History of the San Francisco Giants

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For the history of the team from 1883 to 1957, see History of the New York Giants (NL). For information on the franchise in general, see San Francisco Giants.

The history of the San Francisco Giants begins in 1883 with the New York Gothams and has involved some of baseball's greatest players, including Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, and Gaylord Perry. The team has won two World Series titles and five National League pennants since moving to San Francisco.

New York Giants history[edit]

From 1883 to 1957, the Giants franchise played games for New York City. During that time, the Giants won five of the franchise's seven World Series wins and 17 of its 21 National League pennants while playing most of its home games in the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan.

The Giants franchise was added by the National League in response to the 1882 formation of the American Association. Originally named the Gothams, they won consecutive National League pennants in 1888 and 1889 behind future Hall of Famers Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch, Roger Connor and Buck Ewing. From 1902 to 1931 the team was managed by John McGraw, who led them to 10 National League pennants and three World Series championships with many great players including Christy Mathewson, Iron Man Joe McGinnity, Bill Terry, Jim Thorpe, Mel Ott, Casey Stengel, and Red Ames.

The post-McGraw Giants were punctuated by two famous moments, the Shot Heard 'Round the World (1951) and The Catch by young superstar Willie Mays (1954). In the mid-1950s, the Polo Grounds was in disrepair and the Giants began to contemplate a move from New York. The Brooklyn Dodgers were considering a move to Los Angeles but were told it would not be allowed unless a second team moved to California as well. As a result, the Giants agreed to move to San Francisco and New York was left without a National League team until the New York Mets in 1962.

San Francisco Giants history[edit]

As with the New York years, the Giants' fortunes in San Francisco have been mixed. Though recently the club has enjoyed relatively sustained success, there have also been prolonged stretches of mediocrity along with two instances when the club's ownership threatened to move the team away from San Francisco.

1958–61: Seals Stadium and Candlestick Park[edit]

When the Giants moved to San Francisco, they played in Seals Stadium for their first two seasons. The stadium, which was located at 16th & Bryant Streets across from Stempel's Bakery, had been the home of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) San Francisco Seals, in their last years the AAA minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, from 1931 to 1957. In 1958, Latino hitter Orlando Cepeda won Rookie of the Year honors. In 1959, Willie McCovey won the same award.

In 1960, the Giants moved to Candlestick Park (sometimes known simply as "The 'Stick"), a stadium built on Candlestick Point in San Francisco's southeast corner overlooking San Francisco Bay. The new stadium quickly became known for its strong, swirling winds, cold temperatures and thick evening fog that made for a formidable experience for brave fans and players. Its built-in radiant heating system never worked. Candlestick's reputation was sealed in the ninth inning of the first 1961 All-Star Game when, after a day of calm conditions, the winds came back and a strong gust appeared to cause Giants relief pitcher Stu Miller to slip off the pitching rubber during his delivery, resulting in a balk (and a baseball legend that Miller was "blown off the mound"), although the National League won anyway. (Two All-Star Games per season were played from 1959 to 1962.)

Candlestick Park was frequently beshrouded in fog, both inside and out, coming in from the Pacific Ocean seven miles to the west (through what is known as the "Alemany Gap", a wide gorge ocean winds come through in lieu of major topographical obstacles). A foghorn was eventually situated and sounded inside the stadium between innings, adding to Candlestick's already notorious meteorological reputation. Winds would whirl around in the parking lot at other times while it would be calm inside the stadium. Even with its cold, windy and foggy reputation, it stood its ground when the ground below it shook violently just before the scheduled start of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. At 5:04 pm, the Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area during the pregame ceremonies. For 15 seconds the stadium rocked, and it was feared that one or more of the huge overhead light towers might fall on spectators in the stands; but only minor injuries were reported and the stadium's structure was deemed safe ten days later.

1962 World Series[edit]

Main article: 1962 World Series

In 1962, after another memorable pennant chase with the Dodgers which resulted in a second three-game playoff series with the Dodgers (after 1951) which the Giants again won by coming from behind with three runs in the ninth inning of Game 3, the Giants brought a World Series to San Francisco only to lose it four games to three to the New York Yankees. The seventh game went to the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Yankees ahead 1–0. With Matty Alou on first base and two outs, Willie Mays sliced a double down the right field line. Right fielder Roger Maris quickly got to the ball and rifled a throw to the infield, preventing Alou from scoring the tying run and keeping him at third base.

With the speedy Mays on second, any base hit by the next batter, Willie McCovey, would likely win the series for the Giants. McCovey hit a screaming line drive right at second baseman Bobby Richardson, who snared it after a step or two, bringing the Series to a sudden end. Earlier in the inning, a failed sacrifice bunt by Felipe Alou with nobody out had ultimately kept his brother Matty, who couldn't advance to second, from scoring on Mays' two-out double. Finally, Richardson was not originally positioned to catch the drive until he moved three steps to his left in reaction to a McCovey's foul smash on the preceding pitch.

Giant fan (and resident of nearby Santa Rosa) Charles Schulz made a reference to the real world in one of his Peanuts comic strips soon afterward. In the first three panels of his 12/22/62 strip, Charlie Brown and Linus are sitting on a porch step, looking glum. In the last panel, Charlie Brown cried to the heavens, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball higher?" Some weeks later, on January 28, 1963, the same scene reappeared in the strip with Charlie Brown exclaiming, "Or why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just TWO feet higher?"

1963–84: always a bridesmaid, never the bride[edit]

Giants pitcher Ron Herbel in a 1963 issue of Baseball Digest.

