San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Influential 1997 N.L. West Champion Giants

Paul PadillaContributor IIIMay 4, 2012

San Francisco Giants: Top 10 Influential 1997 N.L. West Champion Giants

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    The 1997 National League West Champion San Francisco Giants are fully etched in Giants lore. It was the first time the Giants made the playoffs since the 1989 World Series and therefore the first time I would be able to watch Giants playoff baseball that wasn't just highlights.  

    The team was stocked with recent acquisitions and in-house upstarts that would get a crack to solidify themselves as everyday players. This is also about the time General Manager Brian Sabean started to configure the team into a yearly contender. 

    It took 13 years for the Giants to bring home a World Series trophy since they won the N.L. West in 1997. Many interesting and derisive players have filtered through the clubhouses at Candlestick and AT&T Park since then.

    I felt like it was a good time during this early 2012 season to look back upon the past to recognize some of the players that kick-started a successful era in San Francisco Giants history.   

Honorable Mentions

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    Darryl Hamilton

    Hambone only played two full seasons for the Giants: 1997 and 1998. But in his first year, Hamilton provided the club with solid defense ( five errors in 119 games) and 15 stolen bases which supplemented the Giants total.

    Mark Lewis

    Lewis had 10 home runs and shared defensive duties with Bill Mueller at third base.

    Mark Gardner

     12-9 as a starter, second on the Giants in strikeouts and complete games.   

    Julian Tavarez, Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez

     All these players were traded for either in 1996 or 1997. The latter three involved in the infamous White Flag Trade, which aided the Giants in 1997 by bringing in solid veterans for relatively unproven minor leaguers.

10. Kirk Rueter

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    Kirk Rueter finished the 1997 season with a 13-6 record and would establish himself as a solid cog in what was essentially a three-man rotation.

    Pitching 190.2 innings, 1997 would essentially be the springboard for Rueter's memorable Giants career.

    "Woody" retired as the winningest left-handed pitcher in team history with 105 wins.  

9. Stan Javier

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    Stan Javier would have one of the best years in his career in 1997, scoring 69 runs and coming in second on the team in stolen bases with 25.

    He also shored up the outfield with Barry Bonds with only seven errors in 142 games. 

8. Jose Vizcaino

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    Jose Vizcaino was an essential player for the Giants in 1997, eating up 151 games (the most he'd play in a season for any team) and gobbling up 568 at bats with 151 hits.

    With emerging SS Rich Aurilia ready to take over in 1998, Vizcaino bolted to the Dodgers, but not after having his most productive season of his career.  

7. Bill Mueller

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    After Matt Williams was traded to the Cleveland Indians, third base was left open for a platoon of Bill Mueller and Mark Lewis. Lewis would leave after 1997.

    Mueller stayed in San Francisco, and became an indispensable infield presence for the Giants at the hot corner. His .292 batting average and reliable glove at third helped complete a solid infield corps that could both swing the bat and defend.  

6. J.T. Snow

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    J.T. Snow would have the most home runs (28), doubles (36), and RBI's (104) of his career for the Giants in 1997.

    Equally as important was his .995 fielding percentage, which netted Snow his first of several Gold Glove awards with the Giants. 

5. Brian Johnson

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    One of the most recent memorable Giants moment stems from a game winning home run that catcher Brian Johnson hit. A walk off home run in the bottom of the 12th to not only beat the Dodgers, but put the Giants into a tie for first place in the N.L. West  

    Although platooning with Damon Berryhill and Rick Wilkins all season long at catcher, Johnson will be remembered for his offensive heroics. His name will always be remembered for being a Dodger slayer.  

4. Rod Beck

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    During the Brian Johnson game, Rod Beck got out of a bases-loaded, no outs situation to get out of the jam in the top of the 12th and extend the game. 

    But it wasn't just that one moment. His wild looks, swingin' arm, and no-nonsense demeanor would endear himself to the Giants faithful. 

    Recording 37 saves in 1997 wasn't too shabby either. 

3. Jeff Kent

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    Jeff Kent hit the ground running in his first full year with the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds would finally have an offensive counterpart to provide runs. 

    In 1997, Kent would hit 29 home runs and bat in 121 runs - all numbers he would improve upon with his career with the Giants.  

2. Shawn Estes

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    Shawn Estes undoubtedly had the finest year of his career in 1997; a 19-5 record earned him an All-Star appearance. 

    Estes would only come close to this type of year again in 2000 (15-6). But he is beloved for his effort in 1997 in the Giants community, one that catapulted the Giants to the N.L. West championship.  

1. Barry Bonds

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    The anchor, the franchise, the cornerstone. Barry Bonds was the Giants and everybody knew it.

    It was a pleasure to watch Bonds' natural abilities to steal and run the bases, his outfield prowess, his hitting ability.

    Yes, the Giants' rise to prominence coincides with Jeff Kent's arrival, but Barry was Barry and the numbers don't lie: 40 home runs, 101 RBI's, 37 stolen bases. Another solid year. 

    When it comes to Barry, let it be said for his on-field game: actions speak louder than words.

    An offensive juggernaut: vintage Barry Bonds. 


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    I was at the game when we clinched the N.L. West vs the Padres. Barry Bonds celebrating on the dugout. The Giants players going crazy. The fans even crazier. 

    1997 was the year Brian Sabean molded a team resilient enough to streak through the season and knock off the LA. Dodgers off the NL.L West perch.

    Memorable moments from the veteran savvy and young upstarts of the 1997 Giants team. All managed by the old-school Dusty Baker, stamping a time in Giants history that ended a run of futility and began a successful run of playoff appearances.

    More importantly for Giants fans, a rekindling of motivation to stay in love with the San Francisco Giants.