San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are one of the most famous teams in the sport of baseball. Their club history is one of remarkable early success, fierce rivalries and some of the most famous incidents in the history of the game. Although recent success has eluded them, their ability to come back from almost certain defeat has characterised the team for over a century.

Getting Started

The San Francisco Giants began life in 1883 when they were founded by John B. Day and Jim Mutrie. Based in New York at the Polo Grounds, they were originally named the New York Gothams, soon changing their name to the New York Giants.

Success came relatively swiftly, and in 1888 they won their first National League pennant, going on to beat the St Louis Browns of the American Association to win the World Championship.

First World Series

In 1902, things were not going well for the Giants, and they had slumped to their worst season results since their foundation. As a result, John McGraw was signed as the player-manager. He would go on to lead the club to new heights and guide them through the most successful period in their history.

The results came quickly, and in 1904 the Giants recorded their best ever season with 106 victories, making them the champions of the National League once again. However, they chose not to participate in the World Series due to a presumption that the American League was inferior to their own.

The following year, after they had managed to defend their title, the Giants decided that they would play in the World Series this time around. Helped in part by an excellent performance by pitcher Christy Mathewson, they reached the pinnacle of the sport by going on to beat the Philadelphia Athletics 4-1 and claim their first World Series title.

World Series Failures and Finally Success

The next decade was characterised by frustration. Although the Giants performed incredibly well in the National League, winning the pennant on four occasions, all of these successes led to nothing in the World Series where they lost three in row from 1911 to 1913, and a further one in 1917.

It would not be until the next decade that they would break their jinx when, after winning the pennant once again in 1921, they managed to overcome local rivals the New York Yankees in eight games to once again triumph at the World Series.

The following year saw a direct return to the World Series, where again they managed to frustrate their local rivals the Yankees in a rematch of the previous year’s game, taking their second straight title.

The Yankees got their revenge the following year, however, when an unprecedented third rematch took place in which the Giants were unable to secure a third straight win in a row.

In 1924, the Giants managed to reach the World Series once again, but failed to triumph over the Washington Senators to go home defeated. It would be their last World Series for almost a decade.

Terry Makes an Impact

In 1932, Bill Terry took over from the successful McGraw. They were certainly big shoes to fill, but he made an immediate impact by taking the Giants to their first pennant victory since 1924. In the World Series that followed they went in as the underdogs but, with the help of ‘King Carl’ Hubble, they managed to outplay rivals the Washington Senators to take home their fourth World Series title.

Following this, Terry led them to victory in the 1936 and 1937 pennants, but failed to build upon their World Series success by succumbing to old foes the Yankees on both occasions.

Durocher Takes Control

After Terry left in 1942, Mel Ott took over during the war years. However, due in part to a large exodus of players to the newly-formed Mexican League, success eluded the Giants during Ott’s period in charge.

He was succeeded by Leo Durocher in 1948, whose move was mired in controversy as he left the Brooklyn Dodgers halfway through the season, considered bad form in the sport. However, his spell in charge would prove to be perhaps the most memorable eight years in the club’s history.

Memorable Events of the Fifties

One of the most famous incidents to take place during Durocher’s time in charge came in the National League pennant of 1951 when the Giants were up against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

They had clawed their way back into contention after coming back from trailing by 13.5 games earlier in the season, and were now fighting for the title. In a storybook finish, Bobby Thompson was the hero to make the home run that would win them the pennant, in what is now famously known as ‘The Shot Heard Around the World’.

The next event is now simply known as ‘The Catch’, which refers to Giants hero Willie Mays’ unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch from a hit by Vic Wertz during the 1954 World Series against Cleveland. His performance proved crucial in halting the momentum of their rivals, and they went on to win the World Series for the fifth time.

The California Giants

In 1957, the New York Giants relocated to California after looking for a new stadium in place of the rapidly fading Polo Grounds. They moved to the Seals Stadium, and stayed there for their first two years on the west coast.

In 1960 they moved to Candlestick Park, which became known for its infamous playing conditions. Thick coastal fogs would regularly roll over during a match, and the gusts of wind could become almost violent. These winds became famous when, in 1961 during an All Star Game, pitcher Stu Miller was actually blown off the mound by one of the gusts.

