50 Years of the San Francisco Giants - 1959

What did the now-west coast Giants do for an encore to their inaugural season? Almost with the National League pennant! It came down to a three-team duel in 1959, and although the Giants fell short at the very end, the journey was nothing short of breathtaking.


Record: 83-71 (3rd, National League West)
Ballpark: Seals Stadium
Manager: Bill Rigney
All-Stars (4): Johnny Antonelli, Orlando Cepeda, Sam Jones, Willie Mays
Awards: BBWAA & Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year – Willie McCovey
               Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year – Sam Jones
               NL Gold Glove – Willie Mays

The end of the year standings in 1959 show that the San Francisco Giants finished with just three more wins than they did in their inaugural season.  However, the sophomore edition of San Francisco baseball was a markedly better team, with more talent on the way.

The 1959 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Jim Davenport 3B
  2. Jackie Brandt LF
  3. Willie Mays CF
  4. Orlando Cepeda 1B
  5. Willie Kirkland RF
  6. Daryl Spencer 2B
  7. Andre Rodgers SS
  8. Bob Schmidt C
  9. Johnny Antonelli P

Mays, of course, was by now an established superstar, and his batting numbers (.313/34/104 with 43 doubles) were augmented by his league-leading 27 stolen bases – the fourth straight (and final time) he led the league in steals.  Right behind him in steals that season was Cepeda with 23 (second in the league), and most of the Baby Bull's numbers in 1959 (.317/27/105) surpassed those of his rookie campaign.  And the arrival of another "baby" – rookie Willie McCovey – to the tune of a 4-for-4 day in his debut game on July 30 resulted in the young Stretch earning the NL Rookie of the Year award.  With Cepeda's 1958 honors, this meant back-to-back NL Rookie of the Year awards for the franchise.

Ace Antonelli led the league with four shutouts, and finished with a 19-10 mark.  And while 1959 would mark the last of his dominant seasons, another new Giant – Sam Jones, who was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals shortly before the start of the season – tied Antonelli in shutouts while leading the NL in wins (21) and ERA (2.83) as both a starter and reliever, striking out and walking just about everybody.  Jones pitched the second no-hitter in San Francisco Giants history, as he blanked his old Cardinals mates 4-0 in a rain-shortened seven innings at Busch Stadium on September 26.  The first San Francisco Giants no-hitter?  It was thrown three months prior by 20-year old Mike McCormick in another rained-shortened affair, a five-inning 3-0 Giants victory versus the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium.

So with all this talent, how did the Giants come up short in 1959?  The team started off well enough, sweeping their opening three-game series against the Cardinals at Sportsman's Park, and stayed at least 4 ½ games within first place through June in a tight atop the NL race with the Milwaukee Braves and the surprising Los Angeles Dodgers.  A surge at the end of June and early July put the team in first place on July 9, and the Giants stayed on top for all but two days from July 9 until September 20 – a black day that saw the Dodgers complete a three-game sweep of the Giants at Seals Stadium.   Unable to recover, the Giants finished the season 1-7, and three games behind the deadlocked Braves and Dodgers.  Los Angeles defeated Milwaukee two games to none in a playoff that determined the NL winner, but Dem Bums weren't done yet – they went on to defeat the Chicago White Sox to win the World Series in six games.

Disappointing?  Yes.  But not bad for a second season by the Bay.  Sam Jones turned out to be a godsend, and he would have at least one more good Giants season before arm troubles derailed his career.  McCovey got his feet wet, and would terrorize NL pitchers for another 20+ years.  One of the offseason signings for the Giants included future stalwart Jim Ray Hart, who would ensure that a Jim (either him or Jim Davenport) would be manning third base for the Giants during the next several years.  And with two no-hitters in a single season, this was a sign for more to come, right?  Well…

The complete 1959 roster:

#5 Hobie Landrith
#6 Hank Sauer
#8 Roger McCardell
#9 Bob Schmidt
#10 Jose Pagan
#12 Jim Davenport
#15 Andre Rodgers
#16 Eddie Bressoud
#17 Andre Rodgers
#19 Sam Jones
#20 Daryl Spencer
#21 Leon Wagner
#22 Danny O'Connell
#23 Felipe Alou
#24 Willie Mays
#25 Jackie Brandt
#26 Dusty Rhodes
#26 Bob Speake
#27 Jim Hegan
#28 Willie Kirkland
#28 Marshall Renfroe
#30 Orlando Cepeda
#32 Al Worthington
#33 Jack Sanford
#34 Dom Zanni
#36 Bud Byerly
#36 Billy Muffett
#37 Stu Miller
#38 Gordon Jones
#39 Curt Barclay
#39 Eddie Fisher
#40 Mike McCormick
#42 Joe Shipley
#43 Johnny Antonelli
#44 Willie McCovey

Don Shin eats, breathes, thinks, and bleeds in Orange and Black. Pac Bell Park officially opened on his 25th birthday (the one year he decided to move out of the Bay Area!!!). For the 2000 playoff drive, he dyed his hair orange while studying in Korea. He watched Game 6 of the '02 World Series at a restaurant in LA, and couldn't finish his meal afterwards. Feel free to write him at dongsoo411@yahoo.com to commiserate, cheer, and complain.

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