th – but that was the furthest either team was able to advance until a leadoff Willie McCovey homer in the 7th gave us a 2-0 lead, which was the final margin. Mickey Mantle doubled in the ninth for NYY only extra base hit, but the game ended with a harmless Maris ground ball.

71,000+ packed Yankee Stadium for Game 3 to see a combined 9 hits. Bill Stafford gave up 4 of them, in a complete game 3-2 win for NYY – we got a couple walks in the top of the first, but couldn’t score – then a Jimmy Davenport double in the second which didn’t produce a run. Tony Kubek doubled in the third, and Elston Howard in the fifth – but neither crossed off Billy Pierce. They got us in the 7th – consecutive singles to lead off the inning by Tresh/Mantle/Maris plated two and broke the scoreless tie, and Larsen gave up the third run of the inning on a Boyer groundout. Down 3-0, Mays led off the ninth with a double, and two outs later Ed Bailey hit a startling two run homer to get us back in the game. Stafford got Davenport, however, and we were down 2 games to 1.

Future Hall of Famers Ford and Marichal squared off in Game 4 – a grand slam in the seventh got us the game and tied the series. Tom Haller hit a two run homer in the second (SFG catcher power in back to back games). Despite batting for himself with two on and no one out in the fifth, Marichal got pulled for Bobby Bolin in the bottom – he benefited from the Yanks letting Ford hit with two on and no one out; his bunt attempt turned into Skowron’s getting thrown out at the plate and a Richardson double play got us out of the inning. Bolin – who just got torched in this appearance – wasn’t as fortunate in the 6th: walks to Mantle and Maris – singles to Skowron and Boyer – and NYY got 2 to tie it up.

We beat them in the 7th; Chuck Hiller hit a two out grand slam off Marshall Bridges in the biggest moment of his career, and life, one assumes – and added to it by driving in another run in the top of the 9th, giving us a 7-2 lead that turned into a 7-3 win. Larsen, 6 years after his perfect game – to the day – was the winning pitcher.

Terry and Sanford rematched in Game 5. We committed two errors in the first inning, but were able to slip out of it and took the lead in the third when Hiller (Chuck Hiller! Chuck Hiller!) doubled home Jose Pagan. NYY tied it in the 4th; the first two hitters reached, Tresh scoring on a wild pitch. Pagan led off the fifth with a homer to give us a 2-1 lead that held until a 6th inning passed ball tied it up.

2-2 into the bottom of the 8th – Game 5 of a totally square World Series – when Jack Sanford’s domination of the Yanks came to an abrupt end with a 3 run homer by Tom Tresh. We got one back in the 9th on a McCovey single/Haller double – but we left New York 5-3 losers, down 3 games to 2.

Game 6 was five days later as rain blew through the Bay Area. Billy Pierce, at the end of a terrific and underrated career (coincidentally, his top comparison is Vida Blue who now analyzes the Giants on CSN Bay Area in case any fellow out of towners wondered what Vida was up to; his partner is Bill Laskey, who I thought had passed away) threw a 3 hitter to force Game 7. We got 3 off Ford (his third start in 6 games) in the 4th on 3 hits and a walk – then two more in the fifth on 4 singles that chased the pretty clearly overly relied upon Ford. Those 5 runs made the Maris homer in the top of the fifth incidental (NYY first hit of the game) as well as the Yanks final two hits/run in the 8th. We won 5-2 and moved to Game 7.

For the third time in the series – Jack Sanford against Ralph Terry. We got 4 hit and lost 1-0 in what I have ranked as the 6th best game 7 in World Series history.

Marichal got hurt late in the season; those 4 innings in Game 4 were all he could give us (Marichal’s top career comps, coincidentally, are Giants from a previous era, Carl Hubbell and Joe McGinnity). Perhaps a healthy Marichal puts us over the top.

Or perhaps not – 4 hits in a game 7 of the World Series are unlikely to bring home too many titles. The only run Sanford gave up was on a fifth inning Kubek double play – Sanford also got us our first hit of the game, a sixth inning single. Our second hit was louder – McCovey followed a bullet line drive out by Mays with a two out triple in the bottom of the 7th – but Cepeda struck out to end the threat. Sanford loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the 8th as NYY looked to put us away – but O’Dell came on to get Maris and a Howard double play.

Our third hit was a leadoff pinch bunt single by Matty Alou in the bottom of the 9th. Terry struck out Felipe – Terry struckout Hiller – with two outs, Willie Mays, a 10+ WAR player in ’62, doubled to right… but rather than risk getting thrown out at the plate – Alou held at third.