1962 brought bitter disappointment for the club, when they managed to reach the final of the World Series, only to lose 4-3 to old rivals the Yankees. Willie McCovey was the unfortunate villain of this loss. His drive could have given them almost-certain victory, but was too low and was caught by Bobby Richardson. It would prove to be their last World Series until 1989.

Threat of Another Move

The next big chapter in the club’s history came in 1976, when a move to Toronto was being considered. This resulted in Bob Lurie buying the team to prevent the move from going ahead. However, it was a disappointing period for the Giants, as they failed to make any real impact on the game.

Bad Times

The 1980s saw a long run of disappointment for the club, and in 1985 they hit a new low when they lost 100 games in the season, making a new undesirable record for the most losses in history. It was then that Al Rosen was brought in as the general manager, and he succeeded in bringing in a number of good up-and-coming players.

Roger Craig also came in as manager and during the next seven years he was able to win the National League Western Division in 1987, but lost out to St Louis Cardinals in the resulting National League Championship Series.

The World Series and the Earthquake

1989 saw a change in fortunes for the Giants, as they managed to win the National League pennant for the first time in 27 years. This led them to another World Series, which they unfortunately lost to Oakland Athletics.

They were helped in no part by the earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale that struck San Francisco during the third game on October 17th. The series had to be postponed for 10 days, and by the time the game resumed it was not the most important thing on the players’ minds.

New Ownership

Troubles continued off the field. The future of the club was becoming uncertain, especially after a bid to raise funds for a new stadium had failed. Owner Bob Lurie had had enough, and in 1992 he put the club up for sale.

After much wrangling, it was Peter Magowan who managed to secure the future of the club. In a decisive move, he signed agent Barry Bonds before he had even become the official owner. It was a move that would have a dramatic effect on the club’s fortunes.

The Strike

Bonds gained immediate success, and the new manager Dusty Baker got the Manager of the Year award in his first season by achieving some solid scores, although no trophies.

In 1994, they were building on this success by challenging for first place, but the players strike came in during the year and effectively put and end to the season.

The following years, however, took a turn for the worse, with the Giants coming last in both 1995 and 1996.

Sabean Change

This culminated in the signing of Brian Sabean as the manager in 1997. He immediately caused uproar, however, by trading Matt Williams to Cleveland for some apparently mediocre players, including Jeff Kent and Joe Roa.

However, he obviously knew what he was doing as the players he had chosen were instrumental in winning the National League West Division title that year. It was the Florida Marlins who went on to ruin the party, and they also went on to win the World Series.

Relocation

1999 was another good season, this time finishing second in the National League West Division. However, more significant for the club was that they were moving again at the end of the season to Pacific Bell Park (now called At&T Park) after 40 years at Candlestick Park.

It was a good move for the club. Their previous stadium, so prone to natural attacks, would soon be forgotten as they now found themselves in one of the best stadiums in the country. It also provided them with a sense of solidity, as the threats of moving away from California could finally be laid to rest.

World Series 2002

Their first shot at something special in their new stadium came in 2002. Having finished second in National League West Division, they went on to become the National League’s Wild-Card team.

Wins against the Atlanta Braves and then the St Louis Cardinals took them all the way to the World Series once again, where they lost out to the American League’s Wild-Card team, the Anaheim Angels.

They carried on their run of form the following season by putting together some fine performances, and became only the ninth team in history to keep first place for every day of the season. As well as this, they also managed to record 100 victories, a rare achievement.

However, although winning their division, the Florida Marlins put an end to this great run of form in the play-offs.

Recent Form

The 2004 and 2005 seasons were pretty average for the Giants, and 2006 was so bad that it led to the end of Alou’s reign as manager.

The 2007 season was also far from successful, and was notable mainly for being Barry Bonds’ last year at the club. He reached his 756th home run, beating the record held by Hank Aaron, who was there at the game to congratulate him.

Major Titles

World Series Titles – 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954

National League Pennants – 1888, 1889, 1904, 1905, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1954, 1962, 1989, 2002

Projected 2008 Line-up

  • LF: Dave Roberts
  • SS: Omar Vizquel
  • RF: Randy Winn
  • CF: Aaron Rowand
  • C: Bengie Molina
  • 2B: Ray Durham
  • 1B: Rich Aurilia
  • 3B: Kevin Frandson