July 2012

Personal list of greatest Giants-Dodgers hits

Friday, July 27

SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers are in town. And with the Giants leading the National League West standings by three games over Los Angeles, this three-game series bears obvious significance for the division race.

But if you’re a true fan of either team — heck, if you’re a true fan, period — it always means something when these teams clash.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the Giants-Dodgers rivalry, or what’s left of it. The intensity their games generate seems to have steadily diminished, with the exception of occasional plateaus when both teams are in contention.

Then I guess I’m a hopeless romantic, because I’ll always believe in the potential for the energy, juice, or electricity that the Giants and Dodgers potentially can generate.

Every time I walk into the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium — every time — I imagine what it must have been like when Mays, McCovey, Marichal and Perry dressed there, preparing for another critical game before another sellout crowd and against another outstanding pitcher.

Sometimes when I reflect on what I love about baseball, I recall the first time I listened to a Giants-Dodgers game. Searching for KSFO’s broadcast on my cheap little transistor radio, I passed over a frequency where I heard nothing but static. As it turned out, that was the broadcast, and the sound was the hubbub of crowd noise. Finally I heard either Russ Hodges or Lon Simmons say, “I don’t think that’s Alston.” Translation: All that was happening was a trip to the mound by a Dodgers coach, not manager Walter Alston, and thousands of people were hollering.

Anything generating that kind of excitement when nothing was going on was worth following.

That’s just one reason I remain a Giants-Dodgers junkie.

Here are a dozen others — a list, in chronological order, of the most memorable Giants-Dodgers games I either attended or covered. Telecasts don’t count. Sorry; I wasn’t around for the Joe Morgan game or the Brian Johnson game. And though my age begins with a “5,” I didn’t get interested in baseball early enough to see Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale pitch.

Still, I treasure this list, along with the sound and the fury it awakens internally (thanks to baseball-reference.com for the factual help).

May 15, 1971 — Giants 1, Dodgers 0. This remains a personal favorite. Juan Marichal pitched a six-hitter (shame on you for wondering whether it was a complete game), and Willie Mays scored the only run when he lined a seventh-inning double and scored on Dick Dietz’s single.

July 2, 1972 — Giants 9, Dodgers 3. Willie McCovey hit a grand slam. Enough said.

Sept. 3, 1973 — Giants 11, Dodgers 8. I was struck by how many people remembered this one when I blogged about it a while back. Los Angeles owned an 8-1 lead when the Giants scored six runs in the seventh inning. Bobby Bonds completed the Giants’ comeback with a ninth-inning grand slam. Unreal.

June 26-29, 1975 — Giants 2-10-2-5, Dodgers 0-5-1-2. The downtrodden Giants swept the elite Dodgers in a four-game series at Candlestick. An early lesson in how anything can happen in baseball. I believe I attended the first and last games of this series.

April 11, 1976 — Giants 6, Dodgers 4. I couldn’t make it for Opening Day, which amounted to a celebration of the Giants’ staying in San Francisco after they appeared bound for Toronto. After Saturday’s game was rained out, I made sure to be at Candlestick on Sunday, when the Giants overcame a 4-2 deficit with four runs in the eighth inning.

May 28, 1978 — Giants 6, Dodgers 5. Mike Ivie’s pinch-hit grand slam off Don Sutton wiped out a 3-1 Dodgers lead and sent a then-record Candlestick crowd of 56,103 into a frenzy.

June 27, 1980 — Dodgers 8, Giants 0. Jerry Reuss pitched a no-hitter. Hey, I didn’t promise these would all be stirring Giants victories. A no-hitter is a no-hitter!

June 29, 1980 — Giants 4, Dodgers 3. The venerable warrior slays the formidable enemy one final time. McCovey, who a couple of weeks earlier announced his retirement effective early July, clobbers a pinch-hit, tiebreaking double in the ninth inning to beat the Dodgers in the first game of a Candlestick doubleheader. The ovation for McCovey lasted nearly the entire between-games period.

April 16, 2006 — Giants 2, Dodgers 0. Omar Vizquel, who belongs in the Hall of Fame, proved what made him such a singular shortstop by unexpectedly throwing behind a runner (Cody Ross!) rounding third base to douse a Dodgers rally. Brilliant baseball.

July 20, 2010 — Giants 7, Dodgers 5. The Bruce Bochy game. San Francisco’s manager noticed that acting Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly doubled back on a trip to the mound, necessitating the removal of closer Jonathan Broxton (never mind that the umpires misinterpreted the rule). The Giants proceeded to hammer the next reliever, George Sherrill.

July 31, 2010 — Giants 2, Dodgers 1. The Pat Burrell game. Burrell’s two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning erased Los Angeles’ 1-0 lead. Though the Giants still had to survive the ninth inning, Burrell’s drive had the feel of a walkoff hit.

Sept. 4, 2010 — Giants 5, Dodgers 4. Another conversation piece from the World Series season. San Francisco trailed 4-0 through six innings and looked listless. Then Buster Posey homered in the seventh, Edgar Renteria and Burrell went deep in the eighth and Juan Uribe added a two-run homer in the ninth. Just another Giants-Dodgers game.

Chris Haft

Perfect-game memento available

July 23

SAN FRANCISCO — If you’re looking for a memento of Matt Cain’s perfect game, you might consider purchasing one of the 2,012 special baseballs being produced by Rawlings and officially licensed by Major League Baseball.

