Going to the Giants game tonight, and was reminded that today is the 50th anniversary of a famous date in Giants’ history, when future Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey broke into the big leagues. It’s a funny thing, I can remember exactly where I was during that game … it was commonplace for people to have the game playing on the radio, so you’d hear the action wherever you were (the team had only come to San Francisco the previous season). But memory is a funny thing. My brother also remembers where we were for that game, only he remembers someplace different than I remember. I have no idea who is right … I was only 6 at the time while he was 12, so he’s probably the one with the more accurate memory.
Here’s what we do know about the game, and why Giants fans still talk about it.
There were five future Hall-of-Famers playing in that game. This happened a lot in those days, because the Giants had a lot of future Hall-of-Famers … I have no idea why they never won a World Series back then. The Giants 2-3-4 slots were taken up by Mays, McCovey and Cepeda. Robin Roberts was the starting pitcher for the Phillies, and Richie Ashburn was in centerfield. The Giants were a half-game out of first place; the Phils were in last. The game was played at Seals Stadium, where 10,114 were in attendance.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, McCovey came up for his first major league at-bat. He singled off of Roberts.
The next time he came up, there were runners at 1st and 3rd, two outs, game still scoreless. The man on first, none other than Willie Mays, stole second … the throw went into the outfield, Eddie Bressoud at third scampered home for the first run of the game, and Mays headed for third. He didn’t make it … caught in a rundown, he was tagged for the final out of the inning. McCovey’s at-bat in effect didn’t happen.
Which is why when he led off the 4th inning, it was still only his second AB. Mac tripled, then scored two batters later to make it 2-0.
The Phils came back to tie the game, but in the bottom of the fifth, Mays had an RBI for 3-2. McCovey followed with his third hit of the game, and it was 4-2.
Mays was on base yet again in the bottom of the seventh, as McCovey faced Roberts once again. No problem … he hit his second triple, making him 4-for-4 on the day.
When the day’s games were done, the Giants had moved into first place, where they stayed until the last week of the season. They lost seven of eight to finish the year off, and missed the World Series by 3 games.