Bringing up McCovey. On the second pitch he lined hard to an out of position Richardson. And it was over.

1989 World Series: Athletics d. Giants 4 Games to 0
It took us 17 years to get back. The World Series is not a bus that comes around that often.

The ’89 Giants had a 92 win pythag, making it the 9th best team in SFG history. The A’s had 97 pythag wins, so we were underdogs going in.

We got smashed. Just blown apart. I liked the A’s, always had – I had gone to A’s games as a kid, caught my first of two lifetime foul balls in Oakland in ’85 (Mickey Tettleton), met my only MLB Hall of Famer ever after an A’s game (Don Sutton). Followed McGwire since college; followed Canseco through the minors; Rickey Henderson, just ridiculously good in ’89, is my all time favorite non SFG player.

So that the first SFG World Series of my lifetime was against the A’s, focusing the entire energy of the sports world on the Bay Area – was an excitement almost beyond which my 19 year old brain could process. It was, to my eyes, ushering in baseball into the type of place of success that the Niners and Raiders had found. And when I was 19 years old, I identified myself first and foremost through the success of sports teams. SFG had largely been bad during my decade + of fandom, but with a division title in ’87 and now a pennant in ’89 – clearly we were turning that around, and I could expect the Giants to ascend to a 49er level of success. Titles all year around. Forever.

Then came the wrath of an angry and vengeful God. A pre-game 3 earthquake postponed the Series for ten days – a Series in which Oakland scored first in every game and which was just never in doubt, at any level, almost since the very first pitch.
I missed every game. The first World Series of my lifetime and I didn’t get to watch. A college play took me away from each game (the only game I would have been able to watch live – Game 3) I watched them all on videotape, alone in my parents’ house to which I’d drive 90 minutes each night from campus, everyone long asleep as I fast forwarded through the carnage. Revolutions occur not in periods of destitution (like our sub 70 win pythags in ’84 and ’85) but after glimmers of hope turn into monumental disappointment. Not only losing – but losing in a way rendered totally inconsequential from an overarching tragedy. I didn’t watch a single pitch with anyone, and have forgotten almost every detail of every game, it devolving into a fast forwarded flurry of early inning A’s extra base hits. It was as if we didn’t play in the World Series at all. A worse World Series experience one could not have imagined.

I mean, unless one were to have imagined 2002. But I did not.

We got shut out in Game one – Dave Stewart throwing a complete game 5 hitter.

Scott Garrelts was our best pitcher in ’89 – he gave up 3 in the third on a walk, three singles, and an error. Dave Parker homered in the third; Walt Weiss in the 4th – and that 5-0 score was the final. Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell singled to open the 9th, but Stewart finished us off.

In Game 2 – we got all of 4 hits.

Rick Reuschel was our second best pitcher in ’89 – he walked Rickey to open the bottom of the first – that walk turned…shockingly…into a steal of second – and that turned into a run when Carney Lansford (future SFG batting coach) doubled down the right field line. We tied the score (Tied the score!) off Mike Moore in the third – Terry Kennedy and Brett Butler singled, Kennedy being swapped on the basepaths for Jose Uribe after a fielders choice – and Uribe scored on a Robby Thompson sac fly. We were in the game all the way to the bottom of the 4th – a Parker double scored Canseco – a three run Terry Steinbach homer made it 5-1, and the scoring for the evening was again done early. Only one Giant reached second base the rest of the way as we went down lightly.

I took a Sports Management course my sophomore year in undergrad – we had a discussion during the ten days between games 2 and 3 about which team it might benefit. The A’s argument was that it allowed Stewart to come back, my argument was, given how easily SFG had been beaten in Oakland, that this level of unexpected interruption at least provided a path to alter the trajectory of the Series.

The series did change – instead of the A’s scoring a handful of runs by the 4th and taking the rest of the game off – they decided to keep scoring all game long.

Oakland hit a record 5 homers in Game 3, beating us 13-7. Lansford and Canseco singled off Garrelts and were both doubled home by Dave Henderson in the first; Matt Williams homered in the 2nd to cut the lead…briefly…to 2-1; I recall thinking as I watched the videotape that it felt like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom – that all the homer would do would make the A’s mad. Dave Henderson and Tony Phillips homered – chasing Garrelts – in the 4th, and we were down 4-1.

But in the bottom came really our best hope of the series – we hit Stewart, Clark/Mitch singling, Kenny Oberkfell walking to load the bases – and Terry Kennedy scoring two with a single to cut it to 4-3, I don’t remember if that brought me off the couch to high five the wall (a lifelong Jividen celebratory measure during games I watched alone – I may have invented the self high five during a Gerald Willhite run in a San Jose St game in the late 70s – but it seems like the type of thing which would have.

