50 Years of the Giants in San Francisco-1968

Could the Candlestick boys, second place finishers for the past three seasons, finally get over the hump? And the debut of the Bonds family to the Giants franchise.

THE 1968 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Record: 88-74 (2nd, National League)
Ballpark: Candlestick Park
Manager: Herman Franks
All-Stars (3): Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays
Awards: NL Cy Young Award – Mike McCormick
NL Gold Glove – Willie Mays

In what turned out to be the final installment of the Herman Franks era, the Giants once again put out an exciting, competitive team in the NL.  Well, competitive sans the St. Louis Cardinals once again.

The 1968 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Ron Hunt 2B
  2. Jim Davenport 3B
  3. Willie Mays CF
  4. Willie McCovey 1B
  5. Jim Ray Hart LF
  6. Jack Hiatt C
  7. Jesus Alou RF
  8. Hal Lanier SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

With one exception, the above lineup proved to be the most regular one in terms of everyday players.  Newcomer Ron Hunt and former backup Jack Hiatt both stepped into starters roles, replacing the demoted Tito Fuentes (sent to the minors for all of 1968) and the traded Tom Haller (to the hated Los Angeles Dodgers for Hunt; Haller went on to be the NL All-Star catcher that season).  The two Jims continued to split time at third base, but Jim Ray Hart's time in the outfield also grew limited because of a new face – rookie Bobby Bonds.  Debuting on June 25 with a grand slam in his third at-bat against the Dodgers, the young outfielder (.254/9/35, 16 stolen bases) showed flashes of the All-Star player he would become in a limited 81 games.

For the time being, however, the offense went through Willie McCovey (.293/36/105), who led the NL in home runs, slugging, and RBIs.  Mays (.289/23/79) and Hart (.258/23/78) contributed to the thunder in 1968; however, like the previous season the rest of the bats proved to be much quieter, resulting in an overall offense that finished a distant third in runs scored (599) to the powerful Cincinnati Reds (690).

The 1968 Giants likewise finished third in the NL in pitching with a team ERA of 2.71.  All four Giants starters from the previous season returned, but two of them – reigning NL Cy Young award winner Mike McCormick (12-14, 3.58) and Ray Sadecki (12-18, 2.91) – regressed significantly.  Juan Marichal (26-9, 2.43), however, had a monster year, leading the NL in wins, innings pitched (326), and a mind-numbing 30 complete games.  And a pleasant surprise was the revival of Bobby Bolin (10-5, 1.99) as a spot starter.

After defeating the New York Mets 5-4 on Opening Day at Candlestick Park, the 1968 Giants spent most of April and the first half of May treading water around .500; however, this was good enough to keep them near the top of the standings.  The ballclub finished out May by going 11-7 (sweeping the Houston Astros at Candlestick Park and taking three out of four against the Atlanta Braves on the road in the process) to briefly take over first place.

Though it was only June, the rest of the season belonged to the Cardinals.  The defending NL pennant winners took over sole possession of first from the Giants on June 2, and never looked back.  They put together a nine-game winning streak to begin June, and two seven-game winning streaks (including a sweep of the Giants at Candlestick Park on July 5-7) to pad the lead.  Led strictly by pitching – the Cards had a pedestrian offense that hit only 73 home runs that season, compared to the Giants' 108; they did, however, swipe 110 bags – St. Louis strutted out to the mound Nelson Briles (19-11, 2.81), Ray Washburn (14-8, 2.26, including a no-hitter against the Giants on September 18), and two future Hall of Famers, Steve Carlton (13-11, 2.99) and the amazing Bob Gibson who had one of the best seasons by s starting pitcher ever (22-9, 1.12, 13 shutouts, and winner of both the NL MVP and Cy Young awards).

The Giants managed to claim sole possession of second place for all of the final month; however, this was a hollow victory as they finished a distant nine games behind the Cards, who ran out of gas in seven games against the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series, when Series MVP Mickey Lolich outdueled Gibson in Game 7 for his third victory.

The offseason was mostly a story of departures.  Perhaps it was the Cardinals' dominance or the frustration of finishing second four consecutive years, but Herman Franks resigned at the end of the season to pursue business ventures.  And outfielders "Downtown" Ollie Brown and Jesus Alou were both lost to the newly formed San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos, respectively, in the expansion draft.  These partings opened up a spot in the outfield for Bobby Bonds, and rookie manager Clyde King would take over the helm in 1969.  Could this shakeup move the Giants closer to the Cardinals?  Stay tuned.

The complete 1968 roster:

#1 Bob Barton
#2 Dick Dietz
#7 Jack Hiatt
#10 Bob Schroder
#12 Jim Davenport
#14 Jesus Alou
#15 Ken Henderson
#16 Jim Ray Hart
#18 Dave Marshall
#19 Ty Cline
#20 Frank Johnson
#21 Don Mason
#22 Hal Lanier
#24 Willie Mays
#25 Bobby Bonds
#25 Ollie Brown
#27 Juan Marichal
#28 Joe Gibbon
#29 Nate Oliver
#33 Ron Hunt
#34 Ron Herbel
#35 Frank Linzy
#36 Gaylord Perry
#37 Ray Sadecki
#39 Lindy McDaniel
#39 Bill Monbouquette
#40 Mike McCormick
#42 Bobby Bolin
#43 Rich Robertson
#44 Willie McCovey
#45 Bill Henry
#45 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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