Results tagged ‘ Barry Bonds ’

Hailing Mays, anticipating Bonds

Saturday, Feb. 22

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At about 12:35 p.m. local time Saturday, the pulse of the Giants began beating a little louder and faster.

That’s when Willie Mays returned for his annual Spring Training visit.

Mays, the greatest Giant of them all, needs no introduction. Certainly not here, definitely not among Giants fans and especially not in the San Francisco clubhouse, where seemingly everybody — from rookies to veterans, from reporters to team employees — suddenly wore a smile just because an 82-year-old walked into the room.

An exultant Mike Murphy, the venerable equipment and clubhouse manager, reveled in Mays’ presence. Crowed
Murphy, “Spring Training’s complete now! Willie’s here!”

Drawn to Mays as if the Hall of Famer were magnetized, Angel Pagan was the first player to greet the legend. Pagan, the current heir to Mays’ center-field throne, sat with the master for several minutes as they conducted an earnest conversation.

More Giants will approach Mays in the coming weeks. Or at least they ought to. Widely renowned as the
quintessential five-tool player, Mays possesses wisdom that would help any ballplayer. Even pitchers can benefit from talking to Mays. He, as much as anybody, knows how a formidable hitter should be set up, having been one himself.

This is a man with more to offer than a handshake or an autograph.

*****

Mays’ godson, Barry Bonds, surely will command attention when he serves his first guest-instructor stint with the Giants next month.

Say what you want about Bonds and whether he used performance-enhancing substances. The man prompts
widespread respect among contemporary ballplayers. He’ll find numerous would-be pupils eager to hear his hitting philosophies. And as for the steroid stuff, Mark McGwire broke the ice by becoming a full-time batting instructor. Bonds, baseball’s all-time home-run leader, is a potential asset.

As is the case with Mays, Bonds’ singular skill makes him valuable. As many of you can recall, he frequently received only one pitch to hit in any given game. He often drove that single pitch over the outfield wall. Bonds knew, and presumably still knows, exactly what kind of swing to put on a pitch to hit it effectively.

The Giants should hope that Bonds brings his attitude with him. A former hitting coach for a National League team (not the Giants) recently told me that his role was “to make sure that each hitter feels tough when he finishes batting practice.” The coach actually used a much more colorful term than “tough.” But you get the idea. Bonds almost always played and hit with a swagger that insisted, “I’m better than you.” Conveying that mindset to the Giants’ hitters will help them considerably.

Chris Haft

Giants fans bound to dwell on Candlestick finale

Sunday, Dec. 22

SAN FRANCISCO — For a lot of people, the fact that a National Football League game will be played Monday night at Candlestick Park is merely incidental.

The featured performer, as many fans believe, is Candlestick itself, that object of derision which has prompted tidal waves of nostalgia with the approach the 49ers-Falcons game — most likely the last major sporting event held at the 53-year-old park.

The tender feelings fans have expressed toward Candlestick on websites, in newspaper forums and on radio talk shows shouldn’t be misinterpreted as wishes for a revival. Everyone knows the 49ers need a new stadium, which awaits them in Santa Clara, and everybody has long embraced AT&T Park as the Giants’ home since they left Candlestick following the 1999 season.

Why have Candlestick’s final days stirred such emotion? Simple: For Bay Area sports fans, the stadium has become something of a patriarch: Aged, gray, incapable of performing tasks its younger counterparts can, yet somehow imposing due to its history and undeniable strength (example: its resolute response to the Loma Prieta earthquake before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series). His time has come and gone, but the old man shall forever remain a member of the family.

Giants fans are especially prone to these feelings. Because the Giants endured so many abysmal seasons at
Candlestick, and because it was such a trying place for baseball spectators (that’s putting it mildly), those who visited the park regularly — whether to watch Gaylord Perry or Allen Ripley, J.T. Snow or J.R. Phillips — mostly were genuine fans who truly loved the sport, the Giants or both.

To these zealots, Candlestick became oddly special. No wonder that this second and final goodbye to Candlestick has been especially intense for many Giants fans. Essentially, nothing in their lives has changed or will change when Candlestick is demolished. But the patriarch — visible from a safe, happy distance on drives along Highway 101 — will disappear, making that inevitable transition from reality to memory.

Revel in those memories, Giants fans. Celebrate what you saw, what you experienced, what Russ or Lon or Hank or Ron or Jon or Kruk & Kuip told you.

Maybe you’ll attend Monday’s game and revisit a particular spot at the stadium that remains significant. Maybe, like me, you’ll stare at the top row of the upper reserved seats in Section 5, remember sitting there for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and continue to wonder how Dad got tickets.

And you’ll devour a Polish sausage for old times’ sake.

And though it’s a football crowd, you’ll long to hear that passionate, unbridled roar of the fans, real fans, rise from the stands over and over.

Again, I sense that football will be only incidental for a small but meaningful percentage of people watching Monday’s game, whether they do so at Candlestick or on television.

These will be the folks who’ll behold Candlestick one last time and recall rushing to the players’ parking lot to gaze at Willie Mays’ pink Cadillac, or who got golf-ball-sized goosebumps just watching Mays saunter into the on-deck circle, his uniform as elegant as a tuxedo.