Then Canseco and Henderson (Dave, once again) homered off Kelly Downs in the 5th – the Canseco shot was for 3 runs, and now it was 8-3. Ten total bases in five innings for Dave Henderson; fortunately for the family Downs, Kelly was less impacted by this than had been others similarly afflicted by Hendu.

Lansford homered (a solo shot, yawn) off Jeff Brantley in the 6th – and here was Atlee Hammaker’s 8th inning:
Weiss – single
Blankenship – single
Rickey – fly ball, moving Weiss to third
Lansford singles – two runs score
Canseco singles
McGwire grounds out – Lansford scores
Hendu – hit by pitch
Steinbach singles – Canseco scores.

And scene. Hammaker left and we were down 13-3.

The JV got 4 in the ninth – Bill Bathe pinch hit a three run homer; Greg Litton doubled home Donnell Nixon after he singled to make the final a less repulsive seeming 13-7.

Mike Moore against Don Robinson in Game 4 – Rickey led off the game with a homer, so we could start wrapping our minds around the sweep early. The Caveman didn’t make it out of the second – double to Hendu, walk to Weiss – a double to the pitcher, Moore, that scored them both, then a single by Rickey that scored Moore and made it 4-0.

We had yet to have a runner reach scoring position when the A’s tacked on 3 more in the fifth off Mike LaCoss. You can probably write the rest of this paragraph yourself – just toss in randomly some of the names you’ve been reading, give them credit for extra base hits – have it all add up to 3 runs. It’s part of your critical interaction with the text.

It was 8-0 when Mitch hit a two run homer in the 6th. And then we ran through half the A’s staff (that’s what she said) in the 7th with a two run Litton homer, a triple by Candy Maldonado, a run scoring double by Butler, and a run scoring pinch single by Robby Thompson. With the lead now 8-6 and one on with one out – Clark and Mitchell both flew out to left, ending our chance at..well, at most likely giving up more runs. It was sort of a bloodbath. I was not sorry to see it end. I was told this week that I approach watching the Giants less with joy and more like it’s my job; if that’s so I should still be getting Workman’s Comp checks for the ’89 Series.

We didn’t get another baserunner – Bedrosian gave up a run in the 8th and 9-6 was the final score, mercifully ending our second ever WS, the first of my life.

I never rooted for the A’s ever again.

2002 World Series Angels d. Giants 4 games to 3.
A mere 13 years later, we returned. Not a bus that comes around that often.

The 2002 SFG had 98 pythagorean wins, tied for our second best season ever with that ’93 team that led the division by eleven thousand games at the break and then watched Fred McGriff and Ed Pinckney hit 82% from the floor in the second half to lead the Villanova Braves past us. Jane Fonda’s still tomahawk chopping someplace and you’ll never be able to tell me different. That ’93 team remains, subjectively, the best, and most heartbreaking, club of my lifetime.

The second best – and second most heartbreaking – 2002.

We had been on the verge of this season for a few years – 2002 was not a surprise. We lost to the eventual champion Marlins in the ’97 NLDS, were a significantly better team, with 91 pythag wins, in ’98, and finished second in the division in ’99. The San Francisco Giants were baseball’s best team in 2000, with 97 pythagorean wins and a stunning NLDS loss to the Mets – so, despite it coming from a Wild Card position – we really blew through that 2002 season, taking out the Braves and Cardinals in a SFG Redemption October – and we were solidly poised against a slightly superior 101 pythag win Angels in the WS.

I was again going to school – in the intervening 13 years I had graduated from college, graduated from law school, became a member of the California Bar Association, left the practice of law, and just a couple of months before left teaching high school government to go to grad school for US History. My parents’ house was, helpfully, about halfway between the university and my house – so I was able to watch a good amount of the postseason with them – including games one and two of the WS, the only WS games I’ve ever seen with my mother.

My mother is the primary origin of my SFG fandom; my first ever present was that 1970 autographed SFG baseball earlier mentioned, the signatures obtained by her sister during the year I was born (ball was destroyed in a house fire – I should not, but I blame Salomon Torres) I don’t know what lessons you specifically recall from childhood – for me, there were two.

We’re Democrats.
We hate the Dodgers.

