25 Facts About the San Francisco Giants
For the third time in five years, the San Francisco Giants are World Series champions. There's a lot to know about this 21st-century baseball dynasty with roots in New York; check out 25 of our favorite Giants facts.
1. The Giants joined the National League in 1883 as the New York Gothams. They won their first ever game against the Boston Beaneaters at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan.
2. The team's named changed to the Giants two years later in 1885. Legend has it player-manager Jim Mutrie congratulated his teammates after a particularly convincing victory by calling them "my big fellows, my giants." The name stuck.
3. The Giants should have made their first postseason appearance in 1904. The World Series, a symbol of symbiosis between the more established National League and the newer American League, was played for the first time just a year before in 1903. The following year, the National League Giants ran away with the pennant, winning 106 games, but refused to appear in an inter-league World Series. The reason was personal. On July 27, long before they clinched the League, manager John McGraw told the press, "The Giants will not play a postseason series with the American League champions. The reasons for my decision are that Ban Johnson has not been on the level with me personally, and the American League management has been crooked more than once." He went on to explain a feud with American League president Johnson that stemmed from McGraw's days as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, which became the League's charter franchise in 1901. "Now I have the whip hand. My team will have nothing to do with the American League as long as I have a word to say, and no influence to bear upon me by the National League people can make me change my mind," he concluded. And so that year, there was no World Series.
4. Despite his hard-line stance just a year before, McGraw was forced to capitulate to the fans the following season and, after going 105-48 during the regular season, the Giants made their postseason debut in the 1905 World Series, topping the Philadelphia Athletics four games to one. Even in a matchup dominated by otherworldly pitcher performances—it remains the only Series to date in which all five games ended in a shutout—Giants' ace Christy Mathewson stood out. Fresh off his second-consecutive 30-win season, the 25-year-old pitched three complete game shutouts over the span of just six days, the only pitcher to have ever done so in a World Series.
5. Despite several postseason appearances, the Giants wouldn't win another World Series until 1921, which was both a first and a last in Fall Classic history. The Giants topped their crosstown rival Yankees five games to three in what was not only the first ever Subway Series but also the first World Series in which all games were played at the same stadium (in this case, the Polo Grounds). But it was the last time the World Series would be best-of-nine. The two New York teams would face off in the World Series again the following two years, as well.
6. At the time, New York was a three-team city, so in addition to the Yankees, the Giants had one other crosstown rival: the Dodgers. And in the middle of August 1951, the Dodgers had a 13 1/2 game lead over the Giants. But then the Giants went on a tear, winning 16 in a row and ultimately 37 of their last 44 games to tie the Dodgers and force the first-ever National League pennant playoff. The Dodgers and the Giants split the first two of the three-game series and headed to the Polo Grounds for the deciding game. Trailing 4-1 in the ninth inning, the Giants staged a rally, stringing together several hits to drive in a run and put runners on second and third. Bobby Thompson came to bat against the Dodgers' reliever Ralph Branca and with the count 1-0 Thompson drove a home run into the left-field stands to give the Giants a 5-4 win and the NL Pennant. "The Shot Heard Round The World" earned the Giants a place in the 1951 World Series, where they once again faced the Yankees.
7. The Giants lost to the Yankees in the '51 Fall Classic, but they'd get one more shot at the World Series before leaving New York behind: 1954 was not only their last Championship on the East Coast, it was also the setting of "The Catch"—the amazing defensive play by Willie Mays to preserve a tie in the eighth inning of Game 1 at the Polo Grounds. The Giants would go on to sweep the Cleveland Indians in four games but it's the iconic photo of Mays' catch that made the Series famous. The photo was one of a series from that play taken by New York Daily News photographer Frank Hurley with his new Hultcher 70 camera, one of the first cameras capable of taking multiple frames per second.
8. The Giants and the Dodgers both left New York City for California in 1957, leaving the city without a National League team until the Mets were founded in 1962. The Mets chose their colors, blue and orange, to honor each of their NL forefathers in New York.
9. On July 2, 1963, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal earned the win in The Greatest Game ever pitched. To do so, he bested Braves pitcher Warren Spahn's final line of one run on nine hits over 15 1/3 innings with his own 16 full scoreless innings. The two twirlers had traded zeroes all afternoon at Candlestick Park, refusing to yield to the opposing batters or the bullpen. At one point, 25-year-old Marichal is said to have told Giants manager Alvin Dark, "He’s 42 and I’m 25, and you can’t take me out until that man is not pitching."
