San Francisco Giants: All Time "Hot Dog" Team
It took 52 years, but the San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions. I can now cross that first and foremost item off my sports fan bucket list.
The San Francisco Giants have given their fans numerous heartbreaks, too many to list in this article, but now, all is forgiven. I have put together a fun piece to showcase the true Giant "hot dogs" who donned the orange and black.
This article is designed to allow us to reminisce about some of the most fun, stylish and charismatic players we have had the enjoyment of watching in San Francisco over the years. These are not always the best players, in fact, many are not. They are, however, some of our fan favorites because of the way they played the game.
Our list is a tribute to those individuals that played the game with a certain flair that made them fun to watch. These are the true "hot dogs" of the San Francisco Giants. Enjoy our list for what it's worth, 100% fun, just like the players mentioned, who played this wonderful game and entertained us all.
First Base: Willie Montanez
The San Francisco Giants have had some fine first basemen. Stars like Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Will Clark were great players during their time in San Francisco. McCovey and Cepeda are Hall of Famers and Clark isn't too far behind. However, nobody played the position with the style and panache of one Guillermo "Willie" Montanez.
Willie Montanez played for the Giants in 1975 and 76. He was a very decent player overall. At the plate he hit .306 with the Giants, but it was his fielding that earned him a place on our hot dog list.
Montanez is the first player I can remember who perfected the snap catch on throws from the infielders and also on pop ups. He was the fanciest fielding first baseman I have ever seen.
So amazed at this man's style with the glove that in my playing days, I copied his snap catch technique. I became very good at it, much to the dismay of my coaches. I kept doing it for years, until disaster struck and I missed an easy catch, which cost us the game.
Second Base: Tito Fuentes
Our "hot dog" second baseman is Tito Fuentes. He played the game with a joyous enthusiasm and was so much fun to watch. Fuentes played a total of nine seasons for the Giants, from 1965-67 and 1969-74.
Tito Fuentes was a slap hitter and was fun to watch the moment he stepped into the batters box. The first thing he did was hold the barrel of the bat and bounce the bat handle on the plate. The handle would flip up and Tito would catch it in his hands and now, holding the bat from the proper end, he was ready to hit.
Amazingly, he did this whenever he fouled a pitch off as part of his extended follow through, also. The bat control that Fuentes had was incredible, as he never once did the bat handle flip when he put the ball in play, only on foul balls.
In the field, Tito Fuentes was a nonstop jabbering, mosquito-like player, who never stopped moving. I think he enjoyed opposing players reaching second base because he was always talking to them. Fuentes has continued talking well into retirement, as he is now the Spanish media broadcaster for the Giants.
There were few players who ever played the game who had as much fun as Tito Fuentes always seemed to, out on that field.
Shortstop: Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel was a San Francisco Giant from 2005-08. He has the epitome of style at the shortstop position. Vizquel was a joy to watch in the field, as he made spectacular plays with supreme grace and fluidity.
In his illustrious career, Omar Vizquel won eleven Gold Glove awards, including two with the Giants. My favorite Vizquel plays were when he would catch a throw from the second baseman with his bare hand and complete the double play by throwing to first, as he was flying over a sliding base runner.
It was a true pleasure to watch Omar Vizquel play defense and he would put on a show for the fans almost every game. Vizquel is one of the few players you would pay money to see play defense. He was that good.
Omar Vizquel learned to play baseball in Venezuela and modelled himself after another great Venezuelan shortstop Luis Aparicio. There was no money for baseball gloves so Vizquel learned how to make a baseball mitt out of a milk carton. So great are Vizquel's hands that he could make every play with his milk carton glove.
In addition to being a magician in the field, Vizquel was an incredibly natty dresser. He exuded style, not only on the baseball field, but also off of it. Vizquel also sang jazzy rock tunes and I can still hear him singing "Broadway Is Dark Tonight".
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval
In the 2009 season, Pablo Sandoval was the darling of San Francisco. He was given the nickname of Kung Fu Panda, by teammate Barry Zito. Sandoval fit the description perfectly, as he is outgoing, gregarious and rather portly.
In 2009, Sandoval hit .330 with 25 HR's and 90 RBI. He also did a respectable job at third base for the Giants. Sandoval endeared himself to the Giant fans with his infectious smile and genuine enthusiasm, for the game. Fans young and old purchased Panda hats and proudly wore them in the stadium.