That’s really all you needed to survive my childhood; I adopted to those norms pretty ably (after a couple of graduate degrees and a couple of decades as a thinking reed I’ve moved further left politically and now there are plenty of institutions I dislike almost as much as the Dodgers) but I’ve only seen two WS games with my mom; in ’89 – I had my play and watched all of the games on tape – in ’02, I was unable to make it over in Games 3, 4, 6, and 7 – and she was out of town in Game 5. 11 World Series games – we’ve watched two together. It’s been a reference between us since, that we’d know when the Giants would get back to the Series when one of us had a scheduling conflict.

She had a longstanding trip taking her out of town in 2010.
And will again in 2012.

But 10 years ago, I watched Game One with both she and my dad. We won 4-3.

It started the way it should have started, a second inning Barry Bonds (a 12+ WAR player in 2002, like almost as good as two 2012 Miguel Cabreras) homer (Reggie Sanders also homered, giving us a 2-0 lead). Bonds is the second best player in the history of baseball (Babe Ruth) and the best SFG ever – and his lined shot to right gave us a lead we’d never give up. Troy Glaus got to Jason Schmidt (who came over the previous year for prospects, one of which was Ryan Vogelsong) in the Angels half of the second; we loaded the bases in the 4th – but David Bell flew to right to end the threat. Schmidt got in trouble in his half, two men in scoring position for the Angels catcher…future Giant Bengie Molina…who grounded to third.

Anaheim left two on in the fifth – and we extended the lead in the 6th, JT Snow ( people really liked JT Snow but dude was almost always awful, just sucking up first base plate appearances for years without any power or the ability to take a walk) hitting a two run homer off Jarrod Washburn to give us a 4-1 lead that would hold up despite the Angels coming back with two in their half, the first on another Glaus homer.

Neither team got a hit after the sixth – and we had taken home field away from Anaheim.

We lost Game 2 11-10. 28 combined hits. 11 combined pitchers.

Our best starting pitcher in 2002 was Russ Ortiz but the Angels set him on fire in Game 2 with 5 runs on 6 hits that, at the time, looked like it had evened the series.

That pessimism lasted all of no batters. Barry led off the second with a walk, Snow singled him to third – and Reggie Sanders hit his second homer of the Series – a three run shot on an 0-2 pitch, to cut it to 5-3, and was immediately followed by a David Bell homer to make it 5-4, and we were back in the fight.

Russ Ortiz came back out in the bottom of the second. I yelled at my parents’ set “Dammit Dusty, don’t you know you never leave Ortiz in when he doesn’t have it!”

I was right. I’m almost always right. Tim Salmon hit a two run homer and we were down 7-4.

And then it was 7-5. Jeff Kent, future competitor of Peekskill’s Blair Warner, led off the third with a homer to once again get us close.
And then it was 7-9. John Lackey, relieving Kevin Appier, gave us a leadoff double to Rich Aurilia and then a Bonds walk in the 5th – he gave way to former Giants farmhand Ben Weber – who allowed a single to Benito Santiago, loading the bases with one out – and singles by Snow, Bell, and Shawon Dunston brought home four runs and we had come all the way back to take the lead.

They got one back off Chad Zerbe in the bottom.
One off Zerbe/Witasick/Fultz in the sixth – tying the score.

Felix Rodriguez, my bête noir, gave up a 2 run homer to Tim Salmon in the 8th, and the Angels had us, despite Bonds hitting a ball off Troy Percival in the 9th that killed a family of 4 in the right field pavilion. We lost 11-10 and went home for game 3 with the Series tied.
I shouldn’t have said FRod was my bête noir, because there was just never a single second that I ever wanted to see Livan Hernandez take the mound for my baseball team.

He got pounded in a Game 3 that started promisingly, our loading the bases in the first with one out – scoring one on a Santiago groundout. The Angels loaded them as well in the second, but Livan worked his way out of it – and we went to the third with that 1-0 lead.

The less said after that the better.

4 runs in the third.
4 runs in the 4th.

It was 8-1, I was booing Livan profanely from the solitude of my living room, and we were on our way to being down 2 games to 1 (we came back with 3 in the fifth to halve their lead on Aurilia and Bonds homers. 10-4 was the final score. It was discouraging.)
And then it was all better.

We won both games 4 and 5. Game 4 was stomach churning.

They put two on in the first against Kirk Rueter. They’re gonna win.

We loaded the bases with one out in the first against Lackey. Benito Santiago hit into a double play. They’re gonna win.

They loaded the bases with one out in the second. They’re gonna win. But they only got one.

Glaus hit a two run homer in the third. Jesus. We’re down 3-0.

In the third, we loaded the bases again. With one out. Again. Benito Santiago hit into a double play. Again. They’re gonna win.

