Not only did Sandoval hit three home runs in a World Series game, a feat accomplished by only three other men, but he hit two of them facing Justin Verlander, a Cy Young Award winner and the 2011 American League MVP. Even more confounding, Sandoval accomplished this feat after being benched for most of the Giants' 2010 World Series campaign. Perhaps most impressively, Sandoval hit three home runs after undergoing surgery to remove his left hamate bone earlier this season, a procedure that often saps hitters of their power.
Deciding where to rank Sandoval's three home run night requires a quick jaunt through the rich and storied history of San Francisco Giants playoff baseball. There are a few moments that stand more as memories than accomplishments, like when J.T. Snow grabbed Dusty Baker's son, Darren, off of home plate in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series.
Then there are the heavy hitters.
It comes down to two decisive moments: Willie Mays' catch in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series and Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951.
As incredible a moment as Thompson's home run was for the Giants, and baseball at large, it technically didn't occur during a playoff game. Rather, the Giants were facing the Brooklyn Dodgers in a three-game playoff to decide the pennant in the pre-NLCS days. Thompson's bomb off of Ralph Branca with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth is perhaps the most iconic moment in the history of baseball, but it got the Giants into the playoffs, so we can't truly count it.
Then there's "The Catch." That moment definitely occurred during a playoff game—the 1954 World Series to be exact. It was a series that the Giants would sweep, and the last title that the franchise would win until 2010. Better words than mine have been used to describe the no-look basket catch that Mays made to rob Vic Wertz of a few RBI and the Cleveland Indians of their mettle. No matter what team you root for, you know "The Catch" and respect Mays as one of the best to ever play the game.
In some sense, then, it isn't fair to compare Sandoval's home runs with Mays' catch. In one case, we can attribute the achievement to the overall success of the team, and in the other, there is still much baseball left to be played.
But if we strip away the context that Mays' catch contributed to the 1954 Giants winning the World Series, it's hard to say that Sandoval's feat isn't just as impressive. After all, his playoff moment was actually built on three moments, each one coming at the hands of a pitcher who could adjust to what Sandoval had already done.
You can't vote against Mays' catch. It's sacrosanct to Giants' fans. Perhaps, though, when the time comes to order the best playoff moments in Giants history, it will come to pass that the number one spot is, in fact, a tie.
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