Although the Giants did not play in another World Series until 1989, the teams of the 1960s continued to be pennant contenders thanks to several future Hall-of-Famers. These included Gaylord Perry, who pitched a no-hitter with the Giants in 1968; Juan Marichal, a pitcher with a memorable high-kicking delivery; McCovey, who won the National League MVP award in 1969, and Mays, who hit his 600th career home run in 1969. A Giants highlight came in 1963 when Jesús Alou joined the team, and along with Felipe and Matty, for one late inning of one game, formed the first all-brother outfield in major league history. In 1967, pitcher Mike McCormick became the first Giant Cy Young Award winner.

The Giants' next appearance in the postseason came in 1971. After winning their division, they were easily defeated in the League Championship Series by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Roberto Clemente, who then went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series four games to three.

In 1972, the field at Candlestick Park was converted from grass to Astroturf.

During this decade, the Giants gave up many players who became successful elsewhere, including Garry Maddox, George Foster, Dave Kingman and Gaylord Perry. Two Giants became Rookies of the Year, outfielder (Gary Matthews Sr. in 1973 and no-hit pitcher John Montefusco in 1975).

In 1976 Bob Lurie bought the team, saving it from being moved to Toronto.[1] Toronto was awarded an expansion team called the Blue Jays, but San Francisco baseball fans' worries about losing their beloved Giants had not completely gone away just yet. The rest of the 1970s was a generally disappointing time for the Giants, as they finished no higher than third place in any season. This was in 1978, thanks to young star slugger Jack Clark, veteran slugging first baseman Willie McCovey, star hitter second baseman Bill Madlock (acquired from the Chicago Cubs), shortstops Johnnie LeMaster and Roger Metzger, and slugging third baseman Darrell Evans. Veteran pitchers Vida Blue, John Montefusco, Ed Halicki and Bob Knepper rounded out the starting rotation with Vida Blue leading the way with eighteen victories. The most memorable moment of that 1978 season occurred on May 28, 1978, when pinch hitter Mike Ivie, acquired from the San Diego Padres during the offseason for Derrel Thomas, hit a towering grand slam off of Dodgers pitching ace Don Sutton before Candlestick Park's highest paid attendance of 58,545. They led the NL West for most of the season until slugger Dusty Baker, rookie pitcher Bob Welch and the rest of the Dodgers got hot late, winning the West and (over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS) the NL pennant.

The field at Candlestick was converted back to natural grass for the 1979 season.

In 1981, the Giants became the first National League team to hire a black manager, Frank Robinson, although he lasted less than four years and was generally unsuccessful. The Giants finished a game over .500 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. The next season, the Giants acquired veterans Joe Morgan and Reggie Smith. They got hot late and ended up in a three-team pennant race with the Dodgers and Braves. The day after the Dodgers eliminated them, Morgan hit a homer against the Dodgers on the last day of the season, giving the NL West to Atlanta.

In 1984, the Giants hosted the All-Star Game for the second and last time at Candlestick Park, which the NL won as it did at Candlestick in 1961 when Stu Miller was blown off the mound by a gust of wind.[2]

1985–89: nadir and resurrection[edit]

The 1985 Giants lost 100 games (the most in franchise history) under unsuccessful rookie manager Jim Davenport, and owner Bob Lurie responded by hiring Al Rosen as general manager and Roger Craig as field manager. Rosen began in 1986 by bringing up promising rookies such as Will Clark and Robby Thompson (inspiring the promotional radio jingle "Ya gotta watch these Giants! You gotta like these kids!!"), and followed up in 1987 with canny trades for stars like Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky, Candy Maldonado, and Rick Reuschel.

Craig, renowned as the "Humm Baby" because he often said it, managed the Giants from late 1985 to 1992. In his first five full seasons with the Giants, the team had winning records. The Giants won 83 games in 1986 and won the National League Western Division title in 1987, losing the 1987 National League Championship Series to the injury-ridden, overachieving St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. The one bright spot in that defeat was their slugging outfielder Jeffrey Leonard, who was named the series MVP in a losing effort. In Leonard's own faltering words, the prize money ($50,000) meant nothing to him, but only the win that eluded him and his team. He would have given anything to be going up north to play the Minnesota Twins, and his former teammate outfielder Dan Gladden, traded to the Twins at the start of the season, in the 1987 World Series, who beat the Cardinals in seven games.

1989: Will the "Thrill", World Series and the Earthquake[edit]

Although the team used fifteen different starting pitchers in the regular season, the 1989 Giants won the National League pennant. They were led by pitchers Rick Reuschel (1989 National League All-Star Game Starter), closer Scott Garrelts (the 1989 National League ERA champion) and sluggers Kevin Mitchell (the 1989 National League MVP with his 47 home runs, many of them clutch) and Will Clark.

The Giants beat the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, four games to one. In Game 5, eventual 1989 NLCS MVP Will Clark (who hit .650 and drove in eight runs, including a grand slam off Greg Maddux in the first inning of Game 1 after reading Maddux's lips talking to his catcher on the mound beforehand) came through in the clutch with a bases-loaded, two-out single off hard-throwing lefty closer Mitch Williams to break a 1–1 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Giant closer Steve Bedrosian gave up three straight singles and a run before getting the dangerous Ryne Sandberg on a harmless first-pitch groundout straight to Robby Thompson at second, who threw easily to series hero Will Clark at first for the final out, stranding the tying run at third, as longtime Giants radio voice Hank Greenwald proclaimed, "27 years of frustration have come to an end as the San Francisco Giants are once again champions of the National League!"

