Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: November 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Giants Trivia No.1: What You Didn't Know About Legend Willie Mays

By Vince Cestone

San Francisco Giants fans are familiar with all the great feats of baseball legend Willie Mays.

They know he hit 660 career home runs. They know he made "The Catch" in the vast Polo Grounds outfield during the 1954 World Series that fueled the New York Giants to a championship. They know "The Say Hey Kid" was perhaps the best all-around baseball player to ever play the game.

But beyond the dazzling catches where the outfield wall played victim or the tape-measure homers, there are some thing you might not have known about the Hall of Famer.

  • Mays is the only player to ever hit a home run every inning from one to 16 throughout his career, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Here's the Society's inning-by-inning chart. His 16th-inning home run came on July 2, 1963 at Candlestick Park against Milwaukee Braves starter Warren Spahn (yes, Spahn started the game and pitched 15.1 shutout innings). Mays' solo-shot was a walk-off, and the Giants won 1-0. Giants starter Juan Marichal pitched 16 shutout innings in that game. 
  • Mays' first big-league hit was a home run off Spahn too, when the Hall of Fame pitcher was playing for the Boston Braves. Mays went hitless in his first 12 career at-bats, until May 28, 1951 when he hit a home run at the Polo Grounds. Spahn later joked, "I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out." And he still hasn't gotten rid of Willie. He can be seen today frequenting AT&T Park. And don't forget about the statue forever memorializing the Giants' great outside the ballpark.
  • Willie Mays may have become more humble in his later years, but not during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1979. When he was asked whom he considered the best player he ever saw when he played, he said, "I don't mean to be bashful, but I was." And he was probably right--and still is.
PHOTO CREDIT: Willie Mays on a ROLLFAST bike by John via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Stats and info from ESPN, Baseball Almanac, and "100 Things Giants Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" by Bill Chastain.

Follow Vince on Twitter @vintalkingiants.

Questions or comments? E-mail my blog mailbag at Your questions may be answered on my blog. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Top 5 San Francisco Giants Postseason Moments of 2014, Plus Honorable Mentions

By Vince Cestone

perez_ishi by topol6 via Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0
The San Francisco Giants' historic 2014 postseason run ended with their third World Series championship in five years, the first National League team to accomplish such a feat since the St. Louis Cardinals from 1942-1946.

Winning the 2014 title was probably the most difficult of the three.

They had to endure an 18-inning game on the road in Washington, a Cardinals team that never quit, and a Cinderella-story Kansas City Royals team that pushed the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series.

Not to mention, the Giants had to make a run without their leadoff hitting catalyst Angel Pagan and with a rookie starting at second base. Their postseason horse Matt Cain was out for the season in July and every starting pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner struggled to make it to the sixth inning throughout the postseason.

But the resilient Giants still found a way to get it done, with their hard work rewarded with a parade down Market Street on Halloween.

From Bumgarner's complete-game shutout in the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh to Pablo Sandoval's catch on a foul-ball popup to wrap up the World Series, the Giants had their fans on the edge of their seat all October--torture and all.

For my top five moments from the Giants' 2014 championship run, check out my article on NBC Bay Area.

Here are a few honorable mentions:

1. Michael Morse's Game-Tying Homer Run in NLCS Game 5

The Giants were six outs away from heading back to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series up 3-2, missing a shot to clinch the pennant at AT&T Park. But Michael Morse, who was injured for a month with a strained oblique and relegated to pinch-hitting duties, did not want to pack his bags that night for the Midwest.

The Giants did indeed pack their bags for Missouri, but it was to play in the World Series in Kansas City, as Travis Ishikawa brought the pennant home to San Francisco one inning later.

2. Pablo Sandoval's Game-Tying Double in NLDS Game 2

The Giants were dead in the water in Game 2 of the National Division Series. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann threw 8 2/3 shutout innings and was just one out away from beating the Giants 1-0. But a two-out walk to Joe Panik prompted Washington skipper Matt Williams to go to his closer Drew Storen. Buster Posey singled off Storen, leaving it up to Pablo Sandoval as the Giants' last hope in Game 2.

Although the Nationals gunned down the lead run Posey at the plate, the Giants tied the game at one in dramatic fashion. Nine innings later, thanks to a clutch home run by Brandon Belt, San Francisco closed out the longest game in postseason history and was up 2-0 in the best-of-five series.

3. Hunter Pence's Acrobatic Catch in NLDS Game 4

What can Giants fans say? Hunter Pence is just awesome. And he showed why with one out in the sixth inning in Game 3 of the NLDS. With Ryan Vogelsong pitching arguably his best game of the season, the Giants were leading 2-1 and Washington slugger Jayson Werth thought he had a one-out triple. But Pence said...

Pence's catch at the right-field wall proved to be huge, as the Giants won the game 3-2. Had Werth tripled, the Nationals may have rallied and the series could have shifted to Washington tied 2-2. But thanks to Pence, the Giants advanced to the NLCS with a Game 4 win.

These three moments did not make my top five, but having too many top postseason moments is a great problem to have.

Follow Vince on Twitter @vintalkingiants.

Questions or comments? E-mail my blog mailbag at Your questions may be answered on my blog. 

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