Results tagged ‘ Bobby Bonds ’

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

Bumgarner remains in control

Tuesday, July 19

SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Madison Bumgarner and start wondering just how good he is.

Bumgarner’s excellence was somewhat obscured by Brandon Belt’s offensive fireworks Tuesday in the Giants’ 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. In case you missed it, Bumgarner pitched superbly.

He walked none, extending his streak of games in which he walked one or fewer to nine in a row.

He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.

He worked eight innings, ridiculing the skeptics who believed that his huge increase in innings pitched last year would ultimately sap his strength or even endanger his health this season.

More than two months of the regular season must be played. That’s plenty of time for doom and gloom to befall Bumgarner. Right now, though, he looks ready to cruise into October and win another two or three postseason games.

*****

The evening might not have gone so well for the Giants without shortstop Brandon Crawford’s alert defense in the third inning.

The Dodgers had three runs in and appeared destined to score more as Juan Rivera followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single with another single. As Furcal scooted to third base, Crawford cut off Nate Schierholtz’s strong throw from right field and noticed that Rivera had strayed a little too far from first base on his turn. Crawford threw quickly and accurately to first, retiring Rivera and dampening Los Angeles’ rally.

“That was a big-time play,” an appreciative Bumgarner said.

*****

All anybody heard about Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa before Tuesday was that he threw the heck out of the ball. Indeed, De La Rosa reached 100 mph on the AT&T Park velocity readings.

But if a pitcher’s stuff is predictable or lacks movement, he’s going to get hit. Crawford, for example, whacked a 95 mph heater from De La Rosa for a second-inning single, immediately after Brandon Belt stroked a. 91-mph delivery onto the right-field arcade for his homer. One inning later, Schierholtz singled by catching up with a 97-mph fastball.

*****

I was curious about what happened the last time the Giants built a six-game winning streak against the Dodgers — July 19-Sept. 26, 1969. As usual, baseball-reference.com had all the answers.

The Giants’ future Hall of Famers played key roles in those six games. No surprise there. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry each won twice. Willie McCovey, in the midst of his Most Valuable Player season, homered twice. Willie Mays batted .389 (7-for-18).

Win No. 5 in that streak might have been the nuttiest game of the bunch. It was sealed in the 10th inning when McCovey drew an intentional walk with two outs and nobody on base. Reliever Pete Mikkelsen proceeded to walk Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson unintentionally, loading thie bases. Jim Davenport then hit a ground ball that scooted between Maury Wills’ legs, giving San Francisco the winning run.

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

Blast from the past: Defending Ken Henderson

Monday, May 17

SAN DIEGO — By and large, Giants fans are a good bunch. But a nameless, faceless segment of them have tremendously disappointed me.

Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle ranked the top 50 “busts” of all time in professional sports, based on more than 600 responses to an original list of 10. As a locally produced endeavor, the newspaper’s roster has a distinct Bay Area flavor.

Stuff like this is supposed to be lighthearted fun, but I was dismayed to see former Giants outfielder Ken Henderson listed as Bust No. 46. This is absolutely unjust, unconscionable, un-fricking-everything.

Before I bluster further, in no way am I criticizing Vittorio Tafur, the writer of this piece. All Mr. Tafur did was compile the readers’ comments. But those who called Henderson a bust possess either a lousy memory, lousy judgment or both.

Henderson was listed because he was expected to “fill Willie Mays’ shoes,” as Tafur wrote. A .257 lifetime hitter with 122 home runs and 576 RBIs spanning all or part of 16 seasons, Henderson certainly fell short of the standards set by the great Mays.

But by the time I began following the Giants in 1969 (fine, I’m revealing my age), it was generally accepted that Henderson would not be the next Mays — and, to the best of my recollection, this prompted no undue scorn from fans or the media. Heck, as good as Bobby Bonds was, he didn’t turn out to be the next Mays either, though he, too, was mentioned as a successor. Never mind that billing anybody as the “next” (fill in superstar’s name here) is patently ridiculous, regardless of the sport.

Henderson was not a remarkable player, but he was competent. Stationed mostly in left field, he had a nice season in 1970, when he became a regular (.294, 17 homers, 88 RBIs, .394 on-base percentage), and a fair one in 1971 (.264, 15 homers, 65 RBIs, .370 on-base percentage), when the Giants won the National League West title.

The switch-hitting Henderson batted only .257 in 1972. But he made his final season with the Giants memorable by sustaining one of the most torrid monthlong performances in franchise history. That August he hit .409 (45-for-110) with 11 homers, 28 RBIs, 28 runs, a .445 on-base percentage and an .800 slugging percentage.

That helped him get traded to the Chicago White Sox in November, 1972 with right-hander Steve Stone for Tom Bradley, who was a disappointment as a Giant (23-26, 4.56 from 1973-75). That deal never gets considered among the Giants’ worst in their San Francisco history. But it didn’t help them much. Trading Henderson created room for Gary Matthews, who won the NL’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1973. But Stone proceeded to win a Cy Young Award with Baltimore in 1980, while Bradley never pitched in the Majors after his Giants tenure ended.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to select a Giants “bust,” far more extreme examples than Henderson exist. One of them appeared on the list — the Orlando Cepeda-for-Ray Sadecki trade at No. 30. The Gaylord Perry-for-Sam McDowell and George Foster-for-Frank Duffy-and-Vern Geishert deals were equally dreadful. Or you can rummage through the grab bag of failed prospects (Andre Rodgers, Rich Murray, J.R. Phillips, Lance Niekro, Todd Linden, etc.). At least Henderson had a few solid seasons with the Giants and a long big-league career.

If it sounds like I’m biased, I’ll admit that I most definitely am. Ken Henderson was one of the nicest guys ever to wear a San Francisco Giants uniform. He signed autographs before virtually every game I attended at Candlestick Park before he was traded, and it seemed like the smile never left his face as he scribbled away. I had the privilege of meeting Henderson at one of the Giants’ 50th Anniversary functions in 2008, and after interviewing him briefly for a project of mine, I asked him about his tireless autograph-signing. “My dad,” he explained, “told me to make sure I gave something back to the game.”

I understand that on-field performance was all that mattered in the Chronicle survey. But a person like Ken Henderson, whose diligence on the field was matched or exceeded by his earnestness off it, doesn’t deserve to be cited as a “bust.”

– Chris Haft

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