He is the first San Francisco Giant and the seventh MLB pitcher (Johnny Podres '55, Sandy Koufax '65, Tom Seaver '69, Orel Hershiser '88, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson '01). In all, there have been 15 baseball selections--14 players and the 2004 Boston Red Sox - the most recent was Derek Jeter '09.
"What we saw from Madison this year--and in particular in the World Series--is the stuff of legends," said Paul Fichtenbaum, Time Inc. Sports Group Editor. "It's rare to see someone so young establish himself as one of the best ever, but after three outstanding World Series performances the case can be made that he's the best postseason pitcher of all-time."
Bumgarner was drafted at No. 10 by the Giants in the 2007 MLB First Year Player Draft following his senior year at South Caldwell High School in rural Caldwell County, North Carolina. As a Major Leaguer, he has won 67 regular-season games and three world championships, joining Vida Blue as the only pitchers to accomplish both those things at such a young age. What sets Bumgarner apart from all others, regardless of age or era, is his pitching in the World Series. In 36 career World Series innings, Bumgarner is 4-0 and holds all-time records for lowest ERA (0.25), fewest hits per nine innings (3.5) and fewest walks plus hits per inning (0.528).
In 2014, he pitched 40 times and threw 270 innings, including a record 52 2⁄3 innings just in the postseason. For October alone he forever will be linked with 2014, the way Christy Mathewson is with 1905, Carl Hubbell with 1933 and fellow SI Sportsmen Sandy Koufax with 1965, Orel Hershiser with 1988, and Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling with 2001. In the heat of this postseason, Bumgarner struck out 45 batters, threw two shutouts and saved a game while posting a 1.03 ERA. Nobody ever did all that before in October. Only two pitchers since 1914 have ever had a month like that even in the regular season: Billy Pierce in August 1953 and Jim Shaw in September '14.
"It's easy to mythologize the small-town sports hero. Baseball, especially, is full of them," said Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone. "Madison Bumgarner isn't the Sportsman of the Year because he's from a tiny town, but that town goes a long way toward defining who he is and it gives his story a different texture from past Sportsmen. And while he's been an outstanding pitcher for the last five years, his Sportsman candidacy was so sudden and seemingly out of nowhere that it makes him the most unique Sportsman in recent memory."
Following the Series, SI Senior Writer Tom Verducci visited Bumgarner at his 116 acre farm in Lenoir, N.C., which is 23 miles from Boone, N.C., a town named for the pioneer Daniel Boone, who established camp there, and 66 miles southwest of Mount Airy, the inspiration for television's Mayberry. Verducci writes: "The legend of Madison Bumgarner fits neatly in the space where we keep our idea of the archetypal outdoorsy, countrified man, where also reside the embellished, fictionalized Boone and Mayberry's Sheriff Andy Taylor. It's just that in Bumgarner's case the stories are true."
Bumgarner will be honored on Tuesday in New York City during a celebration that includes a tribute to Mo'Ne Davis, the 2014 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKid 0f the Year, and Earvin (Magic) Johnson Jr., the Sportsman Legacy Award winner.