Monday’s game is for them.

It’s also for anybody who thinks the city’s finest spans are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Willie McCovey stretching at first base for a throw.

It’s for anyone who refused to leave his or her seat whenever Clark — that’s Jack or Will — was due to bat.

It’s for anybody spellbound by the talents of the Bondses, pere et fil.

It’s for anybody who marveled at Juan Marichal kicking his left leg toward those impossibly high light towers in the middle of his marvelous motion.

It’s for anybody who played Little League, high school baseball or anything in between against one of Jim Davenport’s sons.

It’s for anybody who still can summon Jeff Carter’s voice in one’s internal public-address system.

It’s for anybody who paid 90 cents — NINETY CENTS — to sit in the bleachers.

It’s for people who emptied mothballs from their warmest clothes to attend a game in July or August.

It’s for fans who supported John Montefusco with the same ardor they now reserve for Tim Lincecum.

It’s for folks who loved to debate who was the better closer (Rod Beck or Robb Nen) or double-play combination (Chris Speier/Tito Fuentes or Jose Uribe/Robby Thompson).

It’s for people who, however briefly, ignored Candlestick’s flaws and appreciated the game in front of them.

It’s for everybody who’s focused on what’s important — the present — yet will always treasure the gifts of the past.

Chris Haft

Watching history repeat itself

Tuesday, Aug. 24

SAN FRANCISCO — You have to trust me on this one.

During Tuesday night’s repeat rout of the Cincinnati Reds, the busy bees in the Giants’ media relations department announced the last time the team scored 11 runs in back-to-back games. That was June 27-28, 2000 at Colorado’s Coors Field. Where else?

That begged a question: When did the Giants last reach double digits in back-to-back home games? Surely it was on another pair of dates during the Barry Bonds era. Instead, it was Sept. 2-3, 1973, as the media relations folks informed us. That’s right — just after the Vietnam War ended, while “All in the Family” was revolutionizing television and as the Watergate scandal mushroomed.

Here’s the part you have to trust me about: I attended both of those ’73 games.

Obviously, I didn’t have much going on socially at that time. But I was a 14-year-old baseball addict and summer was about to end, so I needed one last Candlestick Park fix.

What follows is my recollection of both games, without checking baseball-reference.com (BR) or any other historical source. I’ll complete this entry by testing my accuracy and sharing with you what actually happened after examining the BR archives.

The Giants told us that the Sept. 2 game was the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. Here’s what I remember: Juan Marichal started the second game and got bombed; Hank Aaron hit a home run; and Garry Maddox and Gary Matthews went nuts offensively. Bobby Bonds also homered, but I think that came in the first game. I missed it because I was somewhere getting a hot dog.

The Sept. 3 Labor Day encounter was one for the ages. It remains one of my favorite games, mainly because it reinforced that almost everything is possible in baseball’s realm.

The Giants trailed the Dodgers, 8-1. I distinctly recall seeing an older couple vacate their box seats behind home plate in the fifth or sixth inning and announce to an usher that they were done for the night, because there was no way the Giants would rally.

Shortly after they left, the Giants roused themselves to score six runs. I confess that I recall nothing about the comeback. I do remember how I felt afterward — fully certain that the Giants would win. Surely they wouldn’t squander such terrific momentum.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers took their 8-7 lead into the ninth inning with Jim Brewer pitching. But the Giants loaded the bases with nobody out. For some reason I think Jim Howarth was among the guys on base. I do know that Dave Rader attempted a sacrifice bunt. Not only did he get the bunt down, but he also reached base safely.

Then Bobby Bonds won the game with a grand slam. Pandemonium ensued. Upon returning to the bus for my ride back home, I noticed that everybody’s face was alight with joy. I’m sure that mine was, too. Until school began a few days later.

Now, the fact-checking:

Marichal pitched, but he started the first game. And he didn’t get bombed, though by his lofty standards it was a subpar outing. He allowed four runs and eight hits, including two homers, in 7 2/3 innings. I correctly remembered that Bonds homered, but I’d seem smarter if I had said that he homered twice, which he did. San Francisco won, 5-4, in 10 innings.

As for the second game, Hank Aaron not only didn’t hit a home run, he didn’t even play. But Maddox (3-for-5, three RBIs) indeed had a big game. Matthews, not so much (1-for-5, three strikeouts), though he scored twice in the Giants’ 11-3 triumph. Come on, you’ve got to believe I was there.

By contrast, my memory of the Sept. 3 game remained relatively well-preserved. If you watched a game like that, yours would be, too. The Giants indeed erased most of an 8-1 deficit with six runs in the seventh inning.

I was completely wrong about Jim Howarth. He  never batted in the ninth. And Pete Richert started the inning for the Dodgers. But I was right about Rader’s bunt and, of course, Bonds’ game-winner off Brewer, who entered the game with the bases full and nobody out.

So 37 years passed before the Giants could generate consecutive double-digit scoring outbursts at home. At that rate, the next one will occur in 2047. Somehow I doubt I’ll be a witness.

Then again, in baseball, you never know.

– Chris Haft

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97 other followers