Sandoval awakens echoes of Mays’ greatness
Tuesday, July 5
SAN FRANCISCO — I come not to bury Pablo Sandoval, but to praise Willie Mays.
Sandoval had at least one extra-base hit in nine consecutive games until Tuesday, when San Francisco lost 5-3 to San Diego. It equaled the longest streak of that sort by a Giant since Mays also had a nine-game binge from July 28-Aug. 6., 1963.
Anybody who knows me personally or follows my writing (bless you) realizes that I am an incurable Mays-o-phile. So when it was announced that Sandoval had matched a Mays achievement, I curious to learn what the Say Hey Kid did during his streak. After all, I witnessed Sandoval’s.
Sandoval contributed heavily to one victory and shaped what should have been another win on back-to-back days. Last Thursday at Chicago, he homered in the 13th inning to put the Giants ahead 2-1. Geovany Soto’s pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the inning for the Cubs offset that. The next night in the Interleague series opener at Detroit, Sandoval hit a pair of RBI doubles in a 4-3 victory.
Nice work by Sandoval. But Mays starred in six games during his extra-base streak:
July 28 — Mays’ two-run, sixth-inning homer erases a 1-0 deficit as the Giants proceed to a 3-1 triumph over Pittsburgh.
July 29 — With Pittsburgh leading, 3-2, Mays belts a three-run homer off Vernon Law in the fifth inning. Giants win, 5-4.
July 30 — Mays contributes heavily to a 5-0 victory over Philadelphia by doubling and scoring twice.
Aug. 4 — Mays’ 10th-inning homer at Wrigley Field snaps a 1-1 tie as the Giants hold on to edge Chicago, 2-1.
Aug. 5 — Giants lose 6-5 at Houston, but it’s not Mays’ fault. His two-out homer in the ninth inning put them ahead, 5-4.
Aug. 6 — Mays triples in the fourth inning and scores the go-ahead run on Orlando Cepeda’s sacrifice fly. Final: Giants 3, Houston 1.
Mays batted .439 (18-for-41) during his streak with three doubles, two triples and six home runs. Moreover, this hard evidence supported what has been known for years: Mays ceaselessly played to win. He was at his best when it counted most.
Keep in mind that this is just a snapshot of the man’s career. He did this stuff repeatedly. Sandoval’s streak remains admirable, even if it falls short of Mays’. So what? Only a handful of ballplayers could be compared to Mays, after all.
San Diego Padres broadcaster Mark Grant revealed a little-known fact the other day: He was the first Giant to wear No. 55, which Tim Lincecum has made famous.
Grant, who broke into the Majors with the Giants as a promising right-hander in 1984, is extremely trustworthy. But facts must be checked. As Grant mentioned, he wore several other numbers with the Giants, including 34, 47, 46 and 52. Grant’s Giants career ended in 1987, the year he received No. 55, when he was sent to the Padres in a seven-player trade that brought Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell to San Francisco.
But left-hander Keith Comstock also wore 55 in 1987, according to baseball-almanac.com. Moreover, he was traded to San Diego along with Grant. Try as I might, I couldn’t determine whether Grant or Comstock got 55 first. Mark, I still believe you!
The Giants’ 1984 media guide listed infielder Fran Mullins as being issued No. 55 that year in Spring Training. But according to baseball-reference.com, he wore No. 16 during his 57-game stint with the Giants.
Numbers such as 50 and higher weren’t considered fashionable before the 1980s. They had a negative connotation, since they typically were given in Spring Training to rookies and players not expected to make the team. Right-hander Dave Heaverlo, who wore No. 60 for the Giants from 1975-77, was a rare exception.
Great handwritten sign seen last Sunday on the dry-erase board mounted on the door of the players’ lounge in the visitors’ clubhouse at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Instead of listing a detailed menu, the sign read simply, “BIG LEAGUE BREAKFAST.”
– Chris Haft