Giant Home Runs: The 5 Most Important Blasts In Giants History
Whether in New York or San Francisco, the Giants have always played a prominent role in the history of the home run.
Barry Bonds is the all-time career home leader after belting 73 in 2001 to set the single-season record. He hit the bulk of them in the heart of the steroids era, but still thrilled fans across the country who were largely unaware of the controversy that would unfold later.
Willie Mays and Willie McCovey rank among the all-time career home run leaders, as does New York Giants legend Mel Ott. The three Hall of Famers hit many big home runs, but ranking them and the other memorable blasts in club history required more than a check of the record books.
The five most important home runs in Giants history will remind fans of some of the most thrilling games and pennant races in history. Moreover, the elite quintet of circuit clouts capture the memory of the Giants in time of victory -- and most came interspersed with seasons of heartbreak that have followed their last world championship in 1954.
Bonds, Mays, McCovey and other elite sluggers are recalled here. The five most important home runs in Giants history, though, tell a story of the team's history and features superstars and the most unlikely heroes.
Every Giants fan could find five important home runs without every even considering the five listed here. The selection process is, obviously, subjective. The list of five unforgettable homers here, though, comes with a brief explanation of their time and place in Giants history -- as well as look at what made them most important.
Home Run Kingman Makes His Mark
When the Giants won the National League pennant, then lost in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, fans assumed it was only the beginning. With superstars Juan Marichal, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey at the core of the team -- surely more titles and trips to the Fall Classic would follow.
When Dave Kingman made his big league debut in San Francisco in 1971, the 6-foot-6 slugger was asked to play a role in writing the final chapters in the legacies of Marichal, Mays and McCovey. They hadn't entered the postseason since 1962 and the aging stars were almost out of time.
Kingman finished his big league career with 442 home runs. With the Giants needing a victory on the final day of the 1971 season to clinch the West, Kingman earned a place in club history.
His home run in San Diego fueled Marichal and the Giants to a win in the finale and an NL West crown. Marichal, Mays and McCovey enjoyed the postseason spotlight one last time together.
One Giants Legend Surpasses Another: Mays catches Ott
Willie Mays hit hundreds of memorable home runs in a Giants uniform, but his quest to pass fellow Giants legend Mel Ott as the National League's all-time career home run leader captured America's attention in 1966.
While events of the last decade changed things, a player who hit 500 career home runs immediately became a lord of the game in the 1960s. Mays hit No. 500 in 1965, then began 1966 right behind Ott's total of 511.
Mays entered a night game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, against the Dodgers, tied with Ott at 511. After striking out twice against lefty Claude Osteen, Mays delivered a blast that made him the NL home run king.
As soon as the ball landed, talk began in earnest of how a Giants superstar might eventually catch and pass Babe Ruth to become the all-time home run champion.
End of the Innocence: Bonds Blasts By McGwire
While some insist they all knew that something was wrong during the home run explosion in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fact is that most sat back and thrilled at Barry Bonds' incredible 2001 campaign.
Mark McGwire's single-season mark of 70 seemed out of reach for fans, the media and baseball officials who still believed in the simple glory of the long ball. Then, Bonds began the process of setting a new standard -- for home run hitters and, moreover, for what every great hitter would aspire to achieve.
The Giants were winning in the second year in their new digs at Pac Bell Park. A playoff race thrilled Giants fans. Bonds' home runs blew their minds.
After hitting No. 70 on the road, Bonds and the boys opened a season-ending three-game series against the Dodgers in San Francisco. The club needed wins and Bonds needed one home run to set the record.
Bonds did more than necessary on that Friday night. He hit home runs in consecutive at-bats to break McGwire's mark with No. 71 and then set another record with No. 72.
'The Shot Heard 'Round the World'
The 1951 NL pennant race ranks among the greatest in baseball history.
The New York Giants came from way back to tie the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of the season and force a best-of-three playoff. The winner would face the New York Yankees in the World Series.
After splitting the first two games, the Dodgers grabbed a 4-1 lead and fans in the Polo Grounds began to accept that the Giants would fall short of making a miracle.
The Giants rallied in the ninth inning to start what would become known as “The Miracle on Coogan’s Bluff,” the site of the Polo Grounds. Then, Bobby Thompson faced relief pitcher Ralph Branca with one out and tying runs on second and third.
Anyone who doesn’t know what happened next isn’t a baseball fan at all.
Thompson belted a three-run home run that has become a part of baseball history.
The Giants won the pennant! The Giants won the pennant!
Johnson's '97 Homer Change Course of the Franchise
The Los Angeles Dodgers had long had the upper hand on the San Francisco Giants. Manager Roger Craig’s guiding Giants teams into the National League Championship Series in the late 1980s. Otherwise, the Dodgers dominated the rivalry.
Things changed with one swing of an unlikely hero’s bat in 1997.
Former Stanford quarterback Brian Johnson, who had only joined the Giants at mid-season, rocked a capacity crowd at Candlestick Park with a 12th-inning, walk-off home run that ended a four-hour, heart-stopper. The Giants caught and past the Dodgers in the NL West in that final week to reach the postseason.
For years to follow, the Giants were winners and the Dodgers were chasing them.
Johnson’s home run made it all possible.