50 Years | Giants in SF | 1971

1971 was known as the year of the Fox -- Charlie Fox, that is. Hey, wasn't Alvin Dark known as the "Swamp Fox" when the Giants last went to the playoffs in 1962? Coincidence?


Record: 90-72 (First Place, National League West)

Ballpark: Candlestick Park

Manager: Charlie Fox

All-Stars (4): Bobby Bonds, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey

The 1971 San Francisco Giants were an interesting blend of youth, experience, bad injuries and good luck, all of which amounted to a very exciting season.

The 1971 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Bobby Bonds RF
  2. Tito Fuentes 2B
  3. Willie Mays CF
  4. Willie McCovey 1B
  5. Ken Henderson LF
  6. Dick Dietz C
  7. Al Gallagher 3B
  8. Hal Lanier SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

The Opening Day lineup remained mostly intact for the majority of the season, with one exception – veteran Hal Lanier soon gave way at shortstop to youngster and Bay Area native Chris Speier, who spent a good portion of the season either leading off or batting second. Another significant change was Willie Mays assuming a part-time role at first base, spelling Willie McCovey who was limited to just 95 games at first, primarily due to a troublesome knee that later required offseason surgery.

Thus with the major power source – McCovey (.277/18/70) – hobbled, the rest of the offense had to come up big to compensate, and for the most part, they did. Bobby Bonds (.288/33/102, 26 steals) had another stellar all-around year, and was awarded with his first All-Star selection, and fellow All-Stars Mays (.271/18/61, with a surprising 23 steals at age 40) and Dick Dietz (.252/19/72) also contributed. Overall the Giants offense mustered 4.36 runs per game, good for third best in the NL.

Juan Marichal (18-11, 2.94) returned for a full season, and won yet another Opening Day start by throwing a complete game five-hit shutout of the San Diego Padres on April 6. Gaylord Perry (16-12, 2.76) put up numbers eerily similar to those of Marichal, including starts (37 each), innings pitched (280 for Perry, 279 for Marichal), and strikeouts (158 to 159). The rest of the starters left something to be desired, but the bullpen came up big at times, including a combined 31 victories for closer Jerry Johnson (12-9, 2.97, 18 saves), reliever Don McMahon (10-6, 4.06), and swingman John Cumberland (9-6, 2.92).

The '71 squad started red hot out of the gate by going 12-2, including nine wins in a row – eight of those coming in the team's first eight games at Candlestick Park. Mays played like a younger Mays possessed, hitting four home runs in his first four games. But pitching was the real story, as the team allowed zero or one runs eight times in April, including back-to-back shutouts of the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium by two youngsters, Steve Stone and Ron Bryant. The first month ended with the Giants sitting atop the NL West at 18-5, five and a half-games up on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

May proved to be no different, as the Giants put together two separate five-game winning streaks to close out the month with a 10 ½ game lead over the Dodgers. With one exception, the team won or split every series they played in the month, including sweeps of the Montreal Expos and the world champion Cincinnati Reds. June began with an early hiccup with five straight losses, but the team more than made up for it later in the month with a seven-game winning streak which included a rare five-game sweep (including two doubleheaders) of the San Diego Padres. When the All-Star break hit in mid-July, the Giants were six games up on the Dodgers in the NL West, and had the second-best record in the NL behind the Pirates.

The second half of the season included plenty of scares for the Giants. Affected by his knee, McCovey slumped in August and sat out a week in early September. And with him went the Giants' fortunes – McCovey's absence began after the first game of a doubleheader against the Houston Astros on September 5, and the Giants lost seven games in a row beginning September 5. McCovey returned for good on September 13, but the team lost four more games in a row to fall to just one game up on the Dodgers on September 16.

1993, however, this was not, and the Giants never relinquished first place. It was close the rest of the way, however – the Dodgers never fell more than three games back down the stretch, and sat just one game out on the last day of the season. Marichal took the bump on September 30 at San Diego Stadium, and promptly threw a complete game five-hitter as the Giants clinched the NL West with a 5-1 victory over the Padres.

Next up for the Giants was a best-of-five game NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who at 97-65 finished with the best record with the NL; however, the Giants must have liked their chances because they had dominated the Pirates in 1971 to the tune of a 9-3 record in head-to-head play. Game 1 at Candlestick Park on October 2 proved no different, as home runs by McCovey and Tito Fuentes backed a complete game effort by Perry in a 5-4 Giants victory.

Unfortunately for the Giants, this victory would prove to be their only one in the series. The Pirates outslugged the Giants 9-4 in Game 2 at Candlestick Park, and after squeaking by Marichal and the Giants 2-1 at Three Rivers Stadium on October 5, again pounded the Giants in Game 4 9-5, breaking a 5-5 tie with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make a loser out of Perry and the Giants. The Pirates followed this up by winning the 1971 World Series in dramatic seven-game fashion over the Baltimore Orioles, with Roberto Clemente earning Series MVP honors.

Despite the playoff shortcomings, 1971 was quite a memorable season for the Giants – leading the NL West for nearly the entire season, dominating early and battling back from injuries and adversity to clinch on the final day of the season. But the 1971 season was also marked by two of the worst trades in franchise history, something that would haunt the franchise for years to come. Oddly, both involved mediocre infielder and Bay Area product Frank Duffy. In late November, the team sent Perry and Duffy to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for perennial All-Star lefty pitcher Sam McDowell, who at age 30 was slightly younger than Perry. Perry, however, would go on to play 12 more big league seasons McDowell's four, and win two Cy Young awards to McDowell's zero. Much less scrutinized at the time was an earlier midseason trade that sent young outfielder George Foster to the Reds in exchange for Duffy and pitcher Vern Geishert. Duffy was traded away a few months later and Geishert never pitched for the Giants; however, Foster went on club home run after home run for the Reds, where he won the NL MVP award in 1977.

Any ballclub could have used the above two players. The post-1971 Giants could have used them in a major way. Stay tuned…

The complete 1971 roster:

#2 Dick Dietz

#5 Fran Healy

#8 Dave Rader

#10 Al Gallagher

#14 Frank Duffy

#14 George Foster

#15 Ken Henderson

#16 Jim Ray Hart

#17 Bob Heise

#18 Russ Gibson

#19 Jim Willoughby

#20 Bernie Williams

#22 Hal Lanier

#23 Tito Fuentes

#24 Willie Mays

#25 Bobby Bonds

#26 Floyd Wicker

#27 Juan Marichal

#28 Jerry Johnson

#30 Don Carrithers

#31 Chris Arnold

#32 Ron Bryant

#33 Jim Barr

#33 Steve Stone

#34 Ed Goodson

#35 Chris Speier

#36 Gaylord Perry

#37 Jim Howarth

#37 Frank Johnson

#38 Steve Hamilton

#39 Frank Reberger

#40 John Cumberland

#43 Jimmy Rosario

#44 Willie McCovey

#45 Dave Kingman

#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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