We got them all back in the fifth. Rueter single. Lofton single. Aurilia single, scoring Woody. Kent sac fly. Scoring Lofton. Third intentional walk of the game to Barry – how many games in baseball history have had 3 intentional walks before the end of the fifth. This was one guy in Game 4 of the World Series. 3 intentional walks before the end of the fifth. The Angels intentionally walked Barry Bonds 3 times before the end of the 5th in Game 4 of the World Series; the next time someone says something like “Josh Hamilton is the greatest hitter in 20 years” or something similarly bonkers, can you just direct him to the above paragraph.

Santiago beat them this time, singling to score Aurilia and tie the game.
And it stayed tied. Runners stranded at third. Double plays. Tied.

In the 8th, we got ‘em. Snow singled. Got a base on a passed ball. Scored on a Bell single.
4-3. And we’re all tied at 2 games apiece.

The last SFG game, and the only SFG playoff game, I ever watched alone with my dad was the least tense SFG playoff game in history – like the inverse of two of those A’s games from ’89 combined. We scored 6 in the first two innings and just kept hitting; you know how theoretically a baseball game might never end – a team could just keep getting on base, batter after batter getting on base forever?

Game 5 of the 2002 World Series was infinite baseball; we scored 16 runs; it was literally a laugher – I started laughing in the second inning and laughed all the way during the drive back to my house 3 hours later. JT Snow scooped up Dusty’s kid avoiding what might have been an ’89 earthquake sized overshadow of the Series had David Bell smashed into the three year old at the plate – and I laughed through that. I mean – who goes up 3-2 in the World Series by winning 16-4?

Here are the 16 runs. Laugh along with me.
First inning: Lofton single, Kent walk, Bonds double scoring Lofton, Santiago sac fly scoring Kent, bases loaded walk to Bell scoring Bonds.

Second inning: Lofton single, Kent double, Bonds intentional walk, Two run single by Santiago, sac fly by Sanders.

6-0. Laughing. ‘Cause we’re 7 innings from being up 3-2 in the World Series.

The Angels got 3 in the 5th (and then one in the 6th) – Schmidt couldn’t get through it, that’s why Chad Zerbe was the winning pitcher in the most fun game in SFG history. It’s counterintuitive I understand, but I was almost glad they scored (not scored 4 – 4 was too many – but I specifically recall saying to my dad something to the effect of “this gives us the excuse to keep scoring” – as if we were otherwise afraid of running it up and losing BCS points. It makes less sense with 10 years of reflection, but I saw it with complete clarity at the time – it’s good that they’re scoring – ‘cause that means we get to tear out their hearts and just blow through their bullpen.

Kent hit a two run homer in the sixth. 8-4.
Lofton tripled home Snow and Bell in the 7th – and then Kent hit another 2 run homer. 12-4.
We got 4 more in the 8th, a 3 run Aurilia homer and a Shinjo (Shinjo? Yes, Shinjo was our CF before Lofton took his job. Shinjo. We had a 98 win pythag and Shinjo was our CF) grounder that scored Snow gave us the final four runs.
16-4. Going back to Anaheim up 3-2. I looked at my dad as I left the house that night, and said words I am uncertain if I had said before – but I know I have not said since.

We’re gonna win the World Series.

Here’s the thing about October 26, 2002. I blame myself. And you just need to know that up front. For no good reason other than I was seized by whim, I watched the game in my upstairs bedroom (I had a townhouse that I purchased with money I won on a game show, largely based on my knowledge of the 1958 San Francisco Giants) on a small television as opposed to downstairs on my larger set (I say larger in a 2002 context; technology has made every set I owned 10 years ago like a vestige of the Paleolithic Era; I assume I brought it home from the Best Buy in a car I had to Fred Flintstone my way home through the courtesy of my two feet)

I watched every pitch from bed – right up until Dusty handed the gameball to Russ Ortiz as he pulled him with 8 outs left and a 5 run lead.
Yeah. Yeah. Because you pull Russ Ortiz when he gets in trouble, you see. Thanks for finally listening to me, Dusty. Yeah.
I’m almost always right, after all.

I thought we were going to win. And I took the opportunity of the pitching change to go downstairs to watch the San Francisco Giants win the World Series on my larger set. I moved downstairs explicitly because I thought the game was over and wanted to watch the SFG win our first ever World Series downstairs. That’s what was in my mind. Guilty. I may as well have handed Ortiz the ball myself.

How we got there hardly matters. Dunston hit a two run homer in the fifth. Lofton doubled, stole third, and gave us a three run lead on a wild pitch. Barry homered in the sixth. Kent singled home Lofton in the 7th. I remember his fist pump. It was 5-0. It was over. 5-0 in the 7th inning of Game 6 in the World Series is the end of the World Series.

