The Giants have operated continuously since their NL debut as the New York Gothams in 1883. The Giant nickname was adopted two seasons later and was preserved after the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.
The Giants are the sixth of the original NL clubs in our Mount Rushmore series. Your task is to choose the four players who best represent this franchise. Have fun!
The adoption of the Giant nickname in 1885 coincided with the team becoming one of the NL’s dominant clubs. New York represented the NL in the “World Series” of 1888 and 1889 played against the champions of the American Association. The Giants won both of those best-of-eleven series, defeating the St. Louis Browns and Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The Giants were mostly awful over the next fourteen seasons before posting back-to-back championship seasons in 1904-05, winning their first World Series against the AL champions in the latter season. Dominant players in the franchise’s first quarter century included Roger Connor, George Davis, Mike Tiernan and Buck Ewing, with Amos Rusie, Mickey Welch, Tim Keefe and Joe McGinnity leading the moundsmen.
Following its 1905 championship season, New York remained a dominant team for the next 30+ years (1906-38), finishing lower than fourth only three times over that period. Included were eleven NL pennants, but only three World Series titles. The Giants’ three successive World Series defeats (1911-13) closely followed the same misfortune by the Tigers (1907-09), a trifecta that has not been repeated since. Four consecutive pennants in 1921-24 was a first for either league and remains the only such four-peat in NL history. The Yankees were AL champs in the first three of those years, the only time the same pennant winners have squared off in three consecutive World Series. Dominant players of this period included Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Travis Jackson, Larry Doyle, Art Fletcher, and Frankie Frisch, with Carl Hubbell and Christy Mathewson leading the pitchers.
After almost four decades as a premier club, the Giants finally suffered a down period, with only one finish above 4th from 1939 to 1949. That 1949 season was the first full campaign for new skipper LeoDurocher under whom the Giants won two pennants in 7 years. The first, in 1951, is memorable for the pennant drive in which the Giants, 10 games behind in mid-August, reeled in the front-running Dodgers, closing a 6-game lead in the final two weeks of the season, and then winning a best-of-three pennant playoff, including a final game, 9th-inning comeback from 3 runs down with the winning run famously delivered via a Bobby Thomson walk-off home run. The Giants would lose the World Series to the Yankees, a series remembered for the farewell of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio and for the debut of two rookie outfielders, the Giants’ Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees (a matchup that was cut short when Mantle suffered a serious injury in game 2). The Giants’ fifth World Series title followed in 1954 with a sweep of the heavily-favored Indians, a series remembered for Mays’ outstanding back-to-home-plate, over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field at the Polo Grounds.
Following their relocation to San Francisco, the Giants remained a competitive team, with only one finish lower than 3rd from 1958 to 1971. Included was the 1962 NL pennant and 1971 NL West division crown. The 1962 World Series was a tense 7-game thriller ending with a 1-0 win by the Yankees, the final out coming with the tying run at 3rd base when Willie McCovey hit a scorching line drive to second baseman Bobby Richardson (last year’s World Series marked the first time since then that the final out in game 7 came with the tying run at 3rd base). Notable players of the 1939 to 1971 period included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Johnny Mize, with Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Johnny Antonelli on the hill.
The next 25 years (1972-96) saw mostly mediocre Giant teams with just two post-season appearances, losing the 1987 NLCS and being swept in the 1989 World Series. The latter series with the neighboring As was interrupted by an earthquake, resulting in an 11 day break between the second and third games. As a result, only 5 pitchers on both teams started all of the games, tied with the 1905 series (won by the Giants) for the fewest starting pitchers in a World Series.
Dusty Baker took over the manager’s chair in 1993, guiding the Giants to 1st or 2nd place finishes each year from 1997 to 2002. But, first round playoff exits in 1997 and 2000, and a World Series loss in 2002 after leading 3 games to 2 led to Baker’s departure, an exit that may have been hastened by an embarrassing incident in game 5 of that World Series when Baker’s young son wandered out of the dugout and onto the field during play (Giant first baseman J.T. Snow alertly scooped up the tyke who had followed Snow across home plate, thus averting a possible collision with a following runner). That 2002 series was notable as the first World Series between wild-card qualifiers (last year’s Royals/Giants matchup was the second) and was the only World Series for the Giants’ marquis star Barry Bonds.
The Giants won the NL West in their first season under new manager Felipe Alou, but another first-round playoff exit and sub-.500 finishes in 2005 and 2006 led to Bruce Bochy taking the helm in 2007. Under Bochy, the post-Barry Bonds Giants found their stride, taking three World Series titles in five seasons from 2010 to 2014, their first world titles since moving to San Francisco, and the only time the Giants have prevailed in 3 consecutive World Series appearances. In the 2014 series, Madison Bumgarner had three appearances of 5+ IP, including a 5-inning save in game 7, the first time since 1909 that a pitcher had three WS appearances of that length that were not all starts (the Tigers’ George Mullin started games 1, 4 and 6, and finished game 7 in 1909 but, unlike Bumgarner, Mullin was ineffective in the finale, surrendering the final 6 runs of an 8-0 loss to the Pirates).
Dominant players of the 1972 to 2007 period included Barry Bonds, Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, Jeff Kent and two Clarks, Will and Jack, with the current Giants led by Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Principal pitchers included Jim Barr, Gary Lavelle and John Montefusco from the pre-Bonds period, and Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Jason Schmidt more recently.
The top 15 Giants, by WAR are:
And, the top 15 Giant pitchers are:
Now, it’s your turn. Please choose 4 players, or write in your own. Polls are open until midnight Pacific time on Wed, Jan 21st. You can check on results using the link at the bottom of the ballot. If the ballot does not display on your browser, you can also vote here.