After dispatching the Cubs four games to one, the Giants faced the Oakland Athletics in the unforgettable "Bay Bridge Series", best remembered by the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which struck at 5:10 pm just before the scheduled Game 3 at Candlestick Park. After a ten-day delay, Oakland finished its sweep of the Giants, winning Games 3 & 4 at San Francisco. The Giants never led in any of the games, and never even managed to send the tying run to the plate against A's closer Dennis Eckersley in their last at-bat of Game 4.

The Giants and A's had played three World Series before in the distant past when John McGraw's Giants were in New York and Connie Mack's A's were in Philly, the Giants winning in 1905 on Christy Mathewson's record three complete-game shutouts and the A's in 1911 & 1913 behind Frank ("Home Run") Baker and Eddie Collins.

1992: farewell San Francisco?[edit]

Will Clark preparing to bat for the Giants at Candlestick Park in 1992. That year, the Giants came close to relocation, with an empty stadium ready to be filled in Tampa.

In the wake of that disappointing 1989 World Series sweep, a local ballot initiative to fund a new stadium in San Francisco failed, threatening the franchise's future in the city. 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 St. Petersburg led by Vince Naimoli reached an agreement to purchase the team and move them to the Tampa Bay area, but the National League owners voted against the acquisition.[3] Wally Haas, the owner of the Oakland Athletics at the time, agreed to grant the Giants exclusive rights to the South Bay so the Giants could explore all potential local sites for a new stadium and at least help to keep the team in the Bay Area. The team was instead sold to an ownership group including managing general partner Peter Magowan, former CEO of supermarket chain Safeway, Harmon Burns, and his wife Sue.

In addition to the anticipated move to downtown San Francisco, the Giants' ownership also made a major personnel move to solidify fan support. Before even hiring a new general manager or officially being approved as the new managing general partner, Magowan signed superstar slugger free agent Barry Bonds away from the Pittsburgh Pirates, (a move which MLB initially blocked until some terms were negotiated to protect Lurie and Bonds in case the sale failed).[citation needed]

1993: "The last pure pennant race"[edit]

The Barry Bonds era began auspiciously as Bonds put up the numbers for the third MVP of his career: 46 homers, 129 runs and 123 RBI, (.336 BA, .458 OBP, .677 SLG, for a total of 1.135 OPS), all career highs. Matt Williams excelled as well (38 HR, 110 RBI, .294 BA), with veterans Robby Thompson and Will Clark (in his last season with the Giants) providing offensive support. John Burkett and Bill Swift won more than twenty games apiece, and closer Rod Beck was dominant with 48 saves and a 2.16 ERA.[4] All this led the Giants to a 103–59 record in Dusty Baker's first year as manager, which earned him the Manager of the Year award. But despite the Giants' great record, the Atlanta Braves — fueled by solid seasons from David Justice, Ron Gant, Deion Sanders and their key midseason acquisition of Fred McGriff from the San Diego Padres — came back from a ten-game deficit to pass the Giants win the NL West by a single game.[5] The Braves also had two 20+-game winners, Tom Glavine and Cy Young Award-winning Greg Maddux.

Desperately needing a win against the Dodgers in the final game of the year to force a one-game playoff with the Braves in San Francisco, the controversial choice of rookie pitcher Salomón Torres proved disastrous for the Giants as he gave up three runs in the first four innings of a 12–1 rout. (The alternative choice, Scott Sanderson, the only other rested Giant starter, was decided against because he was considered a fly-ball pitcher and the Dodgers a fly-ball-hitting team.) After MLB's establishment of the three-division playoff format with a fourth wild card entry after the 1993 season, New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson captured the feeling of many baseball purists regarding the thrilling (and for Giants fans, heartbreaking) winner-take-all outcome of the last two-division National League West when he characterized the 1993 National League regular season as "the last pure pennant race."

1994–96 seasons[edit]

The 1994 to 1996 seasons were not good for the Giants, punctuated by the strike that canceled the rest of the 1994 baseball season and the World Series. The strike denied Matt Williams a chance to beat Roger Maris's single season home run record: he had 43 HR in 115 team games, and was thus on pace for 60 when the strike hit with 47 games left to play (Bonds had 37, on pace for 52). But the rest of the team wasn't as good as their two sluggers, with no other player having even 10 home runs or even 40 RBI that late into the season although they were still in contention, not far from the division lead, when the strike ended play in mid-August.[6] (When Commissioner Bud Selig refused to budge in negotiations with the owners, a radio sports talk-show host quipped, "Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo couldn't cancel the World Series [in World War II], but Selig did!")

The Giants finished a dismal last in both 1995 & 1996, crippled by key injuries and slumps. 1995 had a strange feeling about it, with fans unsure if they would come back after the strike-shortened 1994 season (something that would keep attendances notably lower for a few more years, probably until the McGwire-Sosa record-breaking HR chase of 1998). Bonds continued as the Giants' driving force, posting fantastic numbers, with the highest WAR among position players in the National League (33 HR, 104 RBI, 109 R and 120 BB in 144 games). Matt Williams and Glenallen Hill (affectionately called "G. Hill" by manager Baker) were the only other Giants with 20+ HR, and the rest of the team had mediocre offensive numbers. The pitching staff was poor, with Mark Leiter leading the way with ten measly wins (10–12, 3.82 ERA). Closer Rod Beck had 33 saves but nine blown saves and a 4.45 ERA.[7]

1996 was highlighted by Bonds' joining the 40–40 club as only the second member (after the A's José Canséco in 1988), with 42 HR & 40 SB along with 129 RBI, 151 BB & a .308 BA. Rookie Bill Mueller also provided hope for the future of the club with a .330 average (66 hits in 200 AB over 55 games). Matt Williams and "G. Hill" provided offensive support. The pitching, was scarcely better than in 1995. Only Mark Gardner had more than 10 wins (12–7, 4.42 ERA), and Rod Beck had 35 saves and a 3.34 ERA but nine losses and the rest of the bullpen was woeful.[8] The low point came in late June when the Giants, after surging to .500 for a brief moment, lost 10 straight games en route to a 68–94 record, starting with a game in Atlanta they first tied with several runs in the ninth but then lost in extra innings. Their long-time radio voice, Hank Greenwald, retired after the season.

