x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Championship for all ages

San Francisco Giants veterans take pride and pleasure in their younger team's victory, writes Sean McAdam.

Orlando Cepeda, left, Willie McCovey, centre, and Willie Mays never won a title in San Francisco.
Orlando Cepeda, left, Willie McCovey, centre, and Willie Mays never won a title in San Francisco.

When a team wins a World Series, it does so not just with the 25 players on its current roster, but also with the players who came before, many of whom never had the privilege of playing for a championship team.

That was never more apparent than on Monday night, when the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers to capture the Giants' first title since 1954 - and their first since moving from New York to northern California before the 1958 season.

A long list of greats, including Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry - all Hall-of-Famers - never won a championship playing in San Francisco. Neither did Willie Mays, who won in New York in 1954 but never as a member of the San Francisco Giants.

Throughout the Giants' magical post-season run, Marichal, McCovey and others such as Felipe Alou surrounded the team, rooting for the elusive ring which they could never quite capture.

In a way, it did not seem fair. A number of notable players on the roster, including Aubrey Huff, were in their first season with the team. Others, like Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, joined the team in the middle of the season. Still others, like Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, were mere rookies, new to the whole experience.

How could they win a Series as Giants when Marichal or McCovey could not?

And yet, none of the retired greats were complaining. To the contrary, they pulled for this generation of Giants, in part to make up for the disappointment they felt, the emptiness they experienced, in falling short.

McCovey, who made the final out of the 1962 World Series with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, said he would feel better about falling short if these Giants could win it all. In a poignant exchange with reporters, Felipe Alou recalled the circumstances of that 1-0 loss to the Yankees in 1962.

After his brother Matty had reached base to open the ninth, Felipe attempted to put down a sacrifice bunt to move Matty into scoring position, but failed. When Mays followed with a double, Matty stopped at third instead of scoring the tying run, as he would have had Felipe moved him up a base. And when McCovey hit a vicious liner caught by Bobby Richardson, the New York second baseman, Felipe Alou's heartache grew. Some 24 hours before these Giants won it all, Alou said: "It's a rather sore spot in my career, my life, really. But if this team wins, maybe I would forgive me a little bit."

On Monday night, Alou, now a special assistant to Brian Sabean, the San Francisco general manager, got his wish - a little forgiveness, and almost 50 years after the fact - the championship he missed out on the first time.