10. That marathon matchup was particularly noteworthy, but it wasn't the only extra-innings display of pitching prowess Marichal participated in during his career. In fact, he is the only pitcher since 1920 to throw multiple shutouts in which he pitched at least 14 innings, earning 1-0 win in 14 innings on May 26, 1966, against the Phillies. Later, he got a taste of the sort of heart-wrenching sliver of defeat he handed Spahn back in '63 when he lost another 14-inning game 1-0 to the Mets on August 19, 1969.
11. After playing their first two West Coast seasons at Seals Stadium, the Giants moved to Candlestick Park in 1960, which would serve as their home field for four decades. The infamously windy stadium hosted hundreds of important sporting events as well as one particularly noteworthy cultural moment. On August 29, 1966, the Beatles played their last ever (paid) concert together at Candlestick Park. Forty-eight years later, Paul McCartney returned to Candlestick for a send-off performance before the stadium closed this past summer.
12. The 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's was dominated by one thing and one thing only: The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake that struck the Bay Area just before the start of Game 3 at Candlestick. It lasted for about 15 seconds, starting at 5:04 p.m., with the game scheduled to start at 5:35. Play was suspended for 10 days while the two cities recovered, but the convergence of the World Series and the natural disaster had some interesting results. Because television crews were on hand for the game, Loma Prieta ended up being the first ever earthquake caught on camera. Even more fortuitously, experts think the timing of the earthquake so close to the major game may have saved lives: Most people in the area were inside somewhere to watch the game, and not out on the roads, which were heavily damaged.
13. Current Giants Manager Bruce Bochy has the largest head in Major League Baseball. He wears a size 8 1/4 hat and, during his playing days, he had to take his batting helmet with him from team to team in the event of a trade. It was easier for his new team to paint the helmet than to find one in his size.
14. There's a lot to say about one-time face-of-the-franchise Tim Lincecum's career, which has been marked by both extreme highs and confounding lows (especially if he's your favorite player). The record that perhaps best summarizes his many successes is this: He is one of only two players ever with multiple no-hitters thrown, multiple Cy Young Awards won, multiple World Series championship titles and multiple All-Star selections. The other is Sandy Koufax.
15. In 1994, the MLB season was cut short by labor issues. This impacted every team, player, and fan, of course, but for Giants slugger Matt Williams, it may have cost him a chance at history. When the strike suspended play for the Giants after 115 games, Williams—not Barry Bonds, who hit behind him in the lineup—was on track to top Roger Maris' single season home run record. Although it has since been (questionably) surpassed by multiple players, at the time the record for the most home runs in a single season stood at 61. And with 47 games left to play that never came to pass, Williams had hit 43. Even with the shortened season, it was the most Williams ever hit in a single year.
16. The Giants won the first ever Interleague game, 4-3, against the Indians on June 12, 1997.
17. The 2003 Giants were just the ninth team in baseball history to wire-to-wire in first place.
18. Giants fans love Hunter Pence for his scooter, his sense of humor, his ability to motivate his teammates, and, of course, the legion of highly-specific, mild-mannered signs he's inspired. But even the orange and black faithful know Pence does not play baseball gracefully. His wonky style of hitting, throwing and running are immediately evident to anyone who watches him, but it was recently revealed that there is a reason for his jerky motions. Pence has Scheuermann's Disease, a spinal disorder that impairs flexibility. The outfielder himself didn't know about it until undergoing a physical before signing a contract extension with the Giants in 2013.
19. The spinal stiffness clearly isn't impacting Pence's durability: He holds the current active record for consecutive regular season games played with 383.
20. Last year, 2012 NL MVP Giants catcher Buster Posey—real name, Gerald—signed a 9-year contract extension worth $167 million. In addition to being the longest contract in Giants history, it was also the most lucrative contract ever awarded to a player with so few years in the Big Leagues.
21. Mascot Lou Seal was the first member of the Giants to wear what is now the team's orange Friday jerseys. His was a prototype.
22. But Lou was not the Giants' first mascot. In 1984, the team introduced Crazy Crab, a counter-culture "anti-mascot" that was intentionally hapless and boo-able. The target proved to be just a little too tempting during a 96-loss season in which fans and players alike lobbed not just insults but food, trash, and even resin bags at the crab, forcing him into retirement after just one season.
23. The Giants have the most Hall of Fame inductees of any organization with 56.
24. They also have the most wins historically with 10,780. This is helped to be made possible by the fact that they are the sixth-oldest franchise.
25. The Giants entered the World Series this year having won their last eight-straight playoff series, which is the second-longest streak in baseball history. It wasn't easy the whole way; in 2012, they became the first team in the history of the Division Series to advance after falling into an 0-2 deficit.
Additional Sources: The Year of the San Francisco Giants: Celebrating the 2012 World Series Champions by Major League Baseball and 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever by Bill Madden.