These aren't your father's (or grandfather's) Giants
Three World Series titles in five seasons helps wash away decades of disappointment
By Terence Moore
Every other year now, the Giants blow my mind. Who are these guys, and where have you gone, Johnnie LeMaster?
My amazement over the Giants is multiple, and it begins with this: I'm flabbergasted by their success. No, shocked. I remember those other Giants. I remember the ones I used to watch up close and personal, just shy of when dinosaurs used to roam the earth.
I remember Johnnie LeMaster.
These new Giants ended the fairy tale of a postseason for the Royals on Wednesday night by snatching Game 7 of the World Series, and the Giants did so in Kansas City instead of San Francisco. Prior to this one, no club had won a Game 7 on the road since the "We are Family" Pirates of 1979. That was nine consecutive losses ago by the visiting team in these situations.
Here's the biggest reason I'm still rubbing my eyes: The Giants are World Series champions for the third time in five seasons. No National League team has done such a thing since Stan Musial's Cardinals of the 1940s.
Did I just say that? Yep. The Giants have another Commissioner's Trophy, because they had something better than a wicked witch to slay a Kansas City team that was supposedly kissed by destiny. They had Madison Bumgarner and his microscopic ERA for October. They had quirky Hunter Pence, who nevertheless can play like crazy. They had Buster Posey. They had Pablo Sandoval. They had the splendid managerial ways of Bruce Bochy.
They didn't have the best hitters in baseball. They also didn't have the top pitching staff. And, goodness knows, they weren't going to challenge any of their peers in a foot race.
They were the best team, though.
The same went for the Giants of 2010 and '12.
So the Giants' curse is over. This one lacked the notoriety of the one involving the Bambino in Boston or the Billy Goat in Chicago, but something dastardly was keeping the Giants from baseball's ultimate prize after they left New York for the West Coast following the 1957 season. Until their World Series victory over the Rangers in 2010, the San Francisco Giants were just an October tease.
That is, if they didn't collapse before then.
They reached the 1962 World Series only to drop a seven-game thriller to the Yankees, but they mostly were an "almost" team during the '60s. Their slew of Hall of Famers such as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal often finished second to the pitching-rich Dodgers.
The '70s were mostly brutal for the Giants, and let's skip to the latter half of the next decade, when they finally returned to the World Series in '89. They succumbed to the nearby A's in a series that was interrupted by an earthquake for the ages.
There also were those Barry Bonds years that led the Giants to another World Series in 2002. Despite sitting nine outs away from a World Series championship against the Angels with a 5-0 lead in Game 6, the Giants lost, 6-5. Then they lost Game 7, and they were an "almost" team again.
I remember when the Giants weren't even that. I remember that stretch I just skipped, which means we should go back to the early 1980s. I remember how I used to cover the Giants back then for the San Francisco Examiner, and I remember Johnnie LeMaster.
Well, LeMaster and the antithesis of AT&T Park. While the Giants' current home is a sparkling jewel along San Francisco Bay, with packed houses every game and with the feel of the most perfect baseball place west of Wrigley and Fenway, Candlestick Park was a place you only visited if you were the world's most diehard Giants fan, or if you were into freezing during the middle of summer, or if you had absolutely no life.
Nothing against LeMaster, by the way.
LeMaster was the Giants' starting shortstop and leadoff hitter during my stretch as a beat writer covering the team. To be kind, he wasn't Brandon Crawford, the Giants' current shortstop with the impressive future. After 12 Major League seasons, LeMaster owned a lifetime batting average of .222, 22 home runs, a .277 on-base percentage and a bunch of folks wondering why the Giants kept him around for almost a decade. He was jeered so much by the hometown fans in 1979 that he once approached home plate at Candlestick Park with the name "Boo" on the back of his jersey.
Joe Morgan was on a couple of those Giants teams during the early 1980s. Even though he ripped a home run at the end of the '82 season to knock the Dodgers out of the playoffs, he wasn't the Little Joe of the Big Red Machine. Mike Ivie was the first baseman, when he wasn't vanishing from the team -- I mean, literally -- due to bouts with homesickness. Jack Clark was their best player, but since he often used his tongue before engaging his mind, he regularly was in the doghouse of the Giants' manager of the moment.
The pitching was OK, and the hitting was spotty.
LeMaster was LeMaster.
Then there was Candlestick Park, which featured as much whining from the hometown players as the sight of trash flying through the air from the swirling winds. At one point, Giants manager Frank Robinson ordered his players to stop complaining about their ballpark in order to use it as a psychological advantage against opponents. Clark kept complaining about their ballpark, of course. At one point, he told me, "I wish there was a Mount St. Helens volcano underneath this place to blow it up."
Instead, the Giants just left Candlestick Park. They opened AT&T Park in 2000, and they improved in a hurry after that.
Now I don't recognize the Giants anymore.
Good for them.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.