With one out in the seventh Ortiz gave up consecutive one out singles. FRod came in, Scott Spiezio worked a full count and hit a 3 run homer.

And then Darin Erstad hit one off Worrell (Tim or Todd, I can never remember) in the 8th. Back to back singles – which led to Robb Nen giving up the 2 run game winning double to Glaus.

My mom, who had, as mentioned, been out of town, returned for Game 7 – and called me early in the day to ask if I’d come over to watch. I told her it was over. She said they’d really like me to come.

I told her I just couldn’t. I told her it was over. We were the ’86 Red Sox after the Buckner game.
We scored first – a couple singles in the second and a sac fly put us up 1-0 in the second. Livan gave it back in the second – and then a 3 run Garrett Anderson double in the third made it 4-1, which was the final score. We put two in scoring position in the sixth – but Tom Goodwin (Tom Goodwin?) struck out to end our chance. We put 2 on with 1 out in the 9th – but Shinjo (Shinjo? You need a goddamn postseason roster with Tom Goodwin and Shinjo? In the 7th game of the World Series I have to have crucial at bats from Tom Goodwin and Shinjo?) struckout and Lofton flew out and it was done.

A year later, I drove home with my parents from our NLDS loss to the Marlins. I was in attendance in all four of our one run last at bat division series losses to Florida, the first 2 in ’97, the last in ’03 – and as we drove home, I said, quietly, resolutely, without feeling an ounce of the hyperbole of the moment –

We are never going to win the World Series. Never.

Which I believed.

Until 8 years later when, the night before game one against Texas I wrote…

“We’re going to win the World Series.”

2010: Giants d Rangers 4 Games to 1.
And we did.

The fifth best team in SFG history, the 94 pythag winning 2010 team didn’t leave any doubt at all in a dominant 5 game Series win over a favored Ranger team that they slightly outperformed during the regular season (91 pythag wins).

The first National League All-Star Game win since the Coolidge Administration meant that Games 1 and 2 would be played in San Francisco. We hadn’t hit a baseball in either serenity or anger with any consistency since Bonds was exiled, but batted around in both games.

Texas scored first, off the 2 time defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, a single by Elvis Andrus, a walk by Michael Young, a single by Vlad Guerrero and we were down 1-0.

That became 2-0 just an inning later; Bengie Molina, only the second player in WS history to play against a team from which he was traded at midseason singled, went to third on a Cliff Lee double, and scored on an Elvis Andrus sac fly.

That was the worst it would get.

We got them both back in the third – Edgar Renteria benched for most of the season (and correctly so) reached on an error and took second when Andres Torres (with a 5 WAR season was the best SFG CF in 20 years) was hit by a pitch. Cliff Lee, who entered Game 1 on a multi-year postseason roll, then gave up a double to Freddy Sanchez and a base hit by the rookie catcher Buster Posey tied the game.

We sent 10 the plate in the 5th.

A one out double by Torres. Freddy Sanchez’s third double of the game to score him. An inning extending two out walk by Pat Burrell then singles by NLCS MVP Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff (6 WAR – the best SFG performance by a position player since Bonds in ’04) and a 3 run home run by Juan Uribe made it 8-2 and just like that, Game One was effectively over.

The final was 11-7; Texas scored 2 in the 6th that chased Lincecum – we got our 3 additional in the 8th with a Renteria single, a Travis Ishikawa pinch double, the fourth hit of the game by Freddy Sanchez (a SFG WS record, for those of you in the future searching for that improbable trivia answer) and a Nate Schierholtz single. The bullpen blew up a little in the 9th; Texas tacked on 3 runs in a way only meaningful to their loved ones.

Game 2 looked like the pitchers’ duel Game 1 didn’t turn out to be, Matt Cain (our best starter in 2010) and CJ Wilson were scoreless until a Renteria fifth inning homer, followed a couple innings later by Uribe singling home a walked Ross. 2-0 Giants in the bottom of the 8th – and instead of white knuckling Game 2 onto the tarmac, we matched our Game One fifth inning by sending 11 to the plate and scoring 7 runs.

Yes, of course I’ll tell you about them. Yes.
Posey – 2 out single.
4 straight walks.
Renteria – 2 run single
Rowand – 2 run triple
Torres – run scoring double.

9-0 to the good guys. We go to Texas up 2 games to 0.

I picked us to win the Series in 6; and this was the result I had anticipated, so I was neither giddy at 2-0, nor concerned when we couldn’t hit Colby Lewis in a 4-2 Game 3 loss.

