After 56 years of waiting, a change in location, and years of dealing with Candlestick Park, the San Francisco Giants have again reached the summit, winning the 2010 World Series, doing so with great pitching and a surge of hitting.
The 2010 World Series was not what many were expecting. Most had a Yankees-Phillies rematch, and many didn't even have the Giants making the playoffs until a late September push. As a result, the Giants' win is one of the more surprising ones.
Where does this Giants' victory rank among the top 25 least likely world series champs?
The Depression years had their fair share of upsets. In 1933, the 91-61 New York Giants faced the 99-53 Washington Senators, and Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott proved to be more than the Senators could handle in spite of the record.
In 1934, the 95-58 St. Louis Cardinals faced the 101-53 Detroit Tigers. The Tigers' lineup consisted of Hank Greenberg, Goose Goslin, Mickey Cochrane, and Charlie Gehringer, and led the league in pretty much every hitting category. Dizzy and Paul Dean were able to figure all these hitters out, however, winning all four games themselves.
In 1935, the Tigers returned, now 93-58, against the 100-54 Chicago Cubs. While the Cubs had the best ERA in the majors by a mile, the Tigers' staff of Schoolboy Rowe and Tommy Bridges were able to hod the Cubs at bay.
The 1931 Philadelphia Athletics, at 107-45, were an all-time great team. Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove created threats for both hitting and pitching. The Cardinals, however, had no 20-game winner, splitting time between six starters, a rarity for back then.
Despite splitting time between so many pitchers, they were able to get the best out of Burleigh Grimes and beat the A's in seven games.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were still a fairly new franchise in 2001. However, with the acquisition of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson as a dynamic duo, good things were set to happen. The Yankees, however, had just won three titles and had a dynamic duo of their own, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina.
The end result was one of the most exciting series in recent memory, with the D'Backs topping the Yankees in game seven.
Much like the Diamondbacks, the Marlins were pretty new franchise in 1997. Unlike the Diamondbacks, they were not that great of a team. They had average hitting and their only ace was Kevin Brown. The Indians consisted of many players from 1995, although their pitching staff wasn't all that great.
Even so, they had been there before. The Marlins had never touched the playoffs, which made this all the more amazing.
The Yankees as unlikely World Series champs? This one time, yes. The 1943 Cardinals were the defending champs, led by Stan Musial. The 1943 Yankees were without many of their star players due to WWII, and were instead led by Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, Spud Chandler, and Charley Wensloff (who? Indeed, almost nothing has been written about him. I tried finding anything.)
Chandler and the Yankees were victorious in only five games though, showing they could still win even with nobodies at the bat and mound.
The Washington Senators seemed to come out of nowhere in 1924, facing the Giants who had been to the World Series time and again. Frankie Frisch, Ross Youngs, and others gave the Giants the best hitting in the league.
Pitching wins championships however, and Walter Johnson, Tom Zachary, and others brought the title to D.C. in possibly the most competitive world series ever.
The 1995 Cleveland Indians, at 100-44, may have bad both the best hitting and pitching staffs in the majors. Their .291 team batting average was a full 41 points higher than Atlanta's, and a combination of youth and veteran leadership made them a feared team. While Atlanta had great pitching, their hitting left much to be desired.
Despite this, having the trio of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine proved to be too much for the Indians. They're still waiting for that next World Series title.
The 1974 Athletics were a good team, no doubt, led by Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. Their pitching staff of Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, and others was tops in the AL, yet was fighting against Don Sutton and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only difference was the Dodgers could hit as well, with Steve Garvey and Jim Wynn leading the way.
Despite 102 regular season wins, the Dodgers could not keep the A's at bay.
The Jackson-Garvey rematch may not have happened at all thanks to the crazy events of the 1981 season. Due to the season split and all the problems alone, no matter who won the series, they would be on a "least probable winner" list. This went doubly so in the case of the Dodgers, who played .500 ball in the second half of the season yet still managed to win the World Series.
