Category: Odd and ends

Braves vs. Giants, September 14, 1986: Bob Brenly’s Baseball Rags-to-Riches Tale

One of the most memorable Braves-Giants games took place September 14, 1986, at Candlestick Park. Bob Brenly, who would later manage the Arizona Diamondbacks during their dramatic 2001 World Series victory over the New York Yankees, was the Giants’ regular starting catcher. However, during this particular game, Brenly was asked to take over third base duties after regular Giants third baseman Chris Brown complained of shoulder soreness.

The game was scoreless until the fourth inning. That was when Brenly, not used to playing third, managed to make four errors in the same inning, tying a Major League record. The errors led to four costly runs, putting the Braves on top, 4-0.

But what’s truly remarkable about this story is what happened next. Brenly led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a solo home run against Braves starter Charlie Puleo (Bob Melvin, who was catching in Brenly’s place, came up next and hit another solo homer). In the seventh inning, with bases loaded and two outs and the Braves leading 6-4, Brenly singled to knock in two more runs, tying the game, 6-6.

Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and the game still tied 6-6, Brenly came to the plate and hit a walk-off home run against Braves reliever Paul Assenmacher, giving the Giants a 7-6 victory.

“I went from the outhouse to the penthouse,” Brenly joked after the game.

Above is a video showing highlights of the game.

(Note: In the video, Bob Costas is wrong about Brenly tying the game 4-4 in the seventh. According to baseball-reference.com, Brenly’s two RBIs tied the game, 6-6.)

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Short Film about the New York Polo Grounds

Check out this brief but poignant film about the old New York Polo Grounds, the stadium where the Giants used to play before moving to San Francisco in 1958. It includes interviews with Bill Kent of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society and author Pete Hamil, both of whom attended games at the Polo Grounds as kids. Interestingly, both refer to the stadium as “our church.”

Today, the site in upper Manhattan where the Polo Grounds used to be is a housing project called–you guessed it–Polo Grounds Towers.

The Dodgers vs. the Swamp Giants

Maury Wills

With the Dodgers coming to AT&T Park today for the start of a three-game series against the Giants, I thought I would relate one of my favorite Dodgers-Giants rivalry stories. It took place in August of 1962, as the Dodgers and Giants played a three-game series at Candlestick Park.

The Dodgers were in first place in the National League as the series started, five games ahead of the Giants. (In 1962, there were no separate divisions in baseball, and therefore, no formal playoff series. Whichever team finished first in each league won the pennant.)

The Dodgers’ running game was a big part of their success that year. It was the year base-stealing great Maury Wills broke Ty Cobb’s single-season stolen base record of 96. Wills stole 104 bases.

Giants manager Alvin Dark asked the head groundskeeper at Candlestick, Matty Schwab, if there were anything he could do to help slow Wills down. Schwab had an idea. He and his son went out early the morning of the first game of the series. Sports Illustrated writer Noel Hynd describes what they did:

Working by torchlight, the Schwabs dug up and removed the topsoil where Maury Wills would take his lead off first base. Down in its place went a squishy swamp of sand, peat moss and water. Then they covered their chicanery with an inch of normal infield soil, making the 5- by 15-foot quagmire visually indistinguishable from the rest of the base path.

By the time the Dodgers took batting practice that afternoon, however, the wet, loose soil became noticeable. When Dodgers coach Leo Durocher saw it, he got down on his knees and dug through the topsoil.

“What the hell is this?” he asked.

The Dodgers brought it to the attention of the umpires, who forced the Giants’ grounds crew to remove the soil or forfeit the game. The grounds crew complied, carting out several wheelbarrows of the stuff. But instead of replacing it with the regular infield soil, they carted back the peat moss mixture and laid it down again, then watered down the area. Now the soil was looser than before, and wetter. Yet, for some reason, the umpires approved it.

Back on the field, the Dodgers started making duck calls. “What time does the tide come in?” Dodgers first baseman Ron Fairly asked Alvin Dark. Dark shrugged. Fairly built an impromptu sand castle.

“What could you do?” asked Dodgers left fielder Tommy Davis. “It was their park. They were going to get away with anything.”

The swamp did its job, slowing down the Dodgers’ otherwise superior running game. At one point, center fielder Willie Davis rounded first on a base hit, slipped, and was thrown out. After arguing with the umpire, he was tossed from the game.

Wills stole no bases that game, nor did any Dodger. The Dodgers lost the game, 11-2.

Word about the incident got back to National League headquarters, and the Giants groundskeepers were ordered to remove the soil. They did so, but they watered down the base paths for the second game, and it was so wet the umpires had to halt the game and have the grounds crew sand down the infield. This just made it swampy again. The Dodgers lost the second game, 5-2, and the final game, 5-1. They left Candlestick Park just two games ahead of the Giants.

The Dodgers and Giants would go on to tie for first place that year, leading to a three-game playoff that the Giants won, sending them to the World Series. You know the rest. The Giants lost to the New York Yankees, 4 games to 3.

The Giants would have to wait another 40 years before their next World Series chance, and another 48 before winning it for the first time since moving to San Francisco.

 

An Odd Fight Between a Giant and a Snake

Bonds and Hayes

It was one of the strangest brawls in baseball history. The Giants were playing the Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field), April 16, 1999. It was the Diamondbacks’ second season in existence, and they were clobbering the Giants 8-3 in the top of the sixth when Giants third baseman Charlie Hayes charged the mound to get a piece of Diamondbacks pitcher Todd Stottlemyre.

Only Hayes wasn’t charging from the batter’s box after getting beaned. He was charging from second base.

Here’s what happened. Hayes came to the plate with a man on first. His career record against Stottlemyre was abysmal, 0-for-13, and it wasn’t about to get better. Hayes hit into a fielder’s choice force out at second. As he reached first base, he started cursing, later saying he was cursing at himself. But Stottlemyre assumed the blue language was meant for him.

On the next at bat, as Hayes advanced to second on a single by Giants catcher Brent Mayne, Stottlemyre tossed an F-bomb his way. “I thought he was yelling at me from first base,” Stottlemyre explained, “so when he got to second base I had something to say to him.”

A nasty exchange ensued. Then, as Hayes rounded second, he charged the mound and threw a punch at Stottlemyre. “I was trying to knock him out,” Hayes told reporters. “I didn’t want to wrestle. He talks like he’s Bob Gibson. I’m the only one he can get out.”

Hayes was referring to his struggles at the plate against Stottlemyre.

Stottlemyre managed to avoid the punch. “He missed me all night, at the plate and on the mound,” he later quipped.

Diamondbacks third baseman and former Giant Matt Williams rushed to the mound and tackled Hayes as Giants third base coach Sonny Jackson got a hold of Stottlemyre. Both dugouts and bullpens cleared. Curses and taunts flew back and forth. Hayes was still livid when Barry Bonds grabbed him and led him back to the dugout.

Both Hayes and Stottlemyre were ejected from the game.

In the melee, Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson lost his cap. He picked up a Giants hat by mistake and put it on, thinking it felt a little tight.

“I guess I was a Giant for a half-minute,” Johnson said.

The Diamondbacks went on to beat the Giants, 10-4. Not that that will happen tonight.

Big Unit

Some Great Giants Catches

No game tonight, so to feed your Giants withdrawal, here are a few great catches in the outfield.

Gregor Blanco

Angel Pagan

Hunter Pence

Melky Cabrera

Kevin Mitchell’s barehanded catch

And, of course, the greatest catch of them all