Two coasts, two rings for Amalfitano

Claire: Two coasts, two rings for Amalfitano

The 76-year-old man seated in the stands with other personnel from the visiting team looked at the field in the bottom of the ninth inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday night and gently rubbed the ring on his right hand.

"I thought maybe it would bring us some good luck. One thing is for sure, looking at that ring brought back a lot of memories," said Joey Amalfitano.

The ring on Amalfitano's right hand was from the New York Giants' World Series championship of 1954.

He earned the ring as a 20-year-old infielder on the Giants, literally forced to stay with the Major League club all year after signing a contract in February 1954 that had paid him $35,000.

"If you signed for a bonus of more than $6,000, the team had to keep you at the Major League level for two years," recalled Amalfitano. "It was a way to hold down the bonus money."

As Amalfitano watched San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson take the mound in the bottom of the ninth against the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series, he couldn't help but think of the lasting memories that might await the individuals on the Giants.

"You never forget winning a World [Series] championship," he said. "It stays with you all of your life. And here I was, looking onto that field and thinking back to more than 50 years ago and realizing I was back to where I started as a member of the Giants."

Very few members of that 1954 team are alive today (Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Alvin Dark, Don Mueller and Johnny Antonelli are the most notable), and Amalfitano is the only member of the team who was in uniform for the Giants in both 1954, as an active player, and in 2010, as a Minor League instructor.

The longtime Major League coach serves as a special assistant in player development for the Giants.

"It's been a real treat for me to work for the Giants in recent years, because I've had the chance to see all of these good young players come through the farm system," said Amalfitano.

From 2002 through 2008, the Giants drafted in the first round starting pitchers Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, and catcher Buster Posey. Another starter, Jonathan Sanchez, was taken in the 27th round of 2004.

"I saw most of these guys make their first starts in professional baseball," said Amalfitano. "You think a lot about that when you watch them celebrate a World [Series] championship. You feel very fortunate to have been a part of all of that."

Amalfitano said it was in the spring a few years ago when former Giants player and Major League manager Felipe Alou came up to him and asked, "Joey, have you seen this young guy Lincecum?"

When Amalfitano replied that he hadn't seen the highly touted right-hander, Alou said, "You're going to think he's the batboy, but this young guy has amazing stuff."

"The young man is unique," said Amalfitano, "and he was good enough to pitch us to a World Series championship."

One of Amalfitano's assignments for the Giants in recent years has been to teach the players in the Minor League system the proper way to execute a sacrifice bunt, and it was a sacrifice bunt that played a key part in the Giants' 3-1 victory on Monday night, which nailed down the title.

With Lincecum and Cliff Lee of the Rangers locked in a scoreless pitching duel in the seventh inning, Cody Ross and Jose Uribe singled, then Aubrey Huff put down a bunt to advance the runners, setting the stage for Edgar Renteria's game-winning three-run homer.

"I don't know whether Huff bunted on his own or not, but that was a big play," said Amalfitano. "A bunt can change a game. There are no little things in this game."

Amalfitano has always had the ability to contribute to the advancement of young players, using the experience he gained from the time he was a 20-year-old rookie on a World Series championship team.

"One of the young players who really has me excited is the catcher, Posey," he said.

Posey made his professional debut for the Giants' team in the Arizona Summer League in 2008, and when he was told he was being moved up to A-ball after a few games, team manager Dave Machemer asked longtime baseball man Amalfitano if he had any words of advice for the young catcher.

"I can still remember my words," Amalfitano recalled on Tuesday. "I told him, 'You're going to be a very good player, and your career will take you to the World Series. It's going to be an experience you never will forget.'

"The young man looked me in the eyes and said, 'I can hardly wait.' "

The wait is over for the San Francisco Giants, who have won their first World Series title since 1954, when the team was in New York.

Posey earned his first World Series ring at the age of 23.

Amalfitano knew the thrill of being 20 and winning a World Series ring. Now he knows the meaning of getting a second Giants ring more than a half-century later.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.