Search

THE SAD, BAD GIANTS

July 18, 1960
July 18, 1960

Table of Contents
July 18, 1960

Sad, Bad Giants
Eclipse Of Mr. K
Beauty On The Bars
Flotsam
Rowing
Swimming
Polo
Archery
Acknowledgments
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

THE SAD, BAD GIANTS

These are the prime reasons for the decline of major league baseball's most baffling and most disappointing team—

•WILLIE MAC'SSLUMP
•THE CURFEW BUSTERS
•ULCERS
•THAT DAMN WIND

This is an article from the July 18, 1960 issue Original Layout

This has been aprovoking and puzzling summer for proud San Franciscans. First of all, the"booming" city's population sank 60,000 in the census. Second, theGiants—who were expected to win the 1960 National League pennant as a penancefor blowing it in the final week last year—are playing as though they intend todrive the population down even more.

Last week theGiants returned to the West Coast after a wretched eastern trip during whichthey won only five games, lost seven and, of all things, tied two. The horrorof it all is that they left San Francisco in June to get straightened out onthe road. They were not so much straightened out as steamrollered. And back inCalifornia they showed no signs of revival. A week ago Tuesday night they tookthe field against the Dodgers (there is the club to watch) in Los Angeles wherea horn-tooting crowd of 47,500 all but laughed at their antics. Consider theDodger half of the seventh, which one L.A. commentator described as "morecomplicated than a set of instructions for a do-it-yourself brain-surgerykit." Bud Byerly had come in to pitch for the Giants, who were losing 4-0.The Dodgers' Junior Gilliam walked. Charlie Neal bunted. Giant First BasemanOrlando Cepeda tossed the ball wild in a mixup at the bag, with Neal gettingcredit for a single and Gilliam racing to third. Byerly hit Frank Howard toload the bases. The first pitch to Gil Hodges got by Catcher Bob Schmidt for apassed ball. Gilliam scored, and Neal and Howard each advanced a base.

Tom Sheehan, theGiants' new 66-year-old manager, lumbered from the dugout for a conference. Ashe crossed the foul line, a ball got away from the Giant bullpen, prompting thecrowd to hoot even more. Sheehan went back to the dugout, Byerly stayed in forone more pitch, and then Sheehan, who had been stalling for time, brought inJoe Shipley. Shipley picked up two outs, but then Wally Moon drove in a run ona slow infield hit that Shortstop Andre Rodgers should have charged, and PinchHitter Norm Larker doubled to drive in two more runs. Johnny Antonelli camein—yes, what with three wins and five losses, yesterday's hero is now in thebullpen—to strike out Johnny Podres, but the game was over. The Dodgers won8-0. The Giants got only four hits off Podres, and only one runner, WillieMays, reached third base—and that was on an error, a wild pitch, an infieldout.

The next nightthe debacle was worse. The Giants lost again, this time 10-0, as Stan Williamsallowed them only three hits. In disgust the San Francisco Chronicle ran thehead: GIANTS PLAY DEAD AGAIN and the subhead: HOWARD, WILLIAMS HUMILIATE INEPTSF.

On Thursdayafternoon the Giants returned home to Candlestick Park to play against St.Louis. This time they did better. They scored. But they lost 7-3. The onlybright spot was Antonelli's nice relief work. "I felt I had my stuff backagain," Johnny said later. "I was around the plate with goodstuff." Tom Sheehan said: "I hope it keeps up. If he keeps pitchingthis way, we've got another starter."

The next nightthe Giants lost to the Cards again, 7-1. On Saturday the Giants lost theirfifth straight, this one to the last-place Cubs, 7-6 in 12 innings, and fell tofifth place. On Sunday they broke the spell by beating the Cubs 5-3 on fiveunearned runs.