1997–99: rebuilding[edit]

1997[edit]

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Giants named Brian Sabean as their new general manager for 1997, replacing Bob Quinn. (Sabean may have been acting as GM even before the announcement, rumored as he was to have engineered the deal to get southpaw starter Kirk Rueter from the Montreal Expos.) His tenure began with great controversy. In his first official trade as GM, he shocked Giant fans by trading Matt Williams to Cleveland for what newspapers referred to as a 'bunch of spare parts', with a negative reaction great enough for him to explain publicly, "I didn't get to this point by being an idiot... I'm sitting here telling you there is a plan."

Sabean was proven right: the Indians acquired for Williams — slugging second baseman Jeff Kent, shortstop José Vizcaíno and bullpen setup man Julián Tavárez, along with Joe Roa – and the $1 million in cash that enabled them to sign center fielder and leadoff hitter Darryl Hamilton — and a subsequent trade with Anaheim for clutch-hitting, slick-fielding first baseman J. T. Snow – turned out to be major contributors, leading the Giants to their first NL West Division title of the decade in 1997. Snow, Kent and Bonds each had over 100 RBI, and pitcher Shawn Estes' 19 wins (against only 5 losses) led the team. Rod Beck had his usual fine season with 37 saves.[9] 1997 also saw the introduction of interleague play to major league baseball, with the division-winning Giants going 10–6 against the four American League West teams: Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels and Oakland A's.[10] But the wild-card Florida Marlins ended the Giants' season with a 3–0 sweep in the first round of the playoffs (the first two being one-run walkoff wins in Florida) on their way to the first Marlin world championship in only their fifth year.

1998[edit]

In 1998, the Giants were fueled by good seasons from sluggers Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds, both with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI, and from starters Kirk Rueter (16–9 W-L record, 4.36 ERA), Mark Gardner (13–6, 4.33) and newly acquired Orel Hershiser (11–10, 4.41).[11] New closer Robb Nen had 40 saves. A hot September stretch tied them for the NL wild card, but they lost a one-game playoff at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

1999: final season at Candlestick Park[edit]

1999 saw the Giants finish second in the NL West with an 86–76 record. Barry Bonds's production dropped as he hit .262, his lowest average in a decade. He did, however, hit 34 home runs even though missing more than a third of the season due to injury, and other team regulars put up very good supporting numbers including Snow, Kent, shortstop Rich Aurilia and outfielder Ellis Burks, all with 20+ HR and 80+ RBI. Marvin Benard also had a career year in center field with 16 home runs, 64 RBIs and a career- and team-high 27 stolen bases. The pitching staff was paced by Russ Ortiz (18–9, 3.81) and Kirk Rueter (15–10, 5.41).[12]

With the knowledge that their days in Candlestick Park were numbered, the 1999 season ended with a series of promotions and tributes. After the final game of the season, a loss to the Dodgers, home plate was ceremoniously removed and taken by CHP helicopter to the new grounds where the downtown stadium was being built.

2000–present: AT&T Park[edit]

In 2000, after forty years, the Giants bade farewell to Candlestick Park and, as long advocated, moved into a privately financed downtown stadium (AT&T Park, originally Pacific or "Pac" Bell Park and later renamed SBC Park) on that part of the shoreline of China Basin known to Giant fans as McCovey Cove, at the corner of 3rd and King Streets (with an official address of 24 Willie Mays Plaza in honor of the longtime Giant superstar), ushering in a new era for the Giants and their fans. While Candlestick resembled the multi-purpose concrete-dominated "cookie-cutter" parks built by so many teams during the 1960s & 1970s, their new home is regarded as one of the most beautiful venues in all of professional sports. Even so, as part of the intense rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers, some Dodger fans derisively and jealously refer to AT&T Park as "The Phone Booth" from its current and former names (Pac Bell Park, SBC Park), as could be expected.

The Giants routinely sell out their new nearly 43,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium built for the 21st century, whereas paltry paid attendances of less than 10,000 were not uncommon in Candlestick despite its nearly 60,000 seating capacity, although by the 1999 season the Giants did manage to draw about 25,000 fans per game. The team in its striking new location annually vies for highest MLB season attendance in contrast to often having lowest attendance in the NL (or close to it) before. Still quite breezy in summer compared to other MLB parks, AT&T Park has been a consensus success despite its reputation as a "pitcher's park" stingy for power hitters. Its state-of-the-art design minimizes wind-chill, it is well served by mass transit and has spectacular views of the bay and the city skyline, traits all lacking at Candlestick especially after it was redesigned in the early 1970s to accommodate the NFL 49ers. AT&T Park is the centerpiece of a renaissance in San Francisco's South Beach and Mission Bay neighborhoods, known for what has been called sustainable design.[13]