2010 was a totally different story. Pablo Sandoval had personal issues early in the season which seemed to cause him to lose focus. His performance on the field was far below what he accomplished in 2009, as he hit .268 with only 13 HR's and 63 RBI. He routinely got himself out by swinging wildly at pitches in the dirt or over his head.
In addition, Sandoval struggled with his weight and that affected him defensively. His defense suffered and late in the season and in the playoffs he was not starting on a regular basis. The fun, portly Kung Fu Panda of 2009 was now viewed as the fat, undisciplined Panda in 2010.
In addition to his enthusiasm for the game, Pablo Sandoval had two other factors that make him our "hot dog" third baseman. His ritual when he comes to the plate and gets into the batters is quite unique. He taps the plate twice, skips forward twice, taps his helmet twice and his spikes then the plate again, before settling in to the batter box.
Another very unique thing is that Pablo Sandoval is an ambidextrous thrower. He normally makes his throws from third base right handed, but he can also throw almost just as hard left handed.
The Kung Fu Panda is one of those players that makes the game fun. Hopefully, he can keep his weight under control and have a bounce back season in 2011.
Outfield: Barry Bonds
Barry Lamar Bonds was a truly great player and exciting to watch. He is the only player in baseball history to have over 500 HR's and 500 steals.
Say what you will about his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, but also keep in mind that there were just as many pitchers using the stuff as there were hitters. However, that topic is no fun and the purpose of this piece is to provide a fun look at the all time "hot dogs" who wore the SF Giant uniform.
Barry Bonds makes our "hot dog" list not because of his 762 HR's, but in how he hit them. When Bonds connected, he would drop his bat and watch the ball as it majestically sailed over the fence. This did get him into trouble a few times, as there were some instances when the ball hit the fence and Bonds only got a single.
Bonds also had the spin-a-rama hop that he displayed every so often, when he blasted one. As he left the batters box, he would spin, then hop before starting his home run trot.
In his prime, Barry Bonds was also a Gold Glove outfielder . He used the snap catch in left field on routine fly balls to further enhance his "hot dog" worthy play.
Outfield: Kevin Mitchell
Kevin Mitchell joined the Giants in the middle of the 1987 season. He played four and a half years in San Francisco and was a two time All Star. Mitchell also won the MVP award in 1989 when he hit 47 HR's, drove in 125 runs and hit for a .291 batting average. These stats, however, did not put Mitchell on our "hot dog" list.
Two things made Kevin Mitchell stand out to a point where he earned his position on our San Francisco Giant "hot dog" list. First was his incredible bare hand catch of a line drive down the left field line against the Cardinals.
The ball was hit down the line, Mitchell raced over but overran the ball slightly. He reached up with his big paw and snared the ball bare handed. Mitchell, who was not known for his defense, made a play that you will still see on the highlight reels some twenty years later.
The other thing that put Kevin Mitchell on this list is his gold tooth. Mitchell could sometimes be surly, but when he flashed his smile, your eyes invariably were drawn to the gold tooth right in the front of his smile.
An Honorable Mention goes to Tsuyoshi Shinjo who definitely had a flair for the game and liked to be stylish both on and off the field. A great defensive player who had a little hop before each catch and a tremendous arm. Too bad he couldn't hit.
An Honorable Mention also goes to Jeffrey "Hac Man" Leonard and his one flap down home run trot. Mean, tough and surly on the field, but a pretty nice guy off the field. I have met him.
Outfield: Willie Mays
Willie Mays was arguably the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball. He was the epitome of the five tool player, as he could hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and was an excellent fielder.
Willie Mays often said he played the game for the fans. He liked to put on a show for the fans because, as he put it, they paid good money to see him do something spectacular, so he tried to do that in every game he played. The amazing thing is he usually succeeded.
Willie Mays was a great hitter and I firmly believe if he did not play his home games in the Polo Grounds in New York and at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, he would have beaten Babe Ruth's all time home run record. Mays hit 660 HR's in his illustrious career, with 1903 RBI and hit for a .302 career average.
Mays was twenty time All Star and two time MVP. All of these accolades are just a small reason that the "Say Hey Kid" has made our SF Giant "hot dog" team. There was never a player who played the game with such style and athleticism as Willie Mays. He truly entertained the fans, every time they came out to see him play.
In the outfield, Mays was known for his great range and spectacular catches. In my mind, I can still see Willie Mays running down a fly ball with his cap flying off his head, as was his trademark. Willie also mastered the basket catch, which he used on the more routine fly balls.
