Monday, October 23, 2017

When the Cubs forced the Giants out of the Pennant Race

TRIVIA QUESTION: In 1962 what pitcher won 20 games for the American League Cleveland Indians who won a total of only 80 games?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In Mickey Mantle's last game of his career it was an unusual twist because while Mantle, the great center fielder was playing first base, Joe Pepitone who would go on to be an outstanding Yankee first baseman, was playing center field that day. Pepitone would play nearly 100 games in the outfield that season, most of them in center.

Rarely do you see a team with four players hitting 133 home runs between them, but the 1966 San Francisco Giants were one of those teams. It was a team led by the aging Willie Mays (37) coming off a season when he hit 52 dingers, Willie McCovery (36), a young Jim Ray Hart (33) and catcher Tom Haller (27). Nobody else on the team hit more than nine homers in that season which saw the Giants battle down to the wire with the Dodgers and Pirates. All three teams were within three games of each other when the season ended.

Perhaps the season turned on the Giants right after taking two of three from Los Angeles in early September. The series ended with the Giants at 81 wins. They would finish with 93 wins but had to win 8 of their last 9 games to get there. After beating the Dodgers they lost 8 of their next 11 games. At the same time the Dodgers were winning eight straight.

The real conundrum began when the Giants went into their next series, hosting the lowly Cubs. An aging Ernie Banks was still anchoring an infield of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger and Glenn Beckert. The team overall was in transition welcoming Adolfo Phillips, Randy Hundley and Downtown Ollie Brown to the club. 

It all started when the Giants took on Chicago in San Francisco. Having taken two straight from the Dodgers who could blame the Giants for being over confident. Ace Juan Marichal was taking the mound against a young rookie Ken Holtzman. Marichal was working on his fourth 20 win season of the six he tossed. Both pitchers were sailing along with the Cubs leading 1-0 at the end of 7. Then the roof fell in.

In the top of the 8th with one out Beckert walked. Marichal hit Billy Williams to put runners at first and second. With Ron Santo at the plate, Beckert tried to steal third and Jim Ray Hart made an error. Beckert scored. Santo struck out but Ernie Banks singled home Williams to make it 3-0. Both runs were unearned.

In the 9th, with one out Adolfo Phillips doubled off Lindy McDaniel who had replaced Marichal. Pitcher Bill Hands flied out but Kessinger hit a sharp ground ball to short which Jim Davenport booted for an error. Beckert then drove them both home with a hit. Before the inning ended the Cubs had scored again and the final was Cubs 6 - Giants 0.

The Giants had committed five errors in the game including two by Davenport and all this behind their best pitcher, against a Cubs team which lost 103 games and finished in last place 36 games out of first. Five of the runs were unearned.

The Giants would lose their next two games to the Cubs 12-3 and 4-3 before picking up a 2-0 win over Chicago. The Giants would go on to lose five of their next eight before going on a tear to finish the season, losing out to the Dodgers by 1.5 games. As the Giants went into their tail spin the Dodgers went 14-5 before playing .500 ball down the final stretch. The fact the Giants won 8 of their last 9 was the only thing which kept it close. 

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.


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  2. Nice article. One correction...Downtown Ollie Brown was a Giant. The Cubs had Byron Browne.