Results tagged ‘ Juan Marichal ’

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

Kontos is unsung hero; Giants-Reds twinbill memories

SAN FRANCISCO — Somebody had to do it. George Kontos turned out to be the one.

When Tim Lincecum lasted just 3 2/3 innings Monday, the Giants needed a reliever to consume innings and spare the rest of the bullpen from overwork, particularly with Tuesday’s doubleheader looming. In came Kontos to consume 3 1/3 innings while throwing 63 pitches, both career highs.

Tuesday’s starters for the Giants don’t appear destined to last deep into their respective games. Eric Surkamp was challenged to go five innings in Triple-A, and Barry Zito has pitched six innings or fewer in 11 of his last 12 starts. But manager Bruce Bochy can operate his bullpen freely, thanks to Kontos.

Kontos had never thrown more than 40 pitches in a Major League game. But his background as a starter in the Yankees’ Minor League system helped brace him for Monday’s effort. “My body’s used to the workload,” he said.

*****

A large percentage of my misspent youth, more than I care to admit, came and went watching doubleheaders at Candlestick Park. As Tuesday approached, it occurred to me that some of the more memorable twinbills I witnessed involved the Reds, who consistently fielded excellent teams in the 1970s. With assistance from baseball-reference.com, here are highlights I recall from various Giants-Reds doubleheaders, listed in chronological order:

Sept. 19, 1972: The Giants managed to split the doubleheader as Juan Marichal, finishing his worst season, allowed two runs in seven innings in the nightcap. That “improved” his record to 6-15. I have a vague memory of Marichal lowering his signature leg kick for that game. Whether it was to compensate for an injury or to correct a mechanical flaw (or whether it happened at all) would require more extensive research.

April 15, 1973: Cincinnati won both games. Again, Marichal’s pitching left the deepest impression, largely because he was shockingly ineffective — four earned runs allowed and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings in the opener. Meanwhile, Don Gullett pitched a four-hit shutout.

Sept. 14, 1975: The teams split, but that was hardly relevant. In the sixth inning of the first game, the Reds loaded the bases with Joe Morgan on third base. Suddenly, Morgan broke for home and slid in safely. That’s right; it was a triple steal — something I haven’t witnessed since and might never see again.

July 1, 1979: The Giants swept this one as Willie McCovey homered to help win the first game. It was the 518th of his career and, I’m quite sure, the last homer I saw him hit. I was fortunate enough to see him hit several others.

Chris Haft

One step closer to the goal

Sept. 23

CHICAGO — With a few more days like Thursday, the Giants will indeed reach the postseason.

They gained ground on all of their rivals. The San Diego Padres lost, so the Giants leapfrogged them to reclaim first place in the National League West. The Colorado Rockies also fell, leaving them 3 1/2 games behind the Giants. San Francisco can all but officially end Colorado’s hopes for a division title by winning two of three games this weekend at Coors Field, which would put the Rockies 4 1/2 games back with a week remaining in the season.

NL Wild Card leader Atlanta was idle. But the Giants and Braves now have the same record (86-67). This bolsters the Giants’ hopes of qualifying for the postseason even if they don’t win the division.

Coolstandings.com lists San Francisco’s chances of reaching the postseason at 70 percent. That’s encouraging for the Giants, but I wouldn’t start computing their Magic Number yet.

*****

Bruce Bochy almost surely won’t win the NL Manager of the Year award. But my Baseball Writers’ Association of America brethren who possess ballots for that honor ought to pay at least cursory attention him.

A good manager must provide direction. Bochy has accomplished this twice in emphatic fashion.

After the Giants’ 11-3 loss to Arizona on Aug. 28, he and general manager Brian Sabean met with members of the starting rotation and essentially told them they had better shape up.

Tim Lincecum described the message Bochy and Sabean conveyed as “pretty much a sense of urgency. We need to come ready to play. No more worrying about where the ball’s going to go, what my mechanics are going to be. Just go out there. You’re here for a reason. Now play the game. Pretty clear-cut and simple.”

