2014 SI Sportsman of the Year: Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner
The 25-year-old lefthander threw a record 52 2/3 innings in the playoffs and gave up just six earned runs for an absurd 1.03 ERA. He struck out 45 batters in his seven appearances, walking only six and giving up 28 hits.
In Game 7 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Bumgarner came on in relief of starter Tim Hudson on just two days rest after throwing a 117-pitch, four-hit shutout in Game 5. What he did over the next five innings (two hits, four strikeouts, no walks) will certainly go down in baseball lore.
The Royals simply had no answer and could do nothing with the majority of his 68 pitches, enabling the Giants to leave Kansas City a World Champion for the third time in five years.
Bumgarner is the first San Francisco Giant and the seventh MLB pitcher (Johnny Podres '55, Sandy Koufax '65, Tom Seaver '69, Orel Hershiser '88, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson '01) to win the award. In all, there have been 15 baseball selections — 14 players and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. The most recent was Derek Jeter in '09.
"It's easy to mythologize the small-town sports hero. Baseball, especially, is full of them," Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone said. "Madison Bumgarner isn't the Sportsman of the Year because he's from a tiny town, but that town goes a long way toward defining who he is and it gives his story a different texture from past Sportsmen. And while he's been an outstanding pitcher for the last five years, his Sportsman candidacy was so sudden and seemingly out of nowhere that it makes him the most unique Sportsman in recent memory."
Bumgarner, on his 6-foot-5 inch, 235-pound frame, simply carried the Giants to victory. In his two World Series starts, he pitched 16 innings, with the Royals hitting just .156 off of him. The other three starters for the Giants (Hudson, Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong) pitched 16 1/3 innings with an ERA of 9.92 and an opponents' batting average of .351.
"The legend of Madison Bumgarner fits neatly in the space where we keep our idea of the archetypal outdoorsy, countrified man, where also reside the embellished, fictionalized Boone [North Carolina] and Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy Taylor. It’s just that in Bumgarner’s case, the stories are true," SI’s Tom Verducci writes.
For more on Bumgarner, check out Verducci’s story in this week’s Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Sportsman of the Year covers