All the runs they needed came on a 3 run Mitch Moreland 3rd inning homer of Jonathan Sanchez, and all the runs they got were done when Josh Hamilton homered in the fifth; it wasn’t his only hit of the series, but it was close.

We hit two ourselves – Ross in the 7th, Torres in the 8th – but our lead was halved headed to Game 4.

My pre-series forecast said that the chip would be won or lost in Game 4, the youngest members of the two staffs, Madison Bumgarner (at 21, barely a blastocyst when we were swept in ’89) against Tommy Hunter, who came in scuffling and left not demonstrably changed.

I was able to watch one game in the Series with my mom – it was Game 4, and it was never in doubt. Lincecum was good enough in Game 1 – Cain better in Game 2 – but Bumgarner better still in Game 4, we 3 hit the Rangers (Beard Wilson getting the 9th inning). Huff hit an absolute torpedo 2 run homer in the 3rd, Posey homered in the 8th, and in between was a 7th inning Renteria single/Torres double.

We shut the Rangers out for the second time in the Series, the first team to pitch two WS shutouts in nearly half a century – and were poised to finish them off the following night.

You know how we had that 3 games to 2 lead in ’02? Did I mention that? Funny story – we were 8 outs away with a 5 run lead up a game – and we lost. Was it 8 outs? I think it was 8 outs. Hard to recall now for some reason.

Anyway, there was a year, maybe 2002, where the Giants were really, really close to winning the World Series and did not.
Yeah, that didn’t happen this year.

We 3 hit them again in Game 5 – Lincecum with Wilson to finish it off.

You try to do something for your whole life and then it turns out the easiest part is actually doing it.

We had a couple of early innings baserunners. Posey singled in the first; Torres in the third. They took a walk in the third and got a Young single in the fourth. Singles by each club in the 6th. Lincecum and Lee both holding serve into the 7th inning.

Leadoff single by Ross. Followed by an Uribe single.
Two outs later – a 3 run Edgar Renteria home run.

The Giants were baseball’s best team in 2010 when we scored 3 runs, baseball’s second best team when scoring first and also had a sizeable advantage when hitting a home run.

You don’t ever say “We’re going to win the World Series.” – at least not out loud – at least not if you’re a San Francisco Giants fan with some vague memory of some game where it looked like we’d win. I can’t recall now if it was Russ Ortiz or Jack Sanford leaving with a 5 run lead. Not sure if it was Dave Henderson or Scott Spezio who hit the home run to wipe the lead away.

Doesn’t matter as much anymore, for whatever reason.

The Renteria homer was the end of the game. They weren’t going to score 4 runs off Lincecum. They weren’t going to beat us. I sat on my couch that I bought in July.

Actually, that we bought in July – as 8 years after 2002 and 21 years after 1989, the main difference in this World Series as opposed to the previous – is now I’m not alone. I’ve been with a woman for 3 years – she’s my best thing. Like winning the World Series every day.
I spent the rest of the game crying and shaking my head. ‘Cause how could such a thing be possible? How could it actually happen that the San Francisco Giants were going to win the World Series?

It happened like this:
Nelson Cruz homered in their 7th to make it 3-1. A Kinsler walk brought the tying run to the plate – but Lincecum struck out Murphy/Molina to end the inning.
Posey singled in our 8th – but otherwise we got out of the way, as if our own baserunners were just postponing the celebration.
In the 8th – Lincecum struck out Moreland.
Andrus grounded back to Lincecum.
Young grounded to Uribe.

You know how sometimes you’ll root against Giants bats – it’s raining hard, and we’re up, and you think “make an out – we have to get through 5 innings.”
This was like all of those times put together.

We went down in order and Brian Wilson (our best closer year in a decade) came on.

Josh Hamilton struck out looking.
Vlad Guerrero grounded the first pitch to short.
Nelson Cruz struck out swinging on a full count.

No Bobby Richardson.
No Earthquake.
No 5 run lead with 8 outs to go. Or something like that.

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants, for the first time ever, became World Series Champions.

Who I needed to tell is 8 year old me.

8 year old me is lonely and awkward and lives entirely in his head. He spends hours playing with his baseball cards and spends Saturday mornings at the San Jose public library reading those doublethick compilation books of the Peanuts strips. Charlie Brown had an inner life; I didn’t relate to men of action – to superheroes or cops; Charlie Brown was an observer in his own life as much as a participant. He was not a winner. But he was sincere. It made sense to me.

