San Francisco Giants: world champions!
And they said it couldn't be done! For the very first time since they moved to San Francisco in 1958, the Giants have won the World Series. They had won the National League pennant three times before this year, but each time they were then defeated by the American League pennant winner. In 1962, they lost to the Yankees 4 games to 3, in 1989 (earthquake!), they were swept by the Athletics 4 games straight, and in 2002 they lost to the Angels 4 games to 3. But this year was different: They won the first two games, taking advantage of the National League's home field advantage (the first time this has happened since 2001), and took two of the three games that were played in Texas.
In Game 5, Cliff Lee again Faced Tim Lincecum for a second time, but unlike Game 1, this time the game went according to the "pitchers' duel" script: neither team scored a run for the first six innings. But in the seventh inning, Edgar Renteria hit a home run with two men on base, and those three runs were all the Giants needed. Texas came back with a home run by Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the inning, but neither team scored after that. Cliff Lee finished the inning, with a fairly respectable outing compared to Game 1, but Tim Lincecum was better. He struck out 10 batters in eight innings, and gave up only three hits. Black-bearded closing pitcher Brian Wilson did his job in the ninth inning, striking out two batters, and getting Vladimir Guerrero to ground out. The Giants ran onto the diamond for a jubliant group hug, but there was no joy for the 52,000+ fans at the Rangers Ballpark. For a full wrap-up, see MLB.com. On Wednesday, the city of San Francisco honored the Giants with a parade through downtown. Congratulations to the Giants!
For his clutch hitting performance, veteran shorstop Edgar Renteria was named World Series MVP. The Giants were the fourth team Renteria has played with during the postseason. With the Marlins in 1997, he batted in what proved to be the game winning run. The only other players ever to have done so in two World Series games were Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. At age 35, Renteria is considering retiring after this season.
This year the managers for both teams were fairly low key. For Texas, Joe Washington exuded cool confidence as his team battled their way up through the playoffs. For San Francisco, Bruce Bochy had to overcome his former team, the San Diego Padres, in the divisional race at the tail end of the regular season. (See a photo of Bochy at Jack Murphy Stadium in the 1980s.)
As shown on the newly-updated MLB franchises page, among all franchises that have relocated to other cities, the Giants were among the fastest to reach the postseason. In only their fifth year in San Francisco, they made it to the 1962 World Series. But in terms of how fast they won their first World Series after relocation, they are the slowest of all: 53 years of "torture." To put things in a historical context, when the Giants last won the World Series, in 1954, Elvis Presley was still an unknown, Rosa Parks had not yet challenged the "back-of-the-bus" custom, and the guns in Korea were still warm from the war that had been suspended only a year before. In the world of baseball, the Athletics were still playing in Philadelphia, and California was still a far-off dream. The only teams now that have had to endure longer periods of "torture" without a championship are the Cubs (102 years) and the Indians (62 years). The Indians probably would have won in 1954 were it not for Willie Mays' amazing catch of the long fly ball hit by Vic Wertz in deep center field at the Polo Grounds. That totally reversed the momentum in that World Series, and the rest is history.
Another positive aspect of this year's World Series is that it was the ninth different winning team in the last ten years. Only the Red Sox won more than once between 2001 and 2010. It was also the fifth year in a row that the world championship alternated from one league to the other. (This happened six years in a row from 1986 to 1991, and eight years in a row from 1940 to 1947; see the Annual chronology page, also updated.) It seems to be evidence in support of Commissioner Bud Selig's claim that, thanks to the system of "enhanced revenue sharing," which he pushed, baseball now has a better overall competitive balance than in any time in the past. He says the recent success of the small-market Tampa Bay Rays are clear evidence of that. (See tampabay.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski.) Maybe.
R.I.P. Sparky Anderson...
George Lee "Sparky" Anderson, who was the manager of World Series-winning teams three times, passed away on Thursday at the age of 76. Anderson began managing the Cincinnati Reds in 1970, and had quick success, leading his team to the World Series that year and two years later. The Reds won in 1975 (against the Red Sox) and in 1976 (against the Yankees). He deserved as much credit as anyone for creating the "Big Red Machine." Eight years later, he led the Detroit Tigers to a world championship. Although a disciplinarian, Anderson was flexible enough to adapt his approach to the particular strengths of the team his was leading. He led the way in relying more on relief pitchers than old-style managers had done, often yanking the starting pitchers out in abrupt fashion. Anderson born in Bridgewater, South Dakota in 1934 and moved with his family to California nine years later. See the Washington Post.
Also of interest to the baseball world was the passing of baseball historian Bill Shannon in New Jersey last week. He served as official scorekeeper for the New York Yankees and Mets, and compiled statistics for the AFL/NFL New York Titans / Jets. He also authored The Ballparks, a history of major league baseball stadiums. See the Washington Post.