World Series Memories
I covered the Series games played in San Francisco that year though I did not come to work for The Chronicle until the following April. It was still on The Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, whose editors, Frank Orr and Ward Bushee, assigned me to cover those games. Another oddity: That was the only Series in which I sat in the Giants press box. There were nowhere near as many writers in those days, so they had room for me. In subsequent Series, only writers who cover the teams during the season are in the press box, which is reasonable. The rest of us have been in an auxiliary press area.
That was a very rainy fall. Between San Francisco and New York, 10 days were lost in rain. When the Series resumed in San Francisco, the rain had an effect on the outcome. The Giants trailed, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game. Matty Alou was on second base when Mays lined a ball to right field. Because the field was wet, the ball didn’t go as far as it would have on a dry field, so hard-charging right fielder Roger Maris was able to make a fast throw to the plate, with Alou being held at third. He stayed there when McCovey lined to Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out.
That team never made it back to the Series but at that time, teams only qualified for the World Series if they were league champions. That made the Series a true test. Now, it’s a crapshoot with all the wild card teams. The Giants didn’t even win their division but now some fans are trying to call them a “dynasty”. Give me a break.
The 1960s Giants faced much tougher hurdles because the National League was probably the strongest it had ever been, or ever would be again. When the color line was broken, National League teams aggressively pursued the best black players. The Giants also signed players from the Caribbean – three Alou brothers, Marichal, Cepeda, among others.
Meanwhile, though Bill Veeck signed Larry Doby for Cleveland, shortly after the Dodgers brought up Jackie Robinson, American League clubs held off. The Yankees’ first black player was Elston Howard in 1955, who had actually been signed five years earlier. He was in the Yankees minor league system and then in military service before he made it to the majors.
The Boston Red Sox, owned by South Carolina native Tom Yawkey, were even slower to integrate. Mays had a tryout with the Red Sox and Ted Williams begged Yawkey to sign him but the intransigent Southerner would not.
With a near monopoly on top black players (and, Caribbean for the Giants), the National League was tough, nearly top-to-bottom. There were great pitchers. Best of all Sandy Koufax, the most dominating pitcher I’ve ever seen. Koufax had two pitches, fastball and curve. In the last game he pitched before retirement, in the 1965 World Series, Koufax realized early that his curve wasn’t working. No matter. He just threw his fastball to win the game and Series.
There were other great pitchers in the league. Bob Gibson, who set a record with an ERA of 1.12 in 1968 and once continued pitching after suffering a broken bone in his leg. Jim Maloney of the Reds was another with an overpowering fast ball.
The Giants after 1962 always seemed to be one pitcher short of what they needed. Shortstop was a problem, too. Jose Pagan was topnotch in 1962 but faded after that. But, none of that takes away from the fact that the 1962 team was great.
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The fact that the World Series started in Kansas City this year brought back memories. The only World Series I’ve covered that did not include either the Giants or A’s (or both) was in 1980, between the Royals and Phillies.
In Kansas City, I was struck by how quiet the Royals fans were. If their team did something, they’d cheer, but otherwise, they just watched the game. This year, Royals fans were screaming at the top of their lungs before the game started, and they never stopped.
I think this is a cultural difference more than a difference in fans. Younger people believe that noise equals excitement. They’re continually screaming, at each other, at other people. Trying to carry on a conversation in a restaurant is usually impossible. If it is relatively quiet, you can bet that most of the diners, if not all, are of my generation.
That isn’t the same as saying that younger people know less about baseball. When I first came to San Francisco – and was one of the younger people then – I was appalled by how the old-timers wanted the Giants to play as if the lively ball had never been invented. They wanted the Giants to bunt and use the hit-and-run, though it was clear that the team’s strength was its power.
When that 1980 Series went to Philadelphia, I stayed over on the off day to walk around the city and see the sights. The big non-game story that year was the boil on George Brett’s rear and I really felt that Bruce Jenkins, assigned to do the game stories, could handle that without help.
Then, when I returned to the hotel that day, Giants manager Dave Bristol cornered me and unloaded on how the Giants had to unload Mike Ivie. From the standpoint of Chronicle readers, that was the biggest story coming out of the Series, especially after Giants owner Bob Lurie fired Bristol. Lurie had been attempting to trade Ivie and his trade value went down after my column appeared.
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When I’m asked which of the World Series I’ve covered was the most memorable, it’s a no-brainer: The Earthquake Series in 1989.
I was in the men’s room when it hit and my first thought was that it was another of the relatively mild ‘quakes that hit the Bay Area. I returned to my seat in the auxiliary media area, just above the press box in the upper deck and noticed that the power was out. For a moment, I worried about how I’d get my column in but then I looked at a TV mounted in the area and saw the Bay Bridge broken. There would be no game or Dickey column.
My next thought was to call home and assure my wife and son that I was OK. It took me two hours to get through – no cell phones then! – and begin the slow trek home. A bus took passengers, including some media, into the city, dumping us off at Van Ness and Market. I was part of a group of writers walking down the middle of Market, the only light coming from a couple of hotels which had auxiliary power. At Fifth Street, I parted company with the other writers and walked down to the Fifth and Mission garage, where my car was parked in the basement. It wasn’t until another driver started his car and put on his lights that I could see where my own car was.
The power was completely out downtown, so the traffic lights weren’t working. But, drivers showed a courtesy they otherwise lack and we all worked our way out of the city. I had to drive all the way to the Dumbarton Bridge before heading east and north to my Oakland home, finally arriving about 1 a.m.
The next few days were very interesting. Assuming no games could be played at Candlestick, San Francisco mayor Art Agnos and other civic officials proposed that the Series be finished at the Oakland Coliseum. But as usual with San Franciscans, they didn’t consult with anybody in Oakland, forgetting about the Coliseum management.
I called George Vukasin, then in charge of Coliseum operations, and he told me they had a Bill Graham concert scheduled, which was always very lucrative. I called Graham and asked him if he’d be willing to re-schedule. He said he would, but nobody had called him.
That never became necessary because, after the ‘Stick had been thoroughly examined for structural damage, it was determined that it was safe for further play. After a 10-day delay, the Series resumed and the A’s continued their thumping of the Giants for a four game sweep. If there had been no earthquake, I think the A’s would have won easily because they were clearly the superior team, but hardly anybody realizes now what happened on the field.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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