San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants Weren’t Always Your Least Favorite Team

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Since the San Francisco Giants moved from New York to the City by the Bay in 1958, they have won three World Championships. It’s not all that unusual for a team that has been around the league as long as the Giants to have won three rings, however, it is strange that seven year olds have been around long enough to witness each of those World Series wins. Translation: in just seven years, the Giants have gone from postseason underdogs to most people’s least favorite playoff team. But the Giants weren’t always the league’s most familiar postseason franchise. In fact, before they beat the Texas Rangers in 2010, they underwent a 52-year championship drought and boasted the third longest such drought in the sport.  Let’s revisit that history!

When the New York Giants moved West and became the San Francisco Giants in ’58, they took with them Hall of Famers like Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. They also took with them New York’s oldest baseball dynasty, having called New York home since called themselves the New York Gothams (I know, very Batman-esq) in 1883.

The new San Francisco Giants played well enough after the move West. But they missed the playoffs for four years before a breakout 1962 season in which they won 103 games and reached the World Series. They played the Yankees tight, trading wins until game seven when they lost a 1-0 heartbreak. The only run of the game crossed home plate when Tony Kubek grounded into a double play, scoring Bill Skowron from third.

The Giants would go on to miss eight consecutive playoff berths before eventually clinching in 1971. Notably, the Giants sported a team featuring names like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry – all of whom would go on to become Hall of Famers. But they were opposed and stifled by the incomparable Roberto Clemente and rising star Willie Stargell, also Hall of Famers.

The Pirates would go on to win the World Series that season, and Clemente was crowned the Series MVP.

The Giants wouldn’t reach the postseason again until 1987. They faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS and battled for seven games before ultimately falling to the Red Birds 6-0. Mike Krukow, now a Giants commentator, pitched game four for San Francisco and beat Danny Cox. Cox would get the last laugh though, pitching a complete game shutout in game seven and sending St. Louis on the face Minnesota Twins in the World Series.

Then, two years later, the Giants would face their Bay Area neighbors, the Oakland Athletics, in the infamous Battle by the Bay. That series is remembered, not necessarily because the A’s swept the Giants in four games, but because Game 3 was postponed after the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the Bay Area. The whole series was put on hold for ten days while Oakland and San Francisco dealt with the quake’s damage, which gave time for both team’s best arms to freshen up for game three. Thus, Dave Stewart, the A’s ace and a twenty one game winner, was allowed to beat the Giants twice in just three games.

The Giants would then go on another string of disappointing seasons, missing the postseason even when they won 103 games in 1993 (Barry Bonds’ first full season with San Francisco). The Giants finished second in the national league in wins, but remember, all that of this took place before the MLB split the National League into three separate divisions. Thus, when the Giants finished just one win shy of the Atlanta Braves’ astonishing 104 win season, they were unable to participate in a wildcard game or a division series.

Bonds would be the Giants best player for twelve consecutive years, collecting seven Most Valuable Player awards, seven Gold Glove Awards and twelve Silver Slugger Awards. Not to mention he passed both the single season and all time home run leaders and carried the team to four postseason berths. But none of the Bonds-era playoff runs ended sweetly. In 1997, they were swept in the newly crafted National League Division Series by the Florida Marlins. They won just one game against the Mets in the 2000 NLDS, despite christening their new ballpark (then known as Pac Bell Park) with 97 wins and a first place finish in the NL West. Then, in 2002, they lost the World Series in seven games to the Anaheim Angels. Finally, in Bonds’ final trip to the postseason, San Francisco was once again beaten by Florida in four games in the NLDS.

At the end of the Bonds era, an acrobatic, five foot something right hander named Tim Lincecum carried the fanbase and the franchise through one of its darkest periods. They finished under .500 in four consecutive seasons, despite Lincecum’s two Cy Young Awards. But, at the end of the tunnel the Giants emerged triumphant, going on to claim three rings in five years and making the playoffs in four of seven. The rings were won by teams of players, not just individuals, but it is interesting to note that the Giant Dynasty coincides exactly with the arrival of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey in 2010.

This year, that same duo is hoping to catapult the Giants to a fifth another playoff run and a fourth ring. That may sound greedy, but hey, the franchise has been around plenty long, they were bound to get greedy at some point.

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