Despite inaugural game festivities at the new ballpark, those pesky Dodgers spoiled the 2000 season opener with an unexpected three-HR outburst by little-known, light-hitting shortstop Kevin Elster. But the Giants rebounded after losing their first six games in their new home with a solid effort all season long, culminating with not only the NL West Division title but the best record in the major leagues. Kent paced the attack with clutch hits (33 HR, 125 RBI) en route to being elected MVP over runner-up Bonds with 49 HR & 106 RBI. The pitching staff was not great but certainly decent, five starters earning at least ten wins: Liván Hernández (17–11, 3.75), Russ Ortíz (14–12, 5.01), Kirk Rueter (11–9, 3.96), Shawn Estes (15–6, 4.26) and Mark Gardner (11–7, 4.05). Closer Robb Nen was nearly perfect, with 41 saves and a minute 1.50 ERA.[14]

The Giants lost the 2000 division series to the New York Mets three games to one after a solid win in Game 1 on the postseason clutch pitching of Liván Hernández. But the Mets won the next three games despite decent starts by Estes, Ortíz and Mark Gardner. Game 2 in particular ended tumultuously but disappointingly. Down 4–1 in the ninth, Snow smacked a three-run home run to tie the game; but the Mets won in the tenth with a run off Félix Hernández, Bonds making the last out with two men on on a controversial called third strike.[15]

In 2001, the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on the next-to-last day of the season. Slugging shortstop Rich Aurilia put up stellar numbers (37 HR, 97 RBI, .324 BA) in support of Bonds, who once again gave fans something to cheer about with his single-season record 73 home runs, surpassing Mark McGwire's 70 in 1998. The pitching staff was good but not great, with Russ Ortíz (17–9, 3.29) leading a staff that also had Liván Hernández (13–15, 5.24) and Kirk Rueter (14–12, 4.42). Shawn Estes and Mark Gardner had subpar years, but a notable late-season acquisition from the Pirates was superstar starter Jason Schmidt (7–1, 3.39). Robb Nen continued as a dominant closer (45 saves, 3.01 ERA).[16]

2002: National League Championship Season and World Series[edit]

In 2002, the Giants finished 2nd in the NL West behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, bolstered by another MVP season for Bonds (46 HR, 110 RBI, .370 BA, a then-record 198 walks and a .582 OBP) and Kent (37 HR, 108 RBI and .313 BA).[17] Additional roster support was provided by decent seasons from veteran catcher Beníto Santiágo and Aurilia, aided by new acquisitions third baseman David Bell, slugging outfielder Reggie Sanders and fleet-footed outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, (generally known by last name only), who spent only one season with the Giants before returning to Japan. The pitching staff again proved solid, with five starters winning 12 or more including Jason Schmidt in his first full season in San Francisco. Closer Robb Nen had 43 saves and a 2.20 ERA, and setup men Felix Rodríguez and Tim Worrell were solid out of the bullpen.

The Giants made the playoffs as the NL wild card in the last weekend of the season. They began by defeating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS three games to two, with Ortíz winning Games 1 and 5 in Atlanta and Snow ending the deciding game with a spectacular double play ending in a rundown between first and second.[18]

In the NLCS, they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals four games to one with wins by Rueter, Schmidt and two by Worrell in relief.[19] Santiago, particularly for his late clutch game-turning and -winning home run in Game 4, was elected MVP of the NLCS.

The Giants then faced the American League champion Anaheim Angels (now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in the World Series, marking the first World Series between two wild-card teams. The Giants split the first two (one-run) games in Anaheim, but took Games 4 & 5 in Pac Bell Park after being beaten soundly by the visiting Angels in Game 3 for a three-games-to-two lead following their 16–4 blowout home win in Game 5 before the Series shifted back to Anaheim. With the Giants leading 5–0 with one out in the bottom of the 7th of Game 6, momentum changed decisively when manager Dusty Baker removed starter Russ Ortíz after he gave up two straight singles and handed him what Giant fans hoped would be the "game" ball as he walked off the mound. Moments later, however, Scott Spiezio hit a three-run home run for the Angels off reliever Felix Rodríguez on a 3–2 pitch just over the right field fence (with Sanders out of position, playing him too shallow) after fouling off numerous fastballs, and the Angels went on to win the game 6–5 on an eighth-inning two-run double by Series MVP third baseman Troy Glaus off the faltering Nenn, pitching "on fumes and guts" with an injured pitching shoulder. The following night, Anaheim won Game 7 4–1 behind an early 3-run double by Garret Anderson off Hernández to claim the Series.

After 2002, the Giants went through many personnel changes. Baker's managerial contract was not renewed after ten seasons. Closer Nenn's damaged shoulder ended his career, forcing him into early retirement; and Kent, moving on to the Houston Astros in his native Texas, was not re-signed. Position players David Bell, Reggie Sanders, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Kenny Lofton, as well as pitchers Liván Hernández, Russ Ortíz and southpaw reliever Aaron Fultz (winner of 2002 World Series Game 4), all went to other teams in 2003 as well.

2003: wire to wire[edit]

That season the Giants, under new manager Felipe Alou, won 100 games for the seventh time in franchise history and the third time in San Francisco, winning their division for the third time in seven seasons and spending every day of the season in first place, the ninth team to accomplish that feat in baseball history. Their offense was paced by yet another MVP season from Bonds (45 HR, 90 RBI, .341 BA, 148 BB and an OBP of .529). Decent offensive support was provided by Rich Aurilia, Marquis Grissom, José Cruz, Jr., Edgardo Alfonzo, Benito Santiago, Pedro Felíz and Andrés Galarrága. The pitching staff was led by Jason Schmidt (17–5, 2.34 ERA) and Kirk Rueter (10–5, 4.53), but dropped off after that, no other starter earning ten wins.[20]

