MadBum decisive choice as SI Sportsman of the Year
Giants lefty 14th to represent MLB with magazine's prestigious award
By Chris Haft
SAN DIEGO -- Madison Bumgarner's sense of humor seemed intact Monday. More importantly, so did his throwing arm.
During a conference call to herald Bumgarner's selection as Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year, the Giants' ace left-hander said that he was "right on course" for his usual offseason, having resumed his workout routine about a week ago. He plans to begin throwing soon.
Asked if he felt any pain or discomfort after his grueling 270-inning workload in 2014 that included a record 52 2/3 postseason innings, Bumgarner dryly said, "I got a splinter in my finger the other day that was kind of painful, but it was on my right hand, luckily, so it should be fine."
Remaining cheery has been easy for Bumgarner, the Most Valuable Player of both the National League Championship Series and World Series who also has received Silver Slugger and GIBBY awards. His latest accolade, however, gave him a sense of awe.
Unlike the other honors he has received, Bumgarner beat out top performers from all sports. The Sportsman of the Year award has been given annually since 1954 to the individual(s) or team who, in the magazine's estimation, best personifies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.
"It's extremely humbling," Bumgarner said. "You hear a lot, 'It hasn't sunk in yet.' I don't know if this one ever will sink in. It truly is special. Just to be considered for an award like this is an honor in itself, let alone to win it."
Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone observed that unlike most recent Sportsmen, Bumgarner was not widely known before he strung together his award-winning postseason feats. Stone said Bumgarner wasn't even mentioned in a meeting to discuss potential candidates for the honor at the end of September.
Then came October.
"The decisiveness with which we reached this decision is about as decisive as I can ever remember the process being," said Stone, a 22-year employee with the magazine.
Stone noted that though other strong candidates for the award emerged, such as San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, golfer Rory McIlroy and Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, "There really was no other choice" besides Bumgarner. Stone added, "You kind of felt what you were witnessing in October was a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing."
Bumgarner, 25, became the 14th representative of Major League Baseball (player, duo or team) to receive the honor. The last ballplayer to take home the award, which is symbolized by a ceramic urn decorated by paintings of Greek athletes, was New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in 2009.
Other Major League winners include Dodgers pitchers Johnny Podres (1955), Sandy Koufax ('65) and Orel Hershiser ('88); Hall of Famers Stan Musial ('57), Carl Yastrzemski ('67), Tom Seaver ('69) and Willie Stargell ('79); all-time hits leader Pete Rose ('75); altruistic slugger Dale Murphy ('86); the duos of Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa ('98) and Curt Schilling/Randy Johnson (2001); and the champion Boston Red Sox ('04).
Bumgarner also joined a group of legendary athletes who won the award, including golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, boxing's Muhammad Ali, hockey's Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, professional basketball's Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, and track and field's Rafer Johnson. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana (1990) was the first recipient who built his professional reputation in the Bay Area (Russell spent his formative years in Oakland).
Sports Illustrated chose to recognize Bumgarner for his overwhelming excellence that was crowned by his postseason performance. Bumgarner posted a 4-1 October record while striking out 45 and walking six. He yielded just six earned runs in seven postseason appearances while becoming the first pitcher with two wins, a shutout and a save in the World Series since the save rule became official in 1969. He concluded the Giants' World Series triumph over Kansas City by pitching five shutout innings of relief in Game 7.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.