The San Francisco Giants are often over shadowed by their California counterpart, and arch nemesis, the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’re not as likable as the Chicago Cubs nor do they have that classic retro feel of the St. Louis Cardinals. They also fail to garner the national attention that the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies attract. Even so, the Giants are the stalwarts of Major League Baseball.
Consider the fact that the Giants have won more games than any team in the history of organized sports. They also have the most members in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In addition to those accomplishments, the Giants have won 20 National League pennants and played in 17 World Series (two pennants came before the advent of the World Series and the club, claiming the American League was inferior, refused to play in the 1904 World Series).
The Giants have won five World Series (1905, 1921, 1922, 1933 and 1954). The last time they reached the World Series was in 2002.
The club, one of the oldest in the Major Leagues, was founded in 1883 as the New York Gothams. In 1958, the franchise moved to San Francisco at the same time the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
Throughout their history, the Giants have played in 10 ballparks including the legendary Polo Grounds and famous Candlestick Park. Currently, the Giants play at AT&T Park. That stadium opened in 2000 under the name Pacific Bell Park.
Several of the greatest baseball players of all time have worn the Giants’ colors. The team’s long list of luminaries includes Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Orlando Cepeda and Barry Bonds.
The Giants have won championships and fielded hall of fame players, but six major events decorate the team’s vast history. Three of these events occurred on the field and three occurred off the field, but all had serious implications for the game of baseball.
You know a moment is special when it’s given a name. The “Shot Heard Round The World” is probably baseball’s number one highlight of all-time and one of sports’ most endearing moments.
It refers to Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson hitting a walk-off run off of Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. Thompson’s dramatic home run snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and claimed 1951 pennant for the Giants.
The moment was immortalized by Russ Hodges famous chant, “the Giants win the pennant!” “The Giants win the pennant!”
If “The Shot Heard Round the World” is baseball’s top offensive highlight than Willie Mays’ “The Catch” is baseball’s top defensive highlight.
Mays is not only a hall of fame outfielder and legendary hitter, but he’s also a baseball archetype. With a lifetime batting average of .302, Mays finished his career with 660 home runs and 3,283 hits. His play has inspired generations of fans and he’s always in the argument for greatest baseball player of all-time.
The year was 1954 and it was Game 1 of the World Series. With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, runners on first and second, Mays made a running catch off a ball hit to deep centerfield by Cleveland Indians batter Vic Wertz. By deep we mean 440 yards, the Polo Grounds was a huge ball park.
After Mays’ historic over-the-shoulder catch (his back was facing home plate) he whirled around and threw the ball back to the infield with his cap flying off in the process.
Mays’ amazing catch prevented the Indians from taking the lead. The Giants won the game in extra innings and eventually the series.
Slugger Barry Bonds, who is Mays’ godson, would be included in the argument of greatest players in baseball history if his career hadn’t been tarnished with allegations of steroids use. Regardless of whether or not he was using performing enhancing drugs, Bonds did manage to break two of baseball’s most hallowed records.
In 2001, Bonds hit 73 home runs to shatter Mark McGwire’s record for most home runs in a single season. Then on August 7th, 2007, Bonds hit his 756th career home run surpassing Hank Aaron for most all-time. Even with his reputation, the game was stopped for 10 minutes during which a video of Aaron congratulating Bonds was played in the stadium and Bonds, with Mays by his side, made an emotional statement to Giants fan.
Outside the lines, the Giants organization has been a part of three historic events. In 1981, the Giants hired the National League’s first black manager, hall of famer Frank Robinson. While Robinson’s tenure was bleak, his hiring blazed a path for future African-American managers and helped erode the final remnants of baseball’s segregation.
The next historic event started July 31st, 1994 and has continued annually ever since. The Giants’ AIDS benefit game, “Until There’s a Cure” Day, has raised more than $1.3 million for AIDS education, care and research. The Giants were the first professional sports team to host such an event.
The 1989 World Series saw the Giants facing off against their Bay-Area rivals the Oakland Athletics. The series, which was one of the most lopsided in Major League Baseball history, is known for the 10-day delay between Game 3 and Game 4 caused by the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The quake registered 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale and caused over 60 fatalities and over 3,700 injuries. Between 8,000 and 12,000 residents were displaced.
On that day, the morning edition of The San Jose Mercury News featured a column by Kevin Cowherd. He wrote, "... these are two teams from California and God only knows if they'll even get all the games in. An earthquake could rip through the Bay Area before they sing the anthem for Game 3."
That’s exactly when the quake occurred.
For more than 125 years, the San Francisco Giants have won on the field and in the community. They might not always receive the attention they deserve, but the Giants are truly one of Major League Baseball’s most important, significant and successful franchises.