Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a sense, it hardly seems fair.

From the time they moved from the Polo Grounds to Seal Stadium in 1958, the San Francisco Giants have been a team with enormous star power.

Willie Mays, considered by some the game's most complete player in the post-World War II era, made the cross-country trek with the Giants as they, with the Dodgers, established a major league beachhead on the West Coast.

In time, he was joined by Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, Hall of Famers all.

After a relaively fallow period in the late 1970s through the late 1980s, there was Will Clark, and eventually, the notorious Barry Bonds.

All of them have one thing in common: they never won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants. (Mays had the good fortune to be with the Giants in 1954, when the franchise won its last title).

Which isn't to say they didn't come tantalizingly, infuriatingly close. Mays, Marichal, McCovey and Cepeda had the tying run on third in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series when McCovey's smash liner found its way into New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove.

Bonds, having freed himself from the suggestion that he was a post-season flop, was two innings away from winning in Game 6 of the 2002 Series before the (then) Anaheim Angels rallied to win that game, and Game 7, too.

In that way, greats like McCovey, Marichal and the others share a history with great Red Sox stars such as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as Hall of Famers who came close, but ultimately retired without winning a championship.

Now, a roster full of rookies, castoffs and journeymen are close to doing what their predecessors couldn't. McCovey, who played 19 of 22 seasons in San Francisco, never won, but Aubrey Huff, signed last winter, just might.

Mays, denied in the Bay Area, played from 1958 through 1972 without earning a ring, but Andres Torres, in his second season, is in position to top him.

Marichal, who won 20 games or more six times in the span of seven series yet never won a World Series or a Cy Young Award, came up empty, but Jonathan Madison Bumgarner, who had started exactly one game before facing the Red Sox in June, might soon be a champion.

Fair? Not hardly. But as Ron Washington, manager of the current-day Giants' opponents, is fond of saying: "That's how baseball go.''

These Giants may lack star power -- nobody hit 30 homers, knocked in 90 runs or won 17 games during the regular season -- but this collection of mostly "misfits and castoffs,'' as manager Bruce Bochy refers to them, is halfway toward winning it all.

This anonymous, no-one-is-bigger-than-the-team approach wears well with the fan base, perhaps because it stands in such stark contrast to the Bonds-led teams of recent history. Those teams had a Bonds-or-bust mentality: if Bonds didn't hit, or, as was often the case, wasn't allowed to hit because opponents worked around him, the Giants had little chance to win.

His ego was every bit as big as his swelled head and his persona so dominated the franchise that the entire organization seemed held captive.

That's hardly the case with this edition of the Giants, which is probably why the team has been so beloved by the fan base.

(Side note: Do not make the mistake of lumping San Francisco fans in with their brethren from southern California. San Francisco fans are every bit as dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable as renowned sports cites such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia).

Team president Larry Baer, in citing the team's democratic approach, told the San Francisco Chronicle recently that the mood around the team this season "is how it is in Little League.''

The team's highest-paid player, pitcher Barry Zito, didn't make the post-season roster. But there was room for Pat Burrell, picked up after being releases by the Tampa Bay Rays, and for Cody Ross, put on waivers by the Florida Marlins.

The left side of the infield, which features warhorses Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, look too slow and immobile. Renteria is with his sixth team; Uribe is with his third, but this post-season, they've both been stars, invigorated by the post-season.

Some have said that this Giants' lineup is the most feeble since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, but somehow, San Francisco has averaged 10 runs through the first two games of the Series, yet another manifestation of the team's selflessness and willingness to work together.

This weekend, they may have another thing in common with those Dodgers - a title.

Fair? To the likes of McCovey and Marichal, perhaps not.

But fun? Plenty, and part of what makes baseball so unapologetically unpredictable.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.