Over the years I have assembled an eclectic mix of Giants memorabilia–some of it stuff that I saved over more than 60 years of being a Giants fan–and which I’m sure that many of you have or at least had at least in recent years–and some unique stuff that I bought. Most of it was sitting in boxes, and until I moved and Greek Giant helped me sort it out and put it on display I didn’t realize just how much stuff there was. So at Greek Giants urging, over the next few weeks in the off season I’ll try to share some of the more unique pieces and related memories with Together We’re Giants
Nineteen sixty-two was the year that I really became a Giants fan. And in the process I learned a bunch of critical lessons, not only about baseball, but more important about life in general. I had been a Giants fan before that year, but that season cemented my lifetime allegiance. I have more than my share of shortcomings but loyalty–and in this case loyalty to the Giants is certainly not one of them.
I grew up in Albany, New York during the hey day of New York baseball and in particular the Yankees era of the 1950’s. As a child I actually thought that the World Series was played exclusively between the Yankees and the Dodgers. My father, and almost all of my schoolmates were Yankees fans, and the Yankees won both the AL pennant and the World Series with astonishing regularity. So, naturally like any rebellious kid – as a precursor to the protest movements of the 1960’s–I started rooting for the Giants and a guy named Willie Mays. How much of becoming a Giants was just to annoy my father, or because I liked Willie Mays or some other reason, who knows?
At that time there was an ongoing raging debate among New York and Brooklyn fans of all loyalties about who was the best centerfielder in New York (and by extension all of baseball) Mays, Mickey Mantle or Brooklyn’s Duke Snider. Actually Snider (who most may not remember ended his career with the Giants in San Francisco in 1964) was really not appropriately in the Mays-Mantle conversation, but Brooklyn needed to have someone in the discussion, and Duke did end up with more than 400 home runs and more than 2,000 hits. Certainly a very good player (for a Dodger) but no Mays or even Mantle.
I distinctly recall listening to the 1954 World Series on the radio, and hearing of the exploits of Dusty Rhodes, who, unbeknownst to me at the time was not a great star, but got extremely hot at the right time and thereby became a Giants post season legend. He was the Cody Ross, Travis Ishikawa, or Marco Scutaro of his time.
By 1958, of course the Giants moved to San Francisco, and I became classmates with Gary Shaye–who for whatever reason had become a Giants fan–probably also to annoy all the other kids who were mostly all Yankee fans, though there were a few loser Dodger fans. Just this year I reconnected with Gary and together with Greek Giant attended one of the Yankee-Giant games this summer in New York. Back then, however, Gary had written to then Giants executive and later NL Chub Feeney who responded with a Giants Press Guide giving all kinds of facts, pictures, schedules, and what passed for statistics in those days. It was exotic to root for an out of market team, and we could still listen to Giants games on the radio through the static on 50,000 watt clear channel stations when they played St. Louis (Jack Buck), Pittsburgh (Bob Prince), Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati, and later the Mets. Once in a while the Giants would be on TV on the Game of the Week broadcast by Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese. But the radio was how I followed the final weeks of the classic 1962 pennant race.
From the time that the Giants moved to San Francisco they were loaded with hitting–think Mays, Cepeda, McCovey (1959) Felipe Alou, and others lesser known today such as Harvey Kuenn (later the manager of the Brewers Harvey’s Wallbangers fame) They never had the pitching to match the Dodgers Koufax and Drysdale–in those days half of a four man rotation– even after Marichal arrived on the scene. In 1962, however, the pitching fell into place. Future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was a rookie that year, and was not much of a factor. But Jack Sanford– an otherwise journeyman pitcher had a magical season winning 24 games and losing only 7. Billy Pierce, longtime White Sox pitcher who helped them win the 1959 World Series and was a former AL pitcher of the year (forerunner of the Cy Young) was 16-6 and wound up winning one game in the playoffs and saving the finale). Marichal was 18-11. Billy “Digger” Odell was 19-14. Stu Miller, and Don Larsen (who, in competition with Indians pitcher Don Mossi had the world’s biggest ears–don’t ask me how I know this, but I can still picture his baseball card) of 1956 World Series perfect game fame were relief pitchers on that team.
Although by popular lore the 1951 Giants comeback from 13 games behind the Dodgers in mid August was the greatest comeback in baseball history, I would argue that the Giants comeback to win the 1962 pennant was more impressive. With 6 games left in the season the Giants were 3 games behind the Dodgers. They picked up a game heading into the final weekend of the season, and then the Dodgers lost all three at St. Louis culminating in a 1-0 finale loss. That opened the door later that day to a 2-1 win by the Giants on a late Mays home run to finish the season in a tie and set up a three game playoff. The Giants won the first game 8-0 at Candlestick behind Billy Pierce and two Mays home runs. As a preview of the 2016 playoffs, the Giants blew a 5-0 lead in game two of the playoffs setting up the finale at Chavez Latrine,
As in the deciding game of 1951 playoff, ultimately decided by “The Shot Heard Round the World,” the Giants trailed 4-2 going to the ninth inning. A four run ninth inning rally started with a Matty Alou pinch hit single, a Kueen groundout, walks to McCovey and Felipe Alou, and an infield RBI single to Mays (who as a rookie was on deck at the time of the Thompson home run). Cepeda followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game and sent Alou to third. Catcher Ed Bailey was intentionally walked and then the wheels fell off the Dodgers with a Davenport walk forcing in the go ahead run, and a Dodger error on Pagan grounder. Pierce–just like Madison Bumgarner 52 years later– despite pitching a complete game shutout two days earlier saved the game with a perfect bottom of the ninth.