Each ball is decorated with a photo of Cain celebrating with teammates after the game’s final out and information about the game. A display case and a key chain from this year’s All-Star Game also are provided.

The cost for each ball is $39.98. Proceeds will benefit the Snow Scientific Research Foundation, which helps fund research for a terminal form of children’s diabetes. The Foundation is named for former Giants first baseman J.T. Snow and his late father, Jack.

Fans can order the baseballs by calling 1-800-345-2868 or visiting http://www.nikcosports.com. Each baseball comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity.

— Chris Haft

Better pull that batting helmet over your ears, Melky

Wednesday, July 18

ATLANTA — Melky Cabrera had his fun during the Giants’ 9-4, 11-inning victory over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.

But he probably shouldn’t get too comfortable in the batter’s box Thursday.

Cabrera, who spent what’s characterized as a less-than-happy season with Atlanta in 2010, aroused the Braves and their fans with various gesticulations he made in Wednesday’s game.

He teased Turner Field patrons in left field by throwing imaginary baseballs to them. After making a catch in left field in the sixth inning, he made what observers considered to be a taunting motion toward Braves baserunner Jason Heyward, who opted not to try to advance on the play. Finally, he celebrated a little too much for the Braves’ taste after Gregor Blanco drilled his three-run homer in the 11th inning.

The Braves noticed. Everything. Their icon, third baseman Chipper Jones, spoke dismissively of Cabrera to reporters.

“That’s Melky, and that’s why he’s not here anymore,” Jones said. “He got a little happy when I think Blanco hit the home run. That won’t be forgotten.”

The Braves won’t need long memories. They’ll probably try to settle the score with Cabrera early in Thursday’s game. Atlanta’s starting pitcher is scheduled to be Tim Hudson, who’s extremely well-versed in the laws of baseball’s jungle and isn’t hesitant to uphold protocol.

Simply put, expect Hudson to drill Cabrera with a pitch during the latter’s first plate appearance Thursday.

Whether hostilities will escalate remains to be seen. But Hudson, who’ll pitch the top of the first inning, is likely to set a tone of tension. Should the Giants choose to retaliate, Madison Bumgarner, their starter on Thursday, won’t back down from the challenge.

Teams mostly succeed in controlling their emotions during situations like this. But if things get out of hand, a genuine free-for-all could ensue. Be ready for anything.

Chris Haft

All-Star snub keeps Vogelsong hungry

Friday, July 1

SAN FRANCISCO — Pablo Sandoval’s gain was Ryan Vogelsong’s loss. Madison Bumgarner’s, too. Or Santiago Casilla’s.

The ambitious get-out-the-All-Star-vote campaign launched last week by the Giants’ marketing experts worked beyond belief. Not only did it help Melky Cabrera take his rightful place in the National League’s All-Star starting outfield, but it also enabled Sandoval to ride Cabrera’s coattails into a fan-elected starting spot at third base — a spot that Sandoval entirely did not deserve, given the excellent season sustained by New York’s David Wright. Heck, even first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford combined for more than 7.5 million votes while finishing second at their respective positions.

With Cabrera, Sandoval and Buster Posey elected to the starting squad and Matt Cain a shoo-in for the pitching staff, it’s likely that no more Giants will be considered once attrition inevitably strikes and replacements are chosen. The All-Star powers that be likely consider San Francisco’s contingent to be large enough already.

Thus, it would be a surprise if Bumgarner, Vogelsong or Casilla is added to the NL squad. Vogelsong, for one, is taking it personally, though he probably shouldn’t. But as long as his perceived snub motivates him, it’s good for him and the Giants.

Asked if being omitted from the All-Star team further entrenches the self-proclaimed chip on Vogelsong’s shoulder that goads him, he said, “Absolutely.” He added that it reaffirms what he told reporters in Anaheim last month after a loss to Angels ace Jered Weaver. “People don’t take me seriously,” said Vogelsong, whose 7-3 record and 2.26 ERA make his skeptics look like idiots.

Vogelsong was named to last year’s All-Star team with a 6-1, 2.17 first half. But, as he pointed out, many observers believed that his presence at the Midsummer Classic was a favor doled out by Giants manager Bruce Bochy, the NL All-Star skipper. “Some of that is probably true,” Vogelsong said. “But some of that was, I was having a pretty good first half, too.”

Vogelsong’s more consistent this year. He has pitched at least six innings in all 15 of his starts, lasting seven  innings or more 12 times. From May 8 to June 15, the Giants won all eight games he started. His personal record during that stretch was 6-0 with a 1.76 ERA.

Vogelsong’s saga remains a compelling one, as he rose to prominence after being traded by the Giants, struggling to hold on with Pittsburgh, enduring three seasons in Japan and spending 2010 in Triple-A with the Phillies and Angels organizations. Asked if he believed that he has proven himself as a legitimate starting pitcher, he replied, “Yes and no. I feel like I still have a long way to go here. There’s a lot of season left and I think I need to do it for a whole ‘nother season to get to that point.”

If for some reason NL manager Tony La Russa feels compelled to add another starting pitcher to the All-Star squad, Vogelsong graciously said that Bumgarner (10-4, 2.85 ERA) should be selected. “If it came down between me and him, I would have wanted Bum to go, to be able to experience one since I did get to go last year.”

Vogelsong added, “I wish we could have both gone.”

Chris Haft