50 Years | Giants in SF | 1969

The summer of '69 was memorable in many ways, and not just for the Bryan Adams song. Giants fans saw another spirited race to the finish line, and one heck of an offensive show put on by the "other" Willie.


Record: 90-72 (2nd, National League West)
Ballpark: Candlestick Park
Manager: Clyde King
All-Stars (3): Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays
Awards: NL MVP – Willie McCovey

In 1969 Clyde King took over the managerial duties for the San Francisco Giants. Would a new face at the top be the difference maker? How about an MVP at first base?

The 1969 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Willie Mays CF
  2. Ron Hunt 2B
  3. Bobby Bonds RF
  4. Willie McCovey 1B
  5. Jim Ray Hart LF
  6. Dick Dietz C
  7. Bobby Etheridge 3B
  8. Hal Lanier SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

Willie Mays as a leadoff hitter only lasted for the first few weeks of the regular season, as he eventually resumed his usual No. 3 hitter role for the majority of the season. Bobby Bonds showed off his versatility by leading off 70 times, hitting third 41 times, and fifth 34 times. At third base, young Bobby Etheridge eventually gave way to Jim Davenport, who at age 35 enjoyed his final full season in the Majors. And Jim Ray Hart began his precipitous power decline in 1969, and gave way in the outfield to another youngster, Ken Henderson.

The offense in general suffered from uneven production, as only two players hit more than 13 home runs or drove in more than 58 runs (38-year old Willie Mays put up those exact numbers while batting .283). However, Giants batting still ended up fourth overall in the NL, scoring 4.4 runs a game. Again showing off his various talents, Bonds (.259/32/90, 45 steals) did his best to pick up the slack. But the star of the show was undoubtedly Willie McCovey (.320/45/126), whose gaudy numbers helped him narrowly edged New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver for the 1969 NL MVP award. So frightening was McCovey to opposing pitchers (and so appealing was the rest of the lineup) that McCovey was intentionally walked 45 times, setting a record that has since been smashed multiple times by Barry Bonds (who set a record which truly may never be broken – 120 free passes – in 2004).

The 1969 Giants likewise finished fourth in the NL in pitching with a team ERA of 3.93. The team was led by the one-two punch of Juan Marichal (21-11, 2.10) and Gaylord Perry (19-14, 2.49 in a league-leading 325 1/3 innings). The other three starters – Mike McCormick (11-9, 3.34), Bobby Bolin (7-7, 4.43), and Ray Sadecki (5-8, 4.23) – pitched decently at times, but ultimately left much to be desired.

Due to the introduction of the Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Pilots, 1969 was the first year in which the two leagues were each split up into East and West Divisions. An odd result of these Divisions was the placement of the Atlanta Braves in the NL West along with the Giants. The Braves, however, felt right at home in the West from the beginning, as they opened up the season by handily sweeping the Giants at Atlanta Stadium during April 7-9.

The Giants fought back to .500 ball towards the end of month, then snapped off a nine-game winning streak (sweeping both the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds at Candlestick Park in the process) to close out April in first place in the NL West. The team lost its momentum as soon as the calendar hit May, however, and regressed to as far back as fourth place by the end of the month.

June began poorly for San Francisco, as the surprising New York Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Giants at Shea Stadium on June 1. Subsequent trips to Montreal and Philadelphia resulted in a five-game winning streak for the Giants. Much of this surge could be credited to McCovey, who had a 16-game hitting streak between May 23 and June 11, hitting 11 home runs in the process. However, this bit of momentum was again countered with losing streaks that again placed the Giants as far back as fifth place on June 27.

Fifth place, however, was only five games behind the front-running Los Angeles Dodgers, and better play in July put the Giants in the thick of a tight NL West race. A doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies on August 5 at Shibe Park briefly put the Giants in first place, a half-game ahead of the geographically challenged Braves but also only four games ahead of fifth place Houston. August saw the Giants, Braves, Dodgers, and the Reds all in first place at some point, with the Giants holding a slim half-game lead over the Reds and Dodgers at the conclusion of the month.

September turned out to be no different. After briefly faltering at the beginning of the month, the Giants broke off five victories in a row (sweeping the Dodgers at Candlestick during September 18-22 in the process) to reclaim first. However, they couldn't shake the Braves, who put together win streaks of six and ten games in the month – including a 10-1 season finish. The expansion Padres played a critical role in the final few days of the season – the Braves swept them at Atlanta Stadium on September 26-28, and the Giants finished the season with consecutive losses to the Padres at Candlestick Park to finish the season in second place, three games behind the Braves.

The Braves' magic, however, succumbed to one of the greatest stories in baseball history – the 1969 Mets. Perennial losers and ninth place finishers just the year before, the Miracle Mets shocked the world by handily winning the NL East, sweeping the Braves in the NLCS, and then defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series in five games.

Thus despite another winning season, Clyde King experience a season not unlike those at the helm of Herman Franks – another agonizing second place finish to what was otherwise an exciting year. But unlike previous years, the 1969 offseason was rife with changes. Before the 1970 season began, the Giants parted ways with a number of starters and other long-time Giants including Bobby Bolin, Ray Sadecki, and Ron Herbel, and during the following season bid adieu to Jack Hiatt, Frank Linzy, Bob Burda, Jim Davenport, and Mike McCormick. Did all these transactions amount to rebuilding, or reloading for another push for the pennant? Stay tuned…

The complete 1969 roster:

#1 Bob Barton
#2 Dick Dietz
#3 Ozzie Virgil
#7 Jack Hiatt
#10 John Stephenson
#12 Jim Davenport
#14 George Foster
#15 Ken Henderson
#16 Jim Ray Hart
#17 Bobby Etheridge
#18 Dave Marshall
#19 Bob Burda
#20 Frank Johnson
#21 Don Mason
#22 Hal Lanier
#24 Willie Mays
#25 Bobby Bonds
#26 Ron Bryant
#27 Juan Marichal
#28 Joe Gibbon
#28 Ron Kline
#29 Tito Fuentes
#31 Cesar Gutierrez
#32 John Harrell
#33 Ron Hunt
#34 Ron Herbel
#35 Frank Linzy
#36 Gaylord Perry
#37 Ray Sadecki
#38 Leon Wagner
#39 Bob Garibaldi
#40 Mike McCormick
#41 Mike Davison
#42 Bobby Bolin
#44 Willie McCovey
#45 Rich Robertson
#47 Don McMahon

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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