Bobby Thomson and The Giants' 10 Greatest Playoff Moments
The San Francisco Giants battled back from what would've been a catastrophic loss at the hands of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon and now head into Game 4 of the National League Division Series with a two-games-to-one advantage.
Clutch at-bats from Travis Ishikawa, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and a major assist from Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad made up for another rough trip to the bump for Sergio Romo.
The increasingly suspect big-spot, late-inning option gave up a sickening home run to journeyman pinch-hitter Eric Hinske in the bottom of the eighth inning and almost blew a Giant starter's gem for the second consecutive NLDS game.
Thankfully, Conrad got the last crack at the postseason-goat pinata and broke that sucker wide open with his fourth "erruh" (to quote Dick Stockton) in three games. Yet another E-4 accounted for San Francisco's winning margin, which makes it 2-for-2 in the five-gamer thus far.
Consequently, you won't find this comeback on the list of greatest playoff moments in franchise history. The rebound from Hinske's crushing blow was another magical moment in 2010, but the fact that it required help keeps it off this illustrious list.
As I think you will agree...
No. 10—Jeffrey Leonard's One Flap Down in the 1987 NLCS
Remember when "One Flap Down" was considered boorish behavior? Sigh...
Here's another San Francisco memory that doesn't end well.
It wasn't nearly as painful as the 2002 World Series, but the National League Championship Series in 1987 against the St. Louis Cardinals was no picnic. The Redbirds were favored coming in and were experiencing a nice run of success in the 1980s, but that didn't stop Jeffrey Leonard from dominating the seven-game confrontation.
If only he'd gotten some help.
The Hackman infuriated the Cards with both his play on the diamond and the way he went about his business. Leonard would post a slash line of .417/.500/.917 and smoked four big potatoes in only 28 plate appearances. The guy was such a holy terror, he took home Most Valuable Player honors despite toiling for the team that got eliminated.
However, what really drove St. Louis and its fans bonkers was his penchant for circling the bases sloooowly with one arm hanging limply at his side.
I should know as I was a devout Cardinal fan who has just moved to the Bay Area.
And, man, did I loathe Jeffrey Leonard.
No. 9—J.T. Snow Makes a Pick at Home for a Change in the 2002 World Series
I think the Giants got credit for Darren's run, too.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
I sincerely, sincerely wish this wasn't the best moment from the San Francisco Giants' 2002 postseason.
In reality, it probably wasn't since there were some other big moments—David Bell's go-ahead single in Game 4 of the World Series, the comeback against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, and obviously Kenny Lofton's game-winning single that sent the Gents to the Series.
But the '02 wound still hasn't healed and, consequently, it seems perverse to mention a great moment that is strictly confined to the diamond.
Additionally, J.T. Snow's save of Dusty Baker's son, Darren, happened on baseball's biggest stage.
Regardless, the near-disaster happened in a Game 5 laugher that San Francisco would win 16-4. It was the last laugh Giant fans would have as things would go horribly awry from there, but Snow's snag endures as a bright spot in that dreary experience.
For those too young or old to remember, Darren came streaking out to the plate as the picture of youthful exuberance. The problem was, the play was still going and the tyke was running right into the middle of the action.
But for Snow's quick reflexes and soft hands, the hearts of the Bay Area might not have been the only thing broken that October.
No. 8—Three-Run Eighth Inning Sweeps New York Yankees from 1922 World Series
Think anyone told this dude to sit down because he was blocking the view?
The 1922 World Series was played entirely at the Polo Grounds for the second year in a row since both the New York Yankees and Giants shared the park as each club's "home" stadium. More bizarrely to the modern baseball fan, it featured the last tie in the history of the Fall Classic.
Game 2 ended in a 3-3 deadlock due to darkness despite the fact that the sun was still in the sky.
Outside of that little controversy—rumor had it the tie was fabricated to increase gate receipts, which were ultimately donated to charity to defuse any outrage—the Series was relatively uneventful as far as major anxiety is concerned.
The Gints swept the Pinstripes to win their second consecutive championship trophy over their intra-city rivals using a three-run rally late in the Game 1, a shutout in Game 3, and an early lead in Game 4 that held up in the face of a panicked charge by the opposition.
However, the decisive Game 5 provided a little intrigue as the Bombers took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh inning after tying the game in the fifth.
The Yankees were four outs away from forcing a Game 6 when High Pockets Kelly pushed across the tying and go-ahead runs with a bases-loaded single. Lee King would plate an insurance run with another single and that was all she wrote.