Baseball was good because it was inside my head. I liked football and basketball. They were exciting and explosive – but baseball…I could spend an entire day reading box scores, an entire summer reading the Baseball Encyclopedia. It was infinite – the nifty jargon “what is SLG? how do you figure out SLG?” the middle names – William Howard Mays. Stephen Patrick Garvey. Wilver Darnell Stargell. A hundred years of baseball. A world inside my head.

And I was a San Francisco Giants fan. My first ever present was that ball signed by the 1970 team, the year I was born there’s Gaylord. And McCovey. And Jim Ray Hart. That’s my name. When I was 8, my grandfather took me to Candlestick; and while I can still feel the rush of seeing the green of the grass for the first time my most enduring memory is the middle aged black man in the Cincinnati cap (I say middle aged; he might have been 22) in the concourse shouting out “The Reds are runnin’!” as we looked to find our seats in the top of the first. It was the moment when I knew the world was real. In my head, no one ever cheered against the Giants.

I didn’t know what it would mean when I was 8. Didn’t understand that baseball breaks your heart.

But I learned.

We lost almost every game I went to. And when we moved to Ohio in the 80s and went to go see the Giants once a year in Cincinnati – we lost almost every time then too.

In 1986, after the two worst seasons in SFG history, we were in the pennant race into deep September. And were eliminated from contention when Mike Scott no-hit us. On my birthday.

In 1987 we had a 3-2 NLCS lead. And lost.

We won the pennant in 1989. And then came the earthquake and a four game sweep.

The very best Giants team I ever saw was 1993. We won a hundred three games and had a double digit second half division lead. And didn’t make the playoffs.

I moved back to the Bay Area in 1995 and was able to go to a couple dozen Giants games in ’95 and ’96.

We lost almost every one of them.

I moved to south Florida in 1997. We lost two 1 run NLDS games to the Marlins. I was at both. If you’ve never been a fat 27 year old in a Barry Bonds jersey taunted by 40,000 Marlins fans as you exit a stadium in October, there are better experiences.

We were the best team in baseball in 2000. Lost in the NLDS.

We were up 3 games to 2 in the 2002 World Series. 8 outs away with a 5 run lead. And lost.

In 2003, we lost 2 more 1 run NLDS games to the Marlins. I was at both.

I started blogging regularly in 2006; one of my very first posts began with the following line:

I’m a San Francisco Giants fan. We’re never going to win the World Series.

I don’t recall specifically when it was that I first learned that Charles Schulz was a Giants fan; that part of what went into Charlie Brown’s always getting the football pulled away, or always losing the baseball game, or Linus believing every single October that the Great Pumpkin – an orange fantasy – would choose him as the most sincere boy only to be heartbroken – that part of that was Schulz being a Giants fan. He knew what I would learn. That in the end you always lose. Every time.

I was 40 when we won our first World Series. More days than not, the experience of being me still felt like it did when I was 8. When I have to leave my head I am uneasy at best and frightened at worst. I’m not entirely who I want to be. But I mean well. I try hard.

I didn’t have room in my head for the World Series. I started crying during the pregame before game 5 because it was just clear – you know? They couldn’t beat us. They weren’t good enough to beat us. And I almost didn’t want to watch as Renteria hit the home run – because they weren’t going to score 4 runs; they weren’t going to score 4 runs and that made it real.

And it’s just more than would fit. My dad died suddenly in 2010 not long after opening day and I couldn’t accommodate both the magic and the loss at the same time. I wish there was room. I wanted to be happy. You spend your whole life waiting for the Great Pumpkin, you want to appreciate it when it comes.

But I wasn’t.

But who would have been is 8 year old me. Because he’s not a loser. He and Charlie Brown won the World Series.

And in 2012 we’re back. Clearly some dispatcher has totally screwed up that bus schedule.

Here are this week’s picks. I’m 61-58-1 on the season.

NCAA
Indiana +1 Illinois
Maryland +1 BC
MTenn -3 NTex
Ore St. -5 Wash

NFL
Miami +3 NYJ

Rams +7 NE

Cle +3 SD

Oak +2 KC

Dall +1.5 NYG

Den -6 NO

 

Photo–Flickr/SD Dirk

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About Jim Jividen

Jim Jividen (@JimJividen) is a lawyer, a professionally produced playwright, a game show winner, and the owner of a 2009 Honda Accord on which he diligently makes payments. He can distinguish among dozens of different suplex variants and may be occasionally read at his two non-revenue producing blogs, Basically Gherkins and What if Steamboat Beat Hogan? Jim’s been a college instructor since the top of 2004 and is currently working in the mist as a Course Mentor for Western Governors University.

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