I was watching the game in black and white at Gary Shaye’s house. Fortunately because the game was on the west coast it was after school. After the way we had come back to catch the Dodgers at the end of the regular season, I can honestly say that we never gave up hope. We just knew that the Giants would find a way to win yet again. And they did. As a result of the 1962 season and the Playoffs that year, to this day, every single season and every single game until the magic number is reached or the last out is made, I still believe the Giants will somehow find away to win. Sometimes it works out– the amazing run of elimination victories in 2010, 2012, and 2014– and sometimes not–1962 and 2002 World Series and 2016 meltdown. But as the song says I “Don’t (Ever) Stop Believin.”
Fittingly, the final out of the 1962 playoffs was a routine fly ball to Mays. I vividly remember it, and I can still see it in my minds eye, just as I can the see the black and white image of McCovey’ liner to Bobby Richardson to end the 1962 World Series. I’ll admit, though that with each passing year that line drive, which would have scored the tying and winning runs somehow becomes harder hit and less catchable.
All of which brings me to my 1962 World Series Game 5 scorecard, pictured here. My father was an accountant, and one of his clients had Yankees tickets, so we got his seats for game 5. The series was tied 2-2 and in those days all of the games were in the afternoon. We drove the three hours from Albany to New York City intending to return after the game. We had great seats about 10 rows behind the third base dugout and it was a tremendous thrill for me to see Willie Mays warming up, that close. Unfortunately it was pouring out, and after some time the game was postponed till the next day. So we went to stay overnight at my Grandmother’s studio apartment, conveniently located a short distance from Yankee Stadium, in hopes of seeing the game the next day.
Missing my second day of school, the weather was perfect the following day and the rivalry between my father, about 60,000 other Yankees fans and me was set. It was a matchup between Jack Sanford, who had won game two with a shutout against his Game 5 opponent Ralph Terry. Because of the travel day to the west coast and what turned out be several days of uncharacteristic rain in San Francisco, they would match up again in Game 7.
As you can see, this scorecard had the lineups filled in but is not scored. I do remember having a filled in scorecard at one time, so the only explanation I can come up with is that my surviving scorecard was from the rained out game the day before, and my “scored” card has been lost over the years. I distinctly remember the Giants taking the lead on a home run by Jose Pagan, standing and cheering by myself in the midst of Yankee fans. When Tom Tresh hit a 3 run homer in the eighth to win it for the Yankees, the guy in a business suit sitting next to me really gave me the business, as my father was smiling silently over the Yankees win.
I hated losing to the Yankees. Still do to this day. The Yankees went to the ninth inning in Game 7 with a 1-0 lead, the only run in the game scoring on a double play grounder. Having seen the Giants come back to tie for the pennant and then come back from a two run deficit in the ninth by scoring four to win the playoffs, Gary Shaye and I (again watching in black and white) were absolutely convinced that that Giants had another miracle finish left. I remember the ninth inning–at least the hits– as if it were yesterday. Matty Alou, as he had in the ninth inning of the playoffs led off with a single, this time a bunt. Two outs later Willie Mays–who had been on deck for Bobby Thompson’s home run– came to the plate. We just knew that he was going to get that run home. When Mays lashed a double to right field, with two outs we absolutely were sure that Alou would score, but third base coach, former Giant player and later well regarded manager Whitey Lockman (the Roberto Kelly of his day) held him at third. To this day I believe that he would have scored. And then it was over, when McCovey lined out.
That 1962 series started a long wait to get to the World Series again. Despite tremendous talent –five Hall of Famers Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal and Perry, and new additions like Bobby Bonds we always came up short. A series of terrible trades (such as Cepeda for pitcher Ray Sadecki) didn’t help. It would be 27 more years before the Giants made the World Series again, and of course 48 more years till they finally won it.
Despite the long wait, that special 1962 season taught me to never gave up on the Giants, for a season or a game until the last out has been made. That patience has been rewarded by the last six years–the Golden Era of San Francisco Giants baseball–which has truly embodied all that is special about the Giants franchise and being a Giants fan.
Last winter when I was laid up recovering from foot surgery I set about assembling a collection of the baseball cards from all of the players on that 1962 team. They are pictured here. That team will always be special to me.
The disappointment of losing the lead in Game 4 to the Cubs is still fresh, but as with every year, now for more than 50 years I’m looking forward to next season. Less than 100 days till Spring Training. As the late Commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote
“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the Spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone.”
Fall is almost over and the 2017 pennant race will start in the Spring–just three months away. As has been the case since 1962, I’m absolutely convinced that the Giant will find a way to win it all.