As only a recent fan of the San Francisco Giants, I know of the 2002 World Series defeat, Barry Bonds’ race to reach and beat Hank Aaron’s homerun record, and the young and magnificent arm of the 22 year-old pitcher Tim Lincecum. I know the names of the great Giants like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal; but the period from the 1958 move of the New York Giants to San Francisco up to the end of the 1990s is a time I know little about. Thankfully 2008 is the fiftieth anniversary of the San Francisco Giants, and to commemorate it a beautiful book has been published, written by Brian Murphy (a host for the KNBR sports radio station), celebrating the fifty years of San Francisco baseball history with the Giants.
The cover of San Francisco Giants: 50 Years captures the book perfectly with a split picture: on the top is Seals stadium, formerly a place for minor league baseball; it was where the new San Francisco Giants played their first games; at the bottom is the breathtaking AT&T Park, where the Giants currently reside. A foreword from longtime fan Danny Glover takes the reader back to moments in Glover’s history as a little boy watching the greats play as Giants. Brian Murphy then sweeps you back to the first days of the New York Giants gracing the streets of the city by the bay as the new San Francisco Giants. Murphy uses a descriptive style that congers images in one’s mind of the history of this baseball team, not overloading the book with stats and numbers, but providing facts and details where necessary, informing the reader of the many great strides the Giants have made, as well as the crucial times they came within reaching distance of the World Series ring: in 1962 against the New York Yankees, in 1989 against the Oakland Athletics, and in 2002 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Brian Murphy takes the readers through the many high points of the San Francisco Giants history, as well as the many low points. There is the miraculous story of the pitcher Dave Dravecky, a star for the team until a tumor was found in his pitching arm, who after surgery and recovery returned to pitch one of his best games ever. In the following game, he snapped his humerus bone, and eventually had to have his arm amputated. The story of the great Bobby Bonds, as his son hung around the clubhouse and watched his father and godfather, Willie Mays. The career of Barry Bonds who came to the Giants in 1993 and spent the next fourteen years smashing records and creating news goals for future players to reach. And hints at possible future greats for the San Francisco Giants like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, who pitched in the 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. The book ends with a superb finish: an afterword from the great Willie Mays, as he recounts some of his memories as a Giant.
San Francisco Giants: 50 Years is a treasure for any sort of fan of the Giants bursting with photos, booklets featuring team photos and opening day lineups for all fifty years, along with an audio CD recounting fifty years of play-by-play highlights. It is a book that will never spend long on the shelf, as readers will keep picking it up again and again, whether to look up a detail of history, check on a team member or stat, or simply to look at some of the greatest players the world of baseball has ever known.
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Originally written on July 26th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.