Top 10 San Francisco Giants Players of All Time
The Giants franchise has the most Hall of Famers (23) and franchise wins in MLB history. They were briefly known as the New York Gothams in the 1800s until they became the New York Giants. In 1958, they moved to their current home in San Francisco.
Throughout their rich history, the Giants have had some of baseball's best players. Here is a list of the top 10 players to don the San Francisco uniform (from 1958 to the present).
Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
10. Matt Williams
The Nevada native played college ball at UNLV before being taken by the Giants with the third overall pick in the 1986 draft.
Although many people may remember Matt Williams as a member of the Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series championship team, he played a strong left side of the infield for the Giants from 1987 through 1996.
“Matt the Bat” played on the 1989 World Series (losing) Giants team and had more than 1,000 hits and nearly 250 home runs as a Giant.
He won three Gold Gloves and appeared as an all-star four times as a Giant.
9. Robb Nen
Robb Nen was one of the most feared closers of the steroid era, something that shows the true talent the Giants enjoyed closing out ballgames. His fastball hit the high 90s and his slider was just nasty. The three-time Giant all-star played in San Francisco for five years until retiring after the 2002 season due to rotator cuff injuries.
The all-time Giants saves leader is in the top 20 saves leaders of all time and had a 2.43 ERA over 365 appearances for San Francisco. His name appears three times in the top five single season save totals for the Giants.
To add to his statistical prowess as a Giant, during his years in San Francisco he had a 10.8 SO/9 ratio and struck out more than four batters per walk allowed.
8. Will Clark
Will the Thrill was the pre-Barry Bonds star of San Francisco.
His sweet swing led to his other prestigious nickname, “The Natural.”
Clark was drafted by the Giants organization in 1985 and began playing for them when Bonds was a rookie on the Pirates in 1986. Staying with the career parallelisms with Bonds, he played in the City by the Bay through Bonds' first year on the Giants (1993).
He was second in MVP voting in 1989 and made five all-star appearances for San Fran. He hit as many as 35 home runs in a single season and had three seasons of 100+ RBI. A very well liked Giant, Clark fits nicely into San Francisco’s top players.
7. Gaylord Perry
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, Perry wore the San Francisco jersey for 10 years in the '60s and early '70s.
During that time, he sported a solid 2.96 ERA to go with 134 wins, 21 shutouts and a 6.3 SO/9 ratio in more than 2,200 IP. Over his career, he would win more than 300 games and total more than 3,000 strikeouts.
He earned a spot on the NL All Star team twice while on the Giants and was known for throwing a “spit ball” that spun unpredictably and tied up hitters.
Gene Tenace, Perry's catcher when the two played for San Diego, told the New York Times: "I can remember a couple of occasions when I couldn't throw the ball back to him because it was so greasy...I just walked out to the mound and flipped the ball back to him."
6. Orlando Cepeda
Cepeda spent nine years in the '50s and '60s with the San Francisco Giants. The Baby Bull began his tenure in San Francisco winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1958 and his consistent career eventually culminated with an induction into the Hall of Fame.
The 11-time all-star has his number (30) retired in the Giants organization. Sadly he didn’t win an MVP award until joining the St. Louis Cardinals (1967), but his .308 average and nearly 1,300 hits, 200+ home runs, and 750+ RBIs as a Giant earns him a spot in every Giants fans recollection of their teams greatest heroes.
5. Tim Lincecum
Even though "The Freak" hasn't been doing too well this year, his contribution as the ace of the 2010 Giants World Series championship win earns him a spot in the heart of San Francisco’s best. Hopefully he can turn it around and get his ERA this year back in the respectable range, but don’t forget in his first three seasons in the majors he earned two Cy Young awards.
Also a four-time all-star, Timmy currently has the Giants all-time record for strikeouts per 9 IP and is making his way up the top 10 list in strikeouts for San Francisco. In his heyday (which he can hopefully return to), Lincecum had a dirty changeup to complement his blazing fastball.
If you haven’t already seen his quirky delivery (taught to him by his father), check it out in slow motion.
4. Juan Marichal
The Dominican Dandy was known for more than just his famous leg kick. As a member of the San Francisco Giants, he won more games than any other pitcher in the 1960s and collected eight all-star appearances in those 10 years.
His impressive career record of 3.3 strikeouts per walk leads the Giants; he also holds San Francisco's record for wins and is at, or around, the top of nearly every pitching category in Giants history.
He would have gotten even more recognition if there weren’t two other dominating starting pitchers in the wild '60s—a couple guys named Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.
If you haven’t seen his leg kick, here it is in slow motion.
3. Willie McCovey
Willie Mac played nearly two decades for the San Francisco Giants. His powerful stroke was a dominant force in the middle of the Giants lineup in the '60s.
A member of the 500 home run club, he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1959. A decade later, he won the NL MVP award, leading the league with 45 HR and 126 RBI.
The six-time all-star was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986 and left a lasting impression on San Francisco. The Giants appropriately retired his No. 44, and the water behind right field, McCovey Cove, also honors this Giant great.
2. Willie Mays
The Say Hey Kid is one of the most legendary players in the game, not just the Giants organization. A first ballot Hall of Famer, inducted in 1979, many people argue Mays is the best player in San Francisco Giants history.
"The Catch" (pictured left) occurred in the 1954 World Series when Mays was playing for the New York Giants. It was the final World Series the Giants organization would win in the 20th century. (They would have to wait until 2010 to get their first title in San Francisco.) I think it’s fair to say Willie Mays made the transition to San Francisco in 1958 quite smoothly.
In his 2,857 games in San Francisco—which is the most of any Giant—Mays leads the team in career home runs, runs scored, hits, total bases,and doubles, among many other statistics. The 24 time all-star is currently fourth on the list of career home runs with 660 big flys. He was also a 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, two-time NL MVP and member of the 3,000-hit club (3,283 hits to be precise).
The Giants retired No. 24 in his honor, a gesture well earned.
1. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is undoubtedly the greatest player to play in San Francisco—after all, he is arguably the greatest players to ever play the game. The most feared hitter of his generation, Giants fans had a blast watching him hit bombs into McCovey Cove. As a reminder of his greatness, just look at some of the numbers he amassed over his illustrious 22-year career.
762 Career Home Runs *
2558 Career Walks *
73 Home Runs in 2001 **
12x Silver Slugger Award Winner *
7x National League MVP *
688 Career Intentional Walks *
232 Walks in a Single Season (2004) **
2,935 Career Hits
514 Career Stolen Bases
(* indicates all-time record; ** indicates single season record)
The list goes on and on. Yes, he took steroids, but that doesn’t override the fact that he was the single best player for San Francisco. Whether or not he is a Hall of Famer is a whole different discussion (of which you can read my opinion here).
He wasn’t exactly the most likable guy either, but his presence on the baseball field was simply legendary.