What's wrong withthe Giants? A lot. To be specific:

First BasemanWillie McCovey, last year's late-blooming rose, has wilted. "The biggesttrouble with the club is that McCovey is not hitting like last year," saidTom Sheehan one morning last week as he sat in his undershorts in his L.A.hotel room. "Where they pitching him? They're pitching inside, outside, allover. He's just not hitting the ball. They tried every place last year, too,and the kid hit .354. It's just that something happened to the boy. He tells mehe never hits in the first half of the season, that that's his history. That'sour only ray of sunshine. The other day I told him, this is July 1—let's go!Last year when he swung—whack!" Sheehan watched an imaginary ball soaracross the room and bounce off a picture. "Now," said Sheehan, "hehasn't batted in a run in three weeks. And when he slumps at the plate, then heslumps in the field."

McCovey, who isstill a kid new to the ways of the big city, also irked Sheehan by cutting upin Philadelphia. He was spotted coming back to the Warwick Hotel at 3 in themorning. Sheehan, further annoyed by a few Giants who were staying up late toplay cards, slapped a curfew on the players. No fines were imposed, but Sheehanthundered against any more hanky-panky.

"Oh, I wasripping them apart that day," Sheehan said in fond reminiscence, much inthe manner of an old monsignor who has caught the altar boys smoking. "Yougot five months to play ball, and seven months to raise hell in. A ball club is25 individuals, and some may not like you, but if you manage a ball club yougot to be a pain. Any manager that manages a ball club is a pain. I know onething—they can't have a bigger pain than me." Sheehan chortled and pattedhis ample pot to point up his pun. "This is a rough game," he said,frowning. "It's dog eat dog."

To a degree,injuries and illness are to blame for the lack of solid Giant hitting. Thelineup has been far from set. Shortstop Ed Bressoud is out with a bad ankle,Catcher Hobie Landrith has been banged up a couple of times and Third BasemanJim Davenport suffered an ulcer attack shortly after the season began.Davenport didn't know he was afflicted until he started hemorrhaging inMilwaukee. He is playing again, but he still is not as strong as he was before."To talk to, he seems real easygoing," says his wife, "but whensomething gets to bothering him, he keeps it inside. That may be the reason, Iguess. Since he has been sick he is more nervous." Davenport, a magnificentfielder, is a key to Giant success. When the team floundered last year, he wasout with a bad knee. "Little Jimmy Davenport," sighs Owner HoraceStoneham, himself a victim of shingles. "When he goes out, we go into atailspin."

Cepeda and RightFielder Willie Kirkland have been producing as expected, and Willie Mays hasbeen superb. The National League's leading hitter, he recently went on a19-game tear during which he hit .494 and was unbelieveable in the field.Against the Dodgers, for instance, he made a leaping catch near the screen inleft center field to rob Gil Hodges of a homer, and the normally hostileColiseum fans, the most provincial in the league after Milwaukee, burst intocheers. "He's the greatest centerfielder I ever saw," says Sheehan,"and I saw Speaker and DiMaggio. I don't know how they could bebetter."

The pitching hasbeen spotty. Two starters—Mike McCormick, Billy O'Dell—have earned run averagesunder 3. Jack Sanford is just over 3, with five shutouts among his eightvictories, but a Giant pitcher practically has to pitch a shutout to win. PoorO'Dell, obtained from Baltimore, has won three, lost eight. "Mostunlucky," says Stoneham. "He pitches well, but we can't score for him.The same as the Orioles couldn't."

The reliefpitching has been atrocious. Stu Miller shows signs of returning to form, buteven if he does he isn't strong enough to work every day. Byerly, Shipley,Georges Maranda and Billy Loes, who accompanied O'Dell from Baltimore, havebeen of scant help. Loes has an earned run average that looks like the day'svolume on the stock exchange. "I would have to say that he's been a failurefor me," says Sheehan. "Not just for me, but for the club. He's infront in four or five games, and he's thrown the big home run ball that'sthrown us right out of the game."

