San Francisco Giants team president Larry Baer said it. The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported that at a ceremony following the team’s championship parade in San Francisco on Wednesday, Baer told the crowd:
The men sitting on our stage over here, the 2010 Giants, honor not just our city and not just our remarkable 2010 Giants fans. They pay tribute to the 1,500 men who wore the San Francisco Giants uniform before them, from Willie Mays to Dirty Al Gallagher, from Willie McCovey to Felipe Alou, from Will Clark to Barry Bonds, from Orlando Cepeda to Jim Davenport to Gaylord Perry to Juan Marichal to Murph (clubhouse manager Mike Murphy) … You guys brought it home for them. Thank you.
The championship was about many things for a team that hadn’t won a World Series since 1954. It was about Billy O’Dell, who won 19 games for the 1962 team that nearly won the World Series. It was about Gallagher, who played on the 1971 Giants club that lost in the National League Championship Series. It was about his teammate Ken Henderson, who was to succeed Willie Mays, departed after eight inglorious seasons in 1972, and rejoined the organization this year. It was about announcer Hank Greenwald, who spent more seasons in San Francisco than any current Giant.
O’Dell, Gallagher, Henderson, and Greenwald share one thing in common, beyond their ties to the Giants organization: Each appreciated the championship and, in their time in San Francisco, endured frustrations.
For O’Dell, it was sitting on the bench in Game 7 of the ’62 Series with two outs in the ninth inning, the potential tying and winning runs on second and third, and Willie McCovey at bat. When McCovey smoked a line drive, O’Dell said in an interview in May, he assumed the Giants had won the title, but Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson snared the ball and ended the game. On Wednesday, I called O’Dell, now 77 and asked if he could have guessed the Giants would need nearly 50 more years for their championship.
“I never thought it would take them that long, because they had some pretty good ball clubs,” O’Dell said. “But I was glad they finally did it. They deserve it.”
Greenwald broadcast games for a couple of those Giants clubs in two stints in San Francisco totaling 18 years. I asked Greenwald how these Giants compared to the ’89 team that was swept by the Oakland Athletics in the Battle of the Bay World Series. He said the depth of pitching on the 2010 club was much stronger. I also asked the 75-year-old Detroit native — who I previously interviewed in August — how the feeling from this year’s World Series compared to 1945 when his hero Hank Greenberg led the Tigers to a championship.
“Of course, 1945 was the first one,” Greenwald said. “I was 10 years old and the impressions were much stronger at that particular point. You’re a 10-year-old kid, and boy, this was Christmas, this was Disneyland if there was one at that time, it was everything rolled into one. I don’t think you ever forget the first World Series that you actually go to or are able to follow it, especially in your hometown.”
Gallagher knows that feeling all too well. The San Francisco native grew up in the Mission District, started going to Giants games at Seals Stadium in 1958, and remembers the ’62 World Series. A first round draft pick by San Francisco in 1965 and a three-year veteran of the team, the 65-year-old Gallagher rooted for these Giants from his Texas home. “I couldn’t be happier that the Giants won the pennant,” Gallagher said.
For Henderson, it was something more. Following his retirement from baseball in 1980, Henderson spent many years in the corporate world, occasionally wondering what might have been in his playing career. The 64-year-old Henderson took a job with the Giants in March selling luxury corporate boxes, bringing him full circle in baseball, in more ways than he could have anticipated.
“I could have gone back to the organization four years ago or I could have come back next year or the year after,” said Henderson, who was at every game of the World Series. “Not to say that we won’t win it next year, but I came back during a year that we actually won it all, and, you know, I think somebody was looking out for me. It’s just very special. I kind of get broken up when I think about it actually.”