It was the franchise's third championship.
No. 7—Art Nehf Stifles the New York Yankees in Game 8 of the 1921 World Series
There is no more natural pairing than baseball and...cigars?
The 1921 World Series was notable for a variety of reasons—it was the last Series to use the best-of-nine-games format, it was the first to be broadcast on radio, it was the first to be played at a single site (the Polo Grounds), and it marked the beginning of the New York Yankees' dynasty, though they would lose the Fall Classic.
It also featured an injured Babe Ruth making sporadic appearances to try to spur the Bronx Bombers on to the Promised Land.
Unfortunately for the Sultan of Swat, the body wasn't capable, though the mind was willing. Or maybe it would've been capable had Art Nehf not been dealing in Game 8.
The octet of contests was a back-and-forth affair with the Yanks grabbing the first two games before the Gints responded with wins in Games 3 and 4. The two Big Apple reps would then split Games 5 and 6, setting up a best-of-three for all the marbles.
The eventually West-Coast bound entrant would win Game 7 behind Phil Douglas and then hand the ball to Nehf for the clincher. Nehf answered the call and then some, throwing nine shutout innings and only securing a 1-0 win after retiring the Babe as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.
Nursing a one-run lead.
Injured or not, that's drama on a historic level and a sweet bit of nostalgia for Giant fans.
No. 6—Mel Ott Goes Yard in Extra Innings to Win the 1933 World Series
Nothing like a well-groomed baseball field...
The New York Giants were regulars in the World Series during the 1930s, but the 1933 Series would be their only title of the decade.
It largely came in anticlimactic fashion with Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell and Hal Schumacher dominating the Senators in Games 1, 2, and 4 (though the fourth contest required an extra-inning RBI from Blondy Ryan).
Nevertheless, the clinching Game 5 held one last bit of suspense before the Gints grabbed their fourth championship ring.
Schumacher wasn't quite up to snuff as the Sens touched him up for three runs, but New York returned the favor with a trio off of General Crowder. The score stayed 3-3 until a second Giants' Hall of Famer stepped to the dish with two outs in the top of the 10th.
Big Mel Ott put his squad ahead with a center-field obliteration and the 4-3 score would survive the opposition's final trips to the batter's box.
If Ott had hit his monumental round-tripper at home, this baby would be higher up the list. However, the dark lining to the silver cloud is that the tater came on the road, which means the drama of the decisive run and the actual championship was diluted by the Washington Senators' last licks.
The 1933 season was the last year the Fall Classic was hosted in Washington, D.C. and—judging from the current state of the Nationals—it's almost certain the 77-year drought will see its ninth decade before being broken.
No. 5—Tim Lincecum Dazzles in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS and Wins Playoff Debut
Here's to winning, indeed.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Yeah, yeah, it was only the Division Series and we don't know how the rest of the 2010 postseason will unravel.
The San Francisco Giants haven't had all that many triumphant trips through baseball's second season since moving West. They haven't won a World Series since following the pioneers and have only returned to the Fall Classic a mere three times since 1957.
In other words, the organization has been by the Bay for over a half-century and there have been precious few moments of playoff pleasure.
Consequently, the fans' connection to the New York teams is growing more tenuous by the day while the significance of each example of San Francisco glory increases with each new torture.
Enter Tim Lincecum, pride of the organization. The Freak, the Franchise, Big Time Timmy Jim and all manner of nastiness in between.
The diminutive right-hander took the pearl in his first playoff start and all he did was dust the Atlanta Braves right out of AT&T Park. His final line went a little something like this—9 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 14 K, and 119 nearly unhittable pitches to deliver a 1-0 victory to the good guys.
More importantly, in a year where the Gents have relied on their starting pitching to keep them in the hunt, Lincecum authoritatively set the tone for the club's run through October and (hopefully) into November.
No. 4—Christy Mathewson Throws His Third Shutout to Win the 1905 World Series
One of the all-time greats, Mathewson could twirl it in the postseason, too.
The 1905 World Series was the second one ever played—the Boston Americans won the first official Fall Classic in 1903 and manager John McGraw refused to let his New York Giants participate in the 1904 version.
It was also the Giants first trip to the Series and it would match them against the Philadelphia Athletics.
The battle would last five games and featured a parade of Hall of Famers to the pitching mound. Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity toed the slab for New York while Chief Bender and Eddie Plank did the honors for Philly.