Since then, the starters have a 1.94 ERA.

And, of course, Bochy met with the hitters before Thursday’s 13-0 whipping of Chicago. “We came out with the right approach today,” Buster Posey said. “There was a little bit more fire in everybody. Hopefully that’s something we can continue for the next nine games. If we give this [pitching] staff some run support, we’re going to be pretty tough.”

*****

“Pretty tough” describes the challenge the Giants will face this weekend as they try to lengthen their 17-game streak of allowing opponents three runs or fewer — a stretch that hasn’t been matched since the Chicago White Sox reached 20 in 1917.

The Rockies are a formidable offensive club anywhere, but especially at Coors Field. Their home/road breakdown borders on unreal.

At home, the Rockies are a wrecking crew. They’re hitting .304 at Coors with 452 runs, 102 homers and an .880 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 75 games.

On the road, the Rockies are merely a wreck. Their numbers dip to .230 with 64 homers, 289 runs and a .663 OBP in 77 games.

*****

The Giants have existed since 1883. Yet none of their players had been hit by pitches twice in one inning until Thursday, when Jose Guillen was nicked by a pair of Ryan Dempster deliveries in the second inning. Juan Uribe homered following each plunking.

“Hey! Record book already,” Guillen said when told of his achievement.

*****

Had the Cubs won this week’s series from San Francisco, it wouldn’t have been their first time to ruin the Giants’ season.

You already know this if you’re either pushing 60 years old (at least) or an avid student of baseball history.

The 1959 Giants trailed the Dodgers by one game with five to play. That was after Los Angeles swept a three-game series at Seals Stadium to wrest first place from San Francisco.

Anyway, the Giants were still in the race. But consecutive one-run losses, 5-4 and 9-8 in 10 innings, pretty much finished their pennant bid. History didn’t repeat itself this time, however.

Instead, the Giants’ 13-0 rout Thursday represented their largest margin of victory over the Cubs since Sept. 3, 1963 (Juan Marichal won his 20th game that day as Orlando Cepeda, Tom Haller and Felipe Alou homered).

– 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

No controversy with Affeldt, etc.

SAN DIEGO — When Bruce Bochy removed Jeremy Affeldt after the left-hander fell behind 2-0 on pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez in the seventh inning, it was easy to imagine that the manager was impatient with the reliever for falling behind on the count.

That assumption, like many others, was false.

Affeldt had thrown 22 pitches, and probably would have needed a few more to finish the inning. With left-handed batters Andre Ethier, James Loney, Blake DeWitt and Doug Mientkiewicz awaiting the Giants in Los Angeles, Bochy wants Affeldt to be fresh. So he took the unconventional step of removing Affeldt in the middle of a plate appearance.

“I didn’t want to work him,” Bochy said. “We may need him tomorrow.”

***

Tim Lincecum’s next outing will be Saturday against Arizona. I expect him to pitch a strong game. Then again, I expected that here, and look what happened.

Lincecum doubtlessly has encountered mini-slumps like this before, and they didn’t stop him from reaching the Major Leagues. He’s good at analyzing himself, and if he has any questions, he can consult his father, Chris, who knows his pitching mechanics best of all. Lincecum might not finish 18-5 as he did last year, but he’ll remind everybody just how formidable he is sooner than later.

*** 

Ah, the first Giants-Dodgers series of the season. Time to unearth Willie McCovey’s great line about the rivalry: “You can hear the electricity.” The non-stop buzz, whether real or perceived, is intoxicating.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Randy Johnson, Monday’s starter for the Giants, responds to being thrust into baseball’s best rivalry (yes, I said “best.” I’ll explain some other time). As intense as Johnson is, it probably won’t make a difference in his approach. Not like when Juan Marichal or John “The Count” Montefusco would get extra pumped-up to face the Dodgers. The Big Unit gets pumped up to face everybody.

– Chris Haft

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