Once again in the playoffs, and just like in 1997, the Giants faced the eventual-world-champion Florida Marlins in the NLDS. Schmidt won Game 1 in San Francisco with a low-scoring complete game outdueling Josh Beckett; but the Marlins won the next three games, and the series three games to one, as the Giants bullpen faltered after Game 2 starter Sidney Ponson imploded, blowing a big early Giant lead. As usually reliable outfielder Fred Snodgrass blew the deciding game of the 1912 World Series on the road with the Giants one run ahead going into the last of the tenth with a notorious "muff" of a fly ball by the leadoff hitter ending with the home team Boston Red Sox scoring two runs for a come-from-behind walkoff win, exactly the same scenario happened in the last of the tenth in Florida in Game 3 of the 2003 NLDS with a muff of another easy leadoff fly ball by otherwise slick-fielding José Cruz, Jr., ending with Ivan Rodríguez's two-out, two-run, come-from-behind bases-loaded walkoff win for the Marlins off closer Tim Worrell.[21]

2004–06: playoff drought[edit]

In 2004, Bonds broke his own records with 232 walks and a .609 OBP en route to his 7th and last NL MVP award (45 HR, 101 RBI, .362 BA). The team also had a solid but not stellar supporting cast including Marquís Grissom (22, 90, .279) and Pedro Felíz (22, 84, .276), along with decent hitting by Ray Durham, Edgárdo Alfónzo, Michael Tucker and AJ Pierzynski. Jason Schmidt was the star of the staff (18–7, 3.20 ERA, 251 SO), but the team was constantly looking for a new closer (Matt Herges and Dustin Hermanson sharing the role during the season).[22] After sitting out most of the first half of the season with an injury, Snow led the league in hitting after the All-Star Break.

The Giants' 2005 season was the least successful of the decade in their new stadium. Bonds missed almost the entire season with a knee injury, erratic closer Armando Benítez was injured for four months, and ace Jason Schmidt struggled after numerous injuries. But management took advantage of the off-year to give playing time to numerous young players, including pitchers Noah Lowry, Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, Scott Munter, Matt Cain and Jeremy Accardo, as well as first baseman Lance Niekro and outfielders Jason Ellison and Todd Linden. The acquisition of veteran outfield contact hitter Randy Winn from the Seattle Mariners was invaluable in the stretch run.

On September 28, the Giants were officially eliminated from the NL West race after losing to the division champion San Diego Padres, finishing a distant third at 75–87, their worst, and first losing, season since 1996. Despite the disappointing finish, the Giants extended manager Felípe Alou's contract for another year.

The Giants were expected to contend in 2006 with a strong starting staff. Despite a losing streak in May, and the worst batting performance by Barry Bonds in about fifteen years[23] the Giants did contend in the less-than-stellar Western Division and by July 23 were in first place. On that day, however, during the last game of a homestand and leading San Diego going into the ninth inning, closer Armándo Benítez blew a save with a tying home run and the Giants lost in extra innings. That was the first loss of a horrendous three-week stretch that saw San Francisco go 3–16, losing nine games by one run.[24]

On October 2, 2006, the day after the end of the regular season, the Giants announced that they would not renew manager Felípe Alou's contract but still offer him the opportunity to stay with them in an advisory role to the general manager and to baseball operations.

2007–2009: losing ways & Milestones[edit]

2007: end of the Bonds era[edit]

With eleven free agents excluding Jason Schmidt who signed with the Dodgers for roughly $15 million a year, a new manager on board with Bruce Bochy coming from division rival San Diego, and the loss of veteran catcher Mike Matheny due to complications resulting from concussions sustained during his career,[25] the Giants' prospects for the 2007 season were less than favorable going into the winter off-season. The team then agreed to several deals—resigning Pedro Feliz, Ray Durham, and old time Giants fans favorite Rich Aurilia, and picking up catcher Bengie Molina, Ryan Klesko, and Dave Roberts. They also signed free agent pitcher Barry Zito to a seven-year contract worth $126 million. The deal, which was the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history, includes a $18 million team option for an eighth year. On January 9, 2007, the Giants resigned pitcher Russ Ortiz to compete for the fifth starting position in spring training. Ortiz was slotted for the position in late March due to his outstanding spring.

The 2007 team during spring training

The Giants started off the regular season slow, had spurts of promise but more often stretches of mediocre to worse play. Pitching was often inconsistent or the offense was non-existent (such as during a pair of 1–0 losses for losing pitcher Matt Cain).

The season did have memorable action, such as the Giants playing the Red Sox in Boston for the first time since 1912 and the Giants hosting the 2007 MLB All-Star Game. Most notable during the season, however, was Bonds march towards Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755. Bonds's proximity to the record brought heavy media attention to the San Francisco Giants.

Leading off in the top of the second inning of game two versus the Padres, before a sell-out crowd at PETCO Park, Barry Bonds hit a high fastball off the facing of the upper deck in left field for his 755th career home run. The opposite-field shot tied the game at 1–1 and tied Hank Aaron for the all-time home run record. The Giants lost in extra innings, this time by a score of 2–3. In the bottom of the fifth inning at home against the Nationals on August 7, 2007, Bonds hit his 756th home run which caused a melee in the crowd. Hank Aaron appeared on the big screen and congratulated Bonds. The Giants went on to lose the game 8–6.

On August 9, 2007, Mark Sweeney was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for AA second baseman Travis Denker. The trade was the first between the Giants and the Dodgers since 1985.[26]

The discouraging theme of 2007 would continue as solid pitching was not backed up with offense. Tim Lincecum held the Chicago Cubs to two hits through eight innings on August 21, but the team scored only one run, losing to the Cubs by a score of 5–1.

