50 Years of the San Francisco Giants - 1963

Still smarting after a Game 7 loss in the World Series (sound familiar?), the 1963 Giants looked to rebound. Unfortunately, despite once again displaying a lot of offensive firepower, the team ultimately fell way short of postseason consideration.


Record: 88-74 (3rd, National League)
Ballpark: Candlestick Park
Manager: Alvin Dark
All-Stars (5): Ed Bailey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey
Awards: NL Gold Glove – Willie Mays

The team that was perhaps a Willie McCovey line drive away from being defending World Series champs returned with a mostly intact offense.  Pitching, however, was another story for the 1963 San Francisco Giants.

The 1963 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Chuck Hiller 2B
  2. Jim Davenport 3B
  3. Willie Mays CF
  4. Willie McCovey LF
  5. Orlando Cepeda 1B
  6. Tom Haller C
  7. Felipe Alou RF
  8. Jose Pagan SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

With McCovey's success during the latter half of the 1962 season, Manager Alvin Dark had no choice but to start him more regularly.  This led to a juggling act in which McCovey (a natural first baseman) and Harvey Kuenn (who began his career as a shortstop) spent time in both the infield and the outfield to get at-bats.  Haller and Ed Bailey once again flip-flopped Opening Day roles from the previous season, and they likewise spent 1963 splitting the backstop duties.  The rest of the position players were mostly constant – with the notable exception of Willie Mays batting cleanup for most of the last few months of the season.

Who could possibly be a better #3 hitter than Mays, you ask?  In 1963, it was McCovey.  Playing a full season for the first time, the lanky lefty terrorized NL pitchers by blasting 44 home runs (which tied Hank Aaron for the NL lead and was one behind AL leader Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins) while batting .280.  Mays (.314/38/103) and Cepeda (.316/34/97) were no slouches themselves, and power surges from Bailey (21 HR), Felipe Alou (20), and Haller (14) allowed the 1963 Giants to lead the NL in home runs (197) by a comfortable margin – the Milwaukee Braves were a distant second with 139 home runs.

Jack Sanford's numbers (16-13, 3.51) fell from his magical season the year before; however, like McCovey, 1963 was a coming out party for another young future Hall of Famer – Juan Marichal.  The Dominican Dandy had the first of his stellar seasons, leading the NL with 25 victories (tied with Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax) and a machine-like 321.3 innings pitched while placing fourth in ERA with 2.41.  His season was only overshadowed by the brilliance of Koufax (25-5, 1.88, 306 Ks), who unanimously won the ML Cy Young award that season.  Giants' lefty Billy O'Dell (14-10, 3.16) had another fine season; however, the other Billy – Billy Pierce (3-11, 4.27) – struggled while trying to fill the void left by departed closer Stu Miller.  The Giants also struggled to find another reliable starter after Sanford, Marichal, and O'Dell – Jack Fisher, young Bobby Bolin, and Pierce all tried to fill the void as spot starters, and combined for a 19-27 record.

Despite their shortcomings, the Giants were very much in the thick of the NL pennant race for the first five months of the regular season.  The team started hot by sweeping the still-new Houston Colt .45s in the opening series – including a 9-2 victory on Opening Day in which the Giants blasted four home runs and starter Jack Sanford hit a 3-run triple – and won nine games on a 13-game road trip to take over first place in May.  One of the victories during this stretch came on May 4 at their old stomping grounds – the Polo Grounds, where they stomped on future Giants manager Roger Craig and the still-new New York Mets 17-4 with six home runs, two each by Cepeda and Bailey.  A seven-game losing streak in early June pushed them back to a third place tie with the Chicago Cubs and behind both the front-running Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Giants followed this up with a six-game winning stretch that put them back on top.  This latter stretch featured excellent pitching – in all but one of these victories, the Giants gave up either one or zero runs, with Sanford and Marichal both picking up two wins.  Marichal's second victory during this stretch was a 1-0 no-hitter against Houston in which he walked only two batters and improved his record to 10-3.

The Dodgers and Cardinals continued to exchange places at the top of the NL for the remainder of the season.  And though the Giants remained close by breaking off a nine-game winning streak in late July and being only three games behind as late as August 15, they would never see first place again after June.  Still, they made the most of it, and on the rare game when the offense took a night off, Giants pitchers came up big.  Perhaps the single greatest example of this was on August 2, when Marichal faced off against Braves great Warren Spahn at Candlestick Park.  The two future Hall of Famers dueled to zeros for 16 innings, until Mays blasted a solo shot in the bottom of the 16th inning off of Spahn to win it.

Despite such efforts, the Giants finished the season in a distant third place, 11 games behind the pitching-rich Dodgers, who went on to sweep the New York Yankees in the World Series.  This unpleasant finish led management to shake up the roster after the end of the season, most notably with a major trade in which Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey, and two others were sent to the Braves in exchange for three players: former All-Star catcher Del Crandall, closer Bob Shaw, and pitcher Bob Hendley.  In early 1964 the Giants also crossed an ocean – in this case, the Pacific – to acquire the rights of Masanori Murakami, who would become the first Japanese player in the Major Leagues.  Would all these changes bring the team back to postseason prosperity?  Stay tuned…

The complete 1963 roster:

#2 Jimmie Coker
#5 Tom Haller
#6 Ed Bailey
#7 Harvey Kuenn
#10 Jose Cardenal
#12 Jim Davenport
#14 Jesus Alou
#14 Joey Amalfitano
#15 Jose Pagan
#16 Jim Ray Hart
#16 Norm Larker
#17 Cap Peterson
#18 Don Larsen
#19 Billy Pierce
#20 Billy Hoeft
#21 Ernie Bowman
#22 Jack Fisher
#23 Felipe Alou
#24 Willie Mays
#26 Chuck Hiller
#27 Juan Marichal
#28 Bob Garibaldi
#30 Orlando Cepeda
#31 Billy O'Dell
#33 Jack Sanford
#34 Jim Constable
#34 Ron Herbel
#35 Gaylord Perry
#36 Frank Linzy
#36 Gaylord Perry
#40 John Pregenzer
#41 Matty Alou
#42 Bobby Bolin
#44 Willie McCovey
#45 Jim Duffalo
#48 Al Stanek

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.

The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.

Giants Farm Top Stories