The Gianthitters, to use a rather inexact term, seem to have been hypnotized by the wildwinds of Candlestick Park. It is disheartening to see a prospective home rundriven back by the daily afternoon gale. Stoneham is considering bringing inpart of the fence, but league rules prohibit a change during the season."That seems to be the wish of the players," he says. "Thedimensions are not what we proposed. We were thinking of 385 feet in left andright center. Left center and right center are 397, and that arc out theremakes it impossible to hit a ball out of the park if there's any sort ofwind."

At the players'request, Stoneham has already had the stadium wall around the infield paintedgreen to give the fielders a better background, but so far he has been unableto solve the poor centerfield background for hitters. Filled-in land behindcenter makes it difficult to build a solid structure of sufficient height toserve as a screen. The solution may be to erect a screen of green cloth thatwould also serve as a partial windbreak. "We're engineering that now,"says Stoneham.

Besides theproblems posed by the park, the bullpen, the injuries and illnesses andMcCovey's slump, the Giants have undergone another ordeal, a change inmanagers. After dropping three straight to Pittsburgh"* in Candlestick inmid-June, Stoneham fired Bill Rigney and appointed Sheehan, his chief scout, asinterim manager. Rigney left because the team hadn't "knit," but thefiring jolted some of the players. "It's a funny game," said MikeMcCormick. "The players make the mistakes, and the managers getblamed." Sam Jones verged on tears. Under Rigney, Jones won 20 games forthe first time in his career. "I think they let go a hell of a goodguy," Jones said when Rigney went. "He deserves a better fate."Jones, 10 and 8 for the season, has failed to finish his last six starts.

As a result ofthe firing, the San Francisco press has been on Stoneham. Herb Caen, theChronicle's Winchell, calls him "Stoneheart," and Ray Haywood of theOakland Tribune won't let "Sir Horace" forget he dismissed an East Bayboy (Rigney's home town is just over the hill from Oakland). The sharpest woundwas inflicted by Dick Young of the New York Daily News who charged in a columnreprinted by the Chronicle that Sheehan, "an engaging old windbag," had"knifed" Rigney to get the job. Not only that, wrote Young, but "itwas Sheehan who, with his second-guessing, set up the guillotine for LeoDurocher." Says Sheehan, "That's Dick Young. And he's been a goodfriend of mine. I've been in this game 48 years, and I certainly didn't have towait this long to double-cross people."

Last week, as ifin retort to the critics, Stoneham announced that Sheehan would"definitely" manage the rest of the year and "if Tom does a realgood job, I'm sure he'll be back next year as manager."

Sheehan will havehis hands full for this year, let alone next year. A genial soul, he likes totell about the bad year he had pitching for the old Philadelphia A's. He wonone and lost 17, and his roomie won one and lost 21. The experience shouldstand him in good stead. Baseball is a game of momentum, and the Giants are offthe skids. The way they look now, they'll be lucky to finish fourth.

PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANPEERING GLOOMILY at catcher's sign, Sam Jones prepares to pitch against pinball background of Philadelphia scoreboard.PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANABOUT TO BE FIRED, Manager Bill Rigney watches batting practice, while successor Tom Sheehan (left) watches him.PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANBELLY FLOPPING into second base goes the spectacular Willie Mays, who is having a superb season despite the fumblings and failures of his San Francisco teammates.PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANNEW MANAGER TOM SHEEHAN INHERITED A BALL CLUB AND A READY-MADE HEADACHEPHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMANPOOR DEFENSE HAS HURT GIANTS. HERE OUTFIELD THROW REACHES CATCHER BOB SCHMIDT WELL AHEAD OF DODGERS' GIL HODGESTWO PHOTOSJOHN G. ZIMMERMANBUT BALL SLIPS THROUGH SCHMIDT'S LEGS AND (BELOW) ROLLS AWAY, AS HODGES SCORES AND RUNNER ON SECOND GOES TO THIRD