On September 22, 2007, the Giants officially announced that the team would not re-sign Barry Bonds for the 2008 season. After much speculation and debate, owner Peter Magowan announced Bonds's departure at a press conference, stressing the fact that the Giants needed to get younger and start fielding a more efficient offense.[27]

Barry Bonds played his last game as a San Francisco Giant on September 26, 2007. He went 0 for 3, driving a ball that was caught at the warning track in left-center field in his final at bat.

2008: without Bonds & Golden anniversary[edit]
Tim Lincecum 2008 Cy Young Award Winner.

The 2008 season marked the first year that Barry Bonds was not a member of the team since first signing with them in 1992 and the 50th season in San Francisco. The Giants signed former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand to a 5-year, $60 million contract. Barry Zito once again got off to a poor start, losing his first eight decisions. However, the team found hope in pitcher Tim Lincecum. After going 7–5 in his first stint in 2007 with the Giants, he exploded onto the scene this year winning four straight before losing his 1st game of the year on April 29, 2008, to the Colorado Rockies. Lincecum was selected to the 2008 MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium but was unable to pitch due to being hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. He went on to win the 2008 NL Cy Young Award, finishing at 18–5. He was the first Giant to do so since Mike McCormick won it in 1967.[28] The Giants finished the season in fourth place in the NL West with a record of 72–90.

2009: a mix of Old & New and a No-Hitter[edit]

During the off season, the Giants strengthened their pitching staff by acquiring veteran starting pitcher Randy Johnson and relievers Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt. The Giants also signed infielders Edgar Rentería and Juan Uribe. Despite questions lingering about the team's struggling offense, the team compiled a 49–39 record by the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, good enough for second place in the NL West.

In addition to the team's overall performance, the first half of the season provided several memorable moments for the players themselves. Highlights included Johnson earning his 300th career victory, becoming the twenty-fourth pitcher in Major League history to do so, as well as struggling starter Jonathan Sánchez tossing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 10, the first Giants no-hitter since 1976. 2009's pitching staff will go down as one of the strongest starting rotations in Giants history– the Giants sent two of their starting pitchers to the All-Star Game, including that year's starter, Tim Lincecum. He went on to win the 2009 NL Cy Young Award, finishing at 15–7. Lincecum became the only pitcher to capture the Cy Young Award in each of his first two full Major League seasons.[29]

On July 10, Jonathan Sánchez, spot starting in place of an injured Randy Johnson and on his first start upon returning to the starting rotation after a brief demotion to the bullpen, threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Sánchez issued no walks (the only runner reached on an error by third baseman Juan Uribe) and struck out a career-high eleven hitters in the game, which was also his first major league complete game and shutout and the first no-hitter ever thrown at AT&T Park. He threw 110 pitches to complete the game, with a final score of 8–0 for the Giants.

The team faced a tragic note on July 19, when the club announced that Sue Burns, the team's senior general partner who was a virtual fixture in her seat adjacent to the Giants' dugout, died early Sunday morning of cancer. Burns was the widow of Harmon Burns, a financier in the San Francisco Bay Area who was a key member of the investor group that saved the team from moving to Tampa in 1992. The Giants honored Burns in a pre-game ceremony in which Barry Bonds was also in attendance.[30]

On July 20, the Giants traded one of their top prospects, AA pitcher Tim Alderson, for Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Alderson was the first round pick in the 2007 draft and was ranked the number four prospect in the Giants organization by Baseball America,[31] but Sanchez provided a much needed jump for the Giants offense. Sanchez ended the 2009 season batting .293 with 41 runs batted in and 22 walks. On September 11, the Giants added another key player when they brought up Buster Posey from the Giants AAA affiliate Fresno Grizzlies.

Although the team only finished 14 games above .500, they won 16 more games than the previous season. With the emergence of star player Pablo Sandoval alongside a dominant pitching staff, the Giants looked forward to making the playoffs next year for the first time since 2003.[32]

2010–present[edit]

2010: torture and triumph[edit]

In 2010, in a season described with the slogan "Giants Baseball: Torture" by broadcaster Duane Kuiper,[33] the club won the National League Western Division title for the first time since 2003 after trailing the San Diego Padres most of the season. (The "torture" slogan was coined on the April 21 edition of Kruk and Kuip on Baseball on KNBR radio, following a game which the Giants lost 1–0 despite a 1-hitter thrown by Jonathan Sánchez.) On July 4, after losing a four-game road series in Colorado, the Giants' record stood at 41–40 at the half-way point of the season. Boosted by a 21-game hitting streak by Buster Posey, called up in May from AAA Fresno, the Giants then won 19 of the remaining 24 games in July. August saw a losing record of 13–15, as the club lost four series against the Braves, Padres, Phillies, and Cardinals. On August 25, despite overcoming a 10–1 deficit in the 5th inning, the Giants lost to the Reds in extra innings at home to drop 6.5 games behind San Diego. Three days later, following an 11–3 debacle at home against the Diamondbacks, Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy, and Drew Northfield held a private meeting with the starting pitchers, who had gone 5–13 with a 5.56 ERA in August, including 14 straight starts without a win.