As a base runner, Willie Mays was unparalleled. He could run like the wind and his cap or helmet would always go flying off as he ran the bases.
So good was Mays' speed and knowledge of the strength of the opposing outfielders arm, he would often slow down to bait the outfielder to try to gun him down on the bases. Invariably, Mays always beat the throw which enabled the other runners an opportunity to advance.
Willie Mays is our number one "hot dog" for the San Francisco Giants. He is a living legend and a treasure for all Giant fans.
Catcher: Benito Santiago
Benito Santiago joined the Giants in 2001 and played a total of three seasons in San Francisco. In 2001, he was already 36 years old, but looked at least five to ten years older with his scruffy goatee and battle worn visage.
In his three years in San Francisco, Santiago averaged .273 with 11 HR's and 58 RBI per season. Not phenomenal numbers, but quite respectable for an aging catcher.
Santiago makes our "hot dog" list because of his unique catching style. Behind the plate, he would often catch from one knee and rest one leg off to the side of him. What was amazing about Santiago was how he could throw bullets from his knees to second base to nail a potential base stealer.
Benito Santiago had a great arm and the throw from his knees took virtually no time to release. It's hard to look cool with all the catchers gear on, but Benito Santiago made it work.
Starting Pitcher: Juan Marichal
The pitcher with the incredibly high leg kick is Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. The leg kick alone would win him a life time membership in our "hot dog" list.
Marichal was one of the greatest pitchers of his time. The Giants' ace pitched for San Francisco from 1960-1973. He threw an incredible 3.444 innings over that 14 year span. Marichal won 238 games and had a career ERA of 2.84, for the Giants.
Nicknamed the "Dominican Dandy", Juan Marichal started 446 games for the Giants and completed an outrageous 244 of those games. He also threw 52 shutouts over this 14 year tenure with the Giants.
Marichal could also throw from a three quarter delivery and would often drop down to sidearm against certain right handed hitters. This essentially gave Marichal about a dozen different pitches he could throw to get you out.
There is no pitcher in the history of baseball who had the amazingly high leg kick and achieved the level of success that Marichal had.
An Honorable Mention goes to John "The Count" Montefusco, who's brash style made him a fan favorite from 1974-1980.
Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson was the closer for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. He is the top closer in the National League and arguably the top closer in the Majors.
Brian Wilson wins our "hot dog" membership for a myriad of reasons. His freakishly black beard excited the Giants' fan base with the "Fear The Beard" slogan. Giant fans wore fake black beards as the "Fear The Beard" mentality caught on like wildfire.
In addition to the beard, Wilson also sports a mohawk haircut.
Brian Wilson also had fun with television cameras at his home, as they caught glimpses of "The Machine", who is a cross between a robot and a man clad in black leather somewhat kinky attire. There are numerous theories about who the masked "Machine" really is. Many believe it is fellow Giant Pat Burrell, but Wilson keeps the air of mystery going by not divulging the true identity of this dark character.
There is also the crossed arms tribute to his late father that Wilson does following each victory that he closes out.
Late in the 2010 season, Brian Wilson sported a pair of bright orange spikes. Major League Baseball required him to change the shoes to the predominant color of the uniform or to basic black. Wilson, undaunted, took a black sharpie marker and colored in roughly 51% of the shoes, so the predominant color of the spikes was now black with the bright orange as the secondary color.
Brian Wilson is an incredibly bright, articulate and witty guy. Sometimes, his comments seem off the wall until you think about them and realize that he was simply a step or two ahead of what you were already thinking.
As the premier closer in the league, it's quite fitting that Brian Wilson closes out our "hot dog" list.
Honorable Mention: Rod "Shooter" Beck. I remember his scraggly mustache and mullet haircut, along with the swinging right arm, as he peered in for the sign. Beck did not have the best stuff out there, but got people out with sheer guile and force of will. RIP Rod Beck, who passed away in 2007, at the age of 38.
Baseball, Hot Dogs And The "Hot Dog" Players In San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. The city has been blessed with Hall of Famers and outstanding ball players since 1958.
It took 52 years to win a World Series title in San Francisco and 56 years since the franchise's last championship in 1954. Now that the Giants have won it all, it's a perfect time to have some fun and enjoy it.
Baseball should be fun and hopefully you have enjoyed this look at some of the players who played the game with flair and style, gracing the San Francisco Giant uniform.