World War I almost stopped the season dead in its tracks, making Boston's last World Series win in a long time that much more impressive. The records made the Cubs out to be the better team, 84-45 to 75-51. The Cubs led the NL in most pitching and hitting categories, while the Red Sox only had good pitchers.
They won thanks to great pitching by the greatest hitter, Babe Ruth, in a 4-2 series win.
At the end of July, how many people had the Giants in the playoffs, let alone beating the Phillies en route to the World Series? Even many Giants fans I knew felt it would be difficult to pull off. But they did.
The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals had the perfect balance of hitting, pitching, and fielding. The Royals were built in a similar style, though they also had a major power bat in George Brett. Even so, they barely made it to the World Series, while the Cards cruised there with a 101-61 record.
Thanks to the efforts of George Brett, the underrated Dan Quisenberry, and others, the Royals were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning of game six, but persevered and gave Kansas City a baseball championship.
Same as 1997, somehow the Marlins found a way to win a championship against the New York Yankees in 2003. The stats don't even add up in the World Series; the Yankees had better batting and pitching in the series itself, let alone outside of it.
The 1987 Twins had no business winning the ALCS against Alan Trammell and the Detroit Tigers, let alone the World Series against the Cardinals. I guess it helps when a team clicks at the right time, like when a .191 hitter in the starting lineup hits .400 in the World Series (Tim Laudner).
Here's one where the Cards were actually the ones doing the upsetting. Pretty much everyone had the Tigers winning against the Cardinals, whose pitching staff consisted of little besides Chris Carpenter. Despite a staff that looked average on paper, the Cardinals limited the Tigers' hitting to under .200 and won the series easily.
Who would you pick for your pitching staff in a World Series? Three Hall of Fame starters and a reliever, or a few players who had decent careers and a couple All-Star appearances?
Wrong answer. We all remember the catch, what we don't remember is that the Indians' 2.78 ERA squad (best in the majors easily) was meant to be superior to the Giants, but everything came unraveled. The two were pretty even in hitting, so while a WS championship for the Giants may not be unlikely, a sweep certainly was.
Somehow, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Eddie Collins, and Home Run Baker were no match for the Boston Braves, who despite an eight-win advantage and better hitting and pitching, were swept.
Everyone remembers the Kirk Gibson moment. What people may not remember is that beyond Gibson, there wasn't much power hitting in the lineup, and with his injury, it looked like Oakland would cruise to a World Series.
Instead, that home run propelled the Dodgers to a five game series win, Oakland's only win coming from their own ninth inning heroics.
Yes, the 1906 Chicago White Sox had Big Ed Walsh and great pitching. They were also one of the worst hitting teams, and were going against the 116-win Chicago Cubs. It should have been a 4-5 game series win for the Cubs.
The Cubs had both the best hitting and pitching staff in the majors by a mile, yet the White Sox were able to pull out the win.
The 1990 Reds were a good team. They didn't have any superstars (aside from Barry Larkin) or true aces necessarily, but as a team they worked well together and led the league in many stats. The A's, on the other hand, had Canseco, McGwire, the Hendersons, Welch, and Stewart, and it looked like it could be a series sweep.
It was, just for the other team that was able to pull it off.
Yes, the Yankees and Cardinals may have been better teams that year, but that's not why this is not. The 2004 Red Sox were improbable simply by coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the ALCS, which has never been done before, in a manner that likely won't be seen again.
Factor in the Curse of the Bambino and this was huge for the Sox.
The Pirates went from a .500 record in 1959 to a World Series berth in 1960. The Yankees were the much better team on paper, and actually plaed much better in the series. The Pirates were able to somehow win the close games, and beating Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in their primes is no easy feat for anyone, much less a team that seemed to come out of nowhere.
They were called the Amazing Mets for a reason. No one had them even near the World Series, and when they somehow got there against the 109-win Orioles, they had no chance. Never has a team pulled together like they did, before or since.