The Padres suffered a 10-game losing streak going into September and on the 5th, the Giants beat the Dodgers 3–0 to move to within a game of first place. Despite being shut out four times in ten games, the Giants recorded an September 18–8 to move into first by three games as the pitching staff achieved a team ERA of 1.78, the lowest in the National League in a September stretch run since the 1965 Dodgers. During their September run, the Giants' pitching staff allowed no more than 3 runs for 18 straight games, the longest single-season streak since 1920. The division title came down to the final three games of the year in October at home against San Diego, with the Giants clinching in the last regular season game, 3–0. Jonathan Sánchez, who had been ridiculed in August when he failed to make good a boast that the Giants would sweep the Padres, led the September charge with a 3–1 record and 1.17 ERA, and took the win in the clincher. Closer Brian Wilson finished the game for his franchise record-tying and major league-leading 48th save. In the second half of the season the Giants went 51–30. After a 9–20 first half against division opponents, the Giants won 29 of their remaining 43 division games.

Pat Burrell in the Giants' 2010 World Series victory parade.

At the beginning of the 2010 Major League Baseball season only one (Jim Caple of ESPN.com, although he later recanted his pick before the NLCS, saying the Philadelphia Phillies would beat the Giants and advance to the World Series) out of literally dozens of baseball writers and pundits picked the Giants to even reach the World Series, with most not expecting the Giants to even make the playoffs.[34][35][36]

In the 2010 National League Division Series, the Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves three games to one. Tim Lincecum won Game 1 with a memorable and record-setting 14-strikeout, 2-hit shutout performance. In the ensuing NLCS, the Giants took a 3–1 advantage over the Philadelphia Phillies, winning two games at home after splitting the first two at Philadelphia. Starting pitcher for the Giants Tim Lincecum rematched against the Phillies' Roy Halladay in Game 5. The Giants failed to beat Roy Halladay, losing 4–2, forcing a return trip to Philadelphia. In Game Six, the Giants beat Philadelphia by a final score of 3–2, to win the NLCS 4–2 and advance to face the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series.

The first World Series game was a highly anticipated matchup between 2-time National League Cy Young Award winner (2008,2009) Tim Lincecum, against the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner and heretofore undefeated in postseason play Cliff Lee.[37] The pitching matchup turned out to be a sideline, as the Giants won the first game of the World Series by 11–7 over the Rangers, backed by Freddy Sanchez's three doubles, setting a World Series record for being the first player to hit three consecutive doubles in their first three at bats. The game also saw the Giants set the record for the most runs (6) scored in a single half-inning in a World Series since 1933.[38] The next day, the Giants won game 2 of the World Series, crushing the Rangers 9–0 after the Rangers walked 4 in a row and allowed 7 runs to the Giants in the 8th inning. Matt Cain also had a dominant game, pitching 723 innings without giving up a run.[39] The Giants went on to lose Game 3 in Arlington, Texas 4–2 after a 3-run home run from Ranger's rookie Mitch Moreland in the second inning, and a solo home run by Josh Hamilton in the fifth. Game 4 belonged to the Giants, as rookie left-handed starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner shut out the Rangers over eight innings with home runs by Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey propelling the team to a 4–0 victory.[40] The Giants, along with Tim Lincecum, won Game 5 by a score of 3–1. Lincecum outdueled Cliff Lee in an every-pitch-matters matchup that was scoreless until Edgar Rentería hit a stunning three-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning. Nelson Cruz homered in the bottom half, but Lincecum returned to his wicked self and preserved the lead. Brian Wilson was brought in to pitch the 9th and produced a scoreless inning, allowing San Francisco to bring out a series of firsts, not just for the Giants, but also for the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area.[41] Edgar Rentería was named World Series Most Valuable Player.[42][43]

The firsts with the championship were:

On November 15, 2010, Giants catcher Buster Posey was named NL Rookie of the Year.[46]

2011[edit]

2011 began on a dark note when Giants fan Bryan Stow was critically injured after being attacked by Dodgers fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on Opening Day.[47] The season continued to be plagued with hardship, on May 25 during a regular season game against the Miami Marlins Giants star catcher, Buster Posey, suffered a year ending injury in a collision at home plate.[48] San Francisco finished the 2011 season with a disappointing 86–76 record, winding up in second place in the NL West, eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.[49]

2012: return to the World Series[edit]

The Giants started the season playing barely above .500, trailing the Dodgers in second place for most of the first half of the season and falling to 7.5 games back near the end of May. However, a June 17–10 by the Giants, combined with an June 11–17 by the Dodgers that included a sweep by the Giants, brought the Giants ahead by one game to end June. The Giants and Dodgers would continue to trade places at the top until August 20, at which point the Giants started a sweep of the Dodgers that would give them the lead for good.

On June 13, 2012, Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in the 129-year history of the franchise, against the Houston Astros at AT&T Park.[50]

Melky Cabrera was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game after delivering a first-inning hit off the Tigers' Justin Verlander, followed by a game-breaking, two-run homer in the fourth inning off Matt Harrison of the Rangers.[51] At the trade deadline the Giants picked up right fielder Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies and second baseman Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies. On August 15, Melky Cabrera was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games for the use of performance enhancing drugs. Despite the suspension, the Giants still won the 2012 NL West Division.[52]

On October 11, the Giants became the first National League team to come back from a 2–0 deficit in the NLDS to beat the Cincinnati Reds in three straight games at Great American Ball Park. The Giants clinched a spot in the National League Championship Series and became the first to take a best-of-five by winning the last three on the road.[53] The NLCS pitted the Giants against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals won 3 out of the first 4 games, bringing the Giants to the brink of elimination again. Giants left-hander Barry Zito, who was left off of the 2010 postseason roster, led the Giants to a 5–0 win in game 5, pitching 7 2/3 innings. The Giants won the next two games to reach the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Giants defeated the Tigers in the first game, with Pablo Sandoval becoming the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and proceeded to sweep Detroit in four straight games for their second world championship in three years.[54] Sandoval received the World Series MVP award.[55][56]

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