Additionally, the Giants' catcher Roger Bresnahan and both managers—McGraw and Connie Mack—would be enshrined as would Athletics' pitcher Rube Waddell (who didn't play).
However, Mathewson outshone all that wattage with ease.
The right-hander threw 27 scoreless innings while surrendering only 13 hits, 10 of which were singles and the rest doubles. To put the icing on the postseason cake, Christy blew away 18 pieces of Philadelphia lumber and walked only one.
In fairness, McGinnity also pitched brilliantly, but it was Mathewson who virtually carried the franchise to its first World Series title.
And the ride culminated in the Game 5 clincher, which he won behind only two runs from his offense.
No. 3—Will Clark's Back-Breaking Single Up the Spine in the 1989 NLCS
Will the Thrill doing his thing.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Oh, those poor Chicago Cubs.
It seems like every major-league team has an exquisite memory from the last several decades except for the Cubbies and, to add insult to injury, many clubs' ecstasy was the Lovable Losers' agony.
Such was life in the Windy City in October 1989.
The San Francisco Giants and Cubs were beating each other senseless in the National League Championship Series as Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams all had field days for los Gigantes.
Meanwhile, Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, and the immortal Jerome Walton (where is that Upper Deck card?) lit it up for the North Siders.
Nobody, however, could keep up with Will the Thrill. Nuschler put up a staggering slash line of .650/.682/1.200 with eight runs scored, two big flies, and eight runs batted in.
The final two RBI came when he smacked a single up the middle of the diamond of volatile closer Mitch Williams.
The Wild Thing was at the height of his powers during the '89 season, but he was no match for the NLCS Most Valuable Player on that afternoon in the City.
No. 2—The Catch and Dusty Rhodes' Walk-Off in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series
Vic Wertz needed to hit the weight room.
When there's a four-game sweep, the only real chance for supreme drama is in Game 1. After that, all the big moments are dulled a bit by the fact that one team has a significant advantage i.e. the drama is skewed to the trailing team.
So, when the Giants swept the Cleveland Indians in 1954, Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes jumped all over their chances to command center stage under the brightest lights Broadway had to offer.
In the opener of the '54 Fall Classic, the game was knotted at two in the top of the eighth when Vic Wertz stepped to the plate with runners on first and second.
The left-hander blasted a bomb to center field that only the Polo Grounds and the Say Hey Kid could corral for the first out of the inning.
If you're a baseball fan, you know what happened—Mays tracked the ball down with his back to home plate, spun 180 degrees, and fired the ball back to the infield in time to keep any runs from scoring.
Though New York wasn't out of the late-inning woods yet, the contest would ultimately remain tied until Rhodes sent everyone home with a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th.
This is still the last World Series title the San Francisco franchise has seen. The 54-year-wait is third-longest between the Chicago Cubs and the same ill-fated Tribe from '54.
No. 1—Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World in 1951
The thinking behind security was slightly different back then...
No real mystery here.
Not only is this the greatest moment in San Francisco Giant franchise history, it's arguably the greatest moments in the history of Major League Baseball.
True, it's not a "playoff" moment in the traditional sense as it ended a three-game playoff to decide the National League Pennant winner before there was a Championship Series in either league.
However, it zooms to the top of the list without question because of what it represented and the poor schmucks who were victimized—the Brooklyn Dodgers.
What it represented was the coup de grace in one of the most unlikely resurgences you'll ever find on a baseball diamond.
The Gints had stormed back from a 13.5-game deficit in the standings on Aug. 11 by winning 37 of 44 games to force the extracurricular meeting of minds and cleats.
Though the Dodgers won the coin toss for home-field advantage, they opted to play Game 1 at home and the finale two games on the road rather than vice versa.
The strategy would prove costly as New York would win Game 1 behind a Thomson two-run homer in an affair that would end 3-1. The Bums would destroy the Giants in Game 2 with a 10-0 shutout to set up the Bobby's date with destiny.
After tying the game in the bottom of the seventh with a sacrifice fly, the New York outfielder strode to the dish in the bottom of the ninth facing a two-run deficit with two runners on and two outs.
The first pitch from Ralph Branca—the same man who surrendered Bobby's previous home run in Game 1—was a strike, but the second would never make it to the catcher's mitt.
The three-run long ball ended the game and sent the Giants to the World Series. It also provided the franchise with its greatest playoff moment of all time.
Until, that is, the San Francisco Giants come up with something better.
And with the fellas still alive in crazy 2010, you better stay tuned.