50 Years of the Giants in San Francisco – 196

A major changing of the guards at first base, and a major factor in a crowded NL pennant race. Welcome to the story of the star-studded 1966 Giants.


Record: 93-68 (2nd, National League)
Ballpark: Candlestick Park
Manager: Herman Franks
All-Stars (6):Tom Haller, Jim Ray Hart, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry
Awards: NL Gold Glove – Willie Mays

In Herman Franks' first season managing the San Francisco Giants, the team finished only two games behind the NL pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers.  Could the team do better in 1966?  Well, yes.

The 1966 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Hal Lanier 2B
  2. Len Gabrielson LF
  3. Willie Mays CF
  4. Willie McCovey 1B
  5. Jim Ray Hart 3B
  6. Jesus Alou RF
  7. Tom Haller C
  8. Tito Fuentes SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

Where is Orlando Cepeda in this lineup, you ask?  The Baby Bull returned to the ballclub after an injury-plagued 1965 season, but not for long – in a much-criticized trade, the Giants sent the still-popular Cepeda to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Ray Sadecki.  The trade initially paid poor dividends for San Francisco – after the trade Sadecki went 3-7 with his new ballclub, sporting a 5.40 ERA (ironically, he somewhat made up for it with his bat, hitting .324 with two home runs in 34 at bats).  He managed to improve to 12-6, 2.78 the following season; however, Cepeda countered by winning the NL MVP award with the Cardinals in 1967.

Cepeda's departure meant that first base finally belonged to Willie McCovey (.295/36/96) for good.  He and that other Willie – Willie Mays (.288/37/103) – teamed up to terrorize NL pitchers, but they weren't alone in 1966, as contributions from the likes of Jim Ray Hart (.285/33/93) and Tom Haller (.240/27/67) made the '66 Giants a long-ball force to be reckoned with.  These four sluggers, however, were offset by the weaker bats in the lineup, including Hal Lanier (.231), Ollie Brown (.233), and the newly arrived Len Gabrielson (.217).

Giants pitching continued their improvement, finishing third overall in the NL with a 3.24 team ERA.  Juan Marichal (25-6, 2.23, 4 shutouts) had another brilliant season, but was once again outdone by Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73) – but this would be the last time, as Koufax would abruptly retire at the end of the 1966 season due to arm troubles.  Gaylord Perry (21-8, 2.99, 3 shutouts) finally began a long stretch of successful pitching that would eventually land him into the Hall of Fame alongside Marichal.  Another surprise was Bobby Bolin (11-10, 2.89, 4 shutouts) who as a full-time starting pitcher threw 200+ innings for the first and only time in his career.  Frank Linzy (7-11, 16 saves) didn't have the same success as he did in his rookie season, but he still served as an effective closer.

The 1966 Giants did what they didn't the previous season – start strongly out of the gate.  Marichal and the Giants bats downed old friend Leo Durocher and the Chicago Cubs 9-1 on Opening Day, and stayed in either first or second in the NL for most of April.  A slight slipup at the end of the month dropped them to third place, but an ensuing 12-game winning streak – including 3-game sweeps of the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates – entrenched the team in first place, where they stayed for all but three games until the All-Star break. 

Perhaps sending six representatives to St. Louis exhausted the Giants, since they stumbled a bit after the All-Star game, allowing the Pirates to overtake them for first place.  The two teams along with the Dodgers all took turns flip-flopping at the top of the NL, with no team being farther than four games out.  The three teams were tied atop the NL at the end of July.

A four-game winning streak during August 20-23 catapulted the Giants into first place, but a three-game losing streak to begin September dropped them out of the top spot, and despite never being further than four games out for the rest of the season, the Giants never saw first place again.  Once again, it was the Dodgers coming up big again down the stretch – in September Dem Bums put together two separate winning streaks of five and eight games to pull ahead for good, and even with the Giants winning six straight games to finish out the regular season, Los Angeles once again edged San Francisco for the NL Pennant, this time by a mere game and a half.  The Dodgers' luck would leave them completely in the 1966 World Series, however, as they were swept by the Robinsons – Brooks and Frank – and the non-Robinsons of the Baltimore Orioles.

So while the season was mostly a prosperous one, Giants fans once again had to endure an also-ran finish.  The narrow miss allowed the front office to keep the roster mostly intact, with few changes – a lack of bold moves understandable with the Cepeda gaffe earlier in the year.  One notable move – although probably not at the time – was the reacquisition of pitcher Mike McCormick, who was far from overwhelming in his four-year stint in the American League.  But could the sub-.500 pitcher make a difference in a second go-around?  And would the retirement of Koufax finally tilt fate the Giants way?  Stay tuned.

The complete 1966 roster:

#1 Bob Barton
#2 Dick Dietz
#5 Tom Haller
#7 Len Gabrielson
#12 Jim Davenport
#14 Jesus Alou
#15 Dick Schofield
#15 Bob Schroder
#16 Jim Ray Hart
#17 Cap Peterson
#21 Bob Garibaldi
#22 Hal Lanier
#23 Tito Fuentes
#24 Willie Mays
#25 Ollie Brown
#27 Juan Marichal
#28 Joe Gibbon
#29 Jack Hiatt
#29 Bob Shaw
#30 Orlando Cepeda
#30 Billy Hoeft
#31 Bob Burda
#34 Ron Herbel
#35 Frank Linzy
#36 Gaylord Perry
#37 Ray Sadecki
#38 Bob Priddy
#39 Lindy McDaniel
#40 Ozzie Virgil
#41 Don Mason
#42 Bobby Bolin
#43 Ken Henderson
#43 Don Landrum
#44 Willie McCovey
#45 Bill Henry
#47 Frank Johnson
#48 Rich Robertson

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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