50 Years | Giants in SF | 1972

An end of an era… a winning era. Fans were probably lamenting, "Where have you gone, Say Hey Kid?" The mixture of veterans and up-and-comers that worked so well the previous season didn't quite pan out in 1972.


Record: 69-86 (Fifth, National League West)

Ballpark: Candlestick Park

Manager: Charlie Fox

All-Stars (2): Willie Mays, Chris Speier

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 1972 Opening Day Lineup:

  1. Willie Mays CF
  2. Tito Fuentes 2B
  3. Ken Henderson LF
  4. Willie McCovey 1B
  5. Bobby Bonds RF
  6. Dave Kingman 3B
  7. Fran Healy C
  8. Chris Speier SS
  9. Juan Marichal P

Continuing the trend set the previous season, the 1972 lineup was in constant flux. Young Fran Healy got the nod at catcher on Opening Day because the Giants parted ways with former All-Star backstop Dick Dietz the day before the season began (Dietz was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers). Healy soon gave way to another youngster, Dave Rader, who ended up finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Willie McCovey suffered a broken arm in a collision with San Diego Padres catcher John Jeter early in the season, and was out for two months. Youngster Dave Kingman filled in at first base, and also split time at third base with incumbent Al Gallagher. But by far the biggest roster splash was the departure of Willie Mays in a trade to the New York Mets in exchange for reliever Charlie Williams and cash on May 11. Mays was batting a paltry .184 at the time of the trade; however, economics also played a part in the trade, as Giants owner Horace Stoneham was losing money and couldn't guarantee Mays a job after his playing days were over.

With Dietz and Mays traded, and McCovey (.213 BA/14 HR/35 RBI) again limited by injury, the rest of the offense had to muster up runs, and led by several youngsters the Giants offense responded fairly well given the situation. Bobby Bonds (.259/26/80, 44 steals) again was the focal point of the offense, but he did not lead the team in homers – this distinction went to the hard-swinging Kingman (.225/29/83). Twenty-two-year old Garry Maddox (.266/12/58) took over a starting outfielder position, and another 22-year old, starting shortstop Chris Speier (.269/15/71), made the All-Star team. All in all, the team finished fifth in the NL with 4.27 runs per game, not bad for such a young offense – aside from McCovey, no other regular position player was older than 28.

The 1972 pitching carousel, however, was a different story. Juan Marichal (6-16, 3.71) started out fine by pitching eight shutout innings against the Houston Astros on April 15 for another Opening Day victory; however, the rest of his season didn't follow suit. Sam McDowell (10-8, 4.33), the player the Giants received in the Gaylord Perry trade in the offseason, never lived up to his former All-Star pedigree. Surprisingly, the best lefty starter in 1972 turned out to be 24-year old Ron Bryant (14-7, 2.90, four shutouts). But neither Bryant nor any other member of the enlarged starting rotation -- Charlie Fox used a total of ten different pitchers to start a game in 1972 -- could prevent the team from finishing fourth from last in the NL in team ERA (3.69).

Things quickly turned sour after the Giants won their first two series of the season, taking two out of three on the road against the Astros and the San Diego Padres. The Giants proceeded to lose their next five series, including sweeps at the hands of the Mets, Montreal Expos, and the Astros for the Giants opening series at Candlestick Park. Adding insult to injury, Mays' first game as a Met was versus the Giants at Shea Stadium on May 14, and he drove in what would be the game-winning run with a solo homer as the Mets defeated the Giants 5-4. This three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets (a repeat occurrence within the span of two weeks) dropped San Francisco to a woeful 9-19, good for dead last in the NL.

McCovey returned to the lineup on June 3 and homered in the game, but he was right on time to join the Giants on an eight-game losing streak that dropped the team to 17-39, the lowest point of the season. However, after this streak the team managed to play .500 ball, and actually played winning baseball until the All-Star break to finish the first half of the season at 41-52, 16 1/2 games behind the front-running Cincinnati Reds.

With such a large deficit to make up in the second half, the Giants failed to muster any sort of sustained charge. September was not kind to the ballclub, as losing streaks of four and eight games served to keep the team down. The Giants finished the regular season with a five-game winning streak at home, but by then just about all of San Francisco was looking forward to next season, since a finishing record of 69-86 was good for a distant fifth place in the NL West, behind the pennant-winning Reds. Bay Area fans, however, had an alternative reason to rejoice, however, as the cross town Oakland Athletics defeated these Reds in seven games to win the 1972 World Series.

A season like the Giants had in 1972 just begged for offseason changes, and the front office obliged somewhat. Starters Ken Henderson and Steve Stone were shipped off to the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Tom Bradley in November. But the most significant signing for the Giants' future was that of the amateur free agent John Montefusco. The Count, however, would not be ready until 1974. Could the team wait and rebound in 1973? Stay tuned…

The complete 1972 roster:

#6 Fran Healy

#10 Al Gallagher

#12 Gary Thomasson

#14 Dave Rader

#15 Ken Henderson

#16 Jim Ray Hart

#17 Chris Arnold

#18 Russ Gibson

#19 Jim Howarth

#20 Bernie Williams

#21 Ed Goodson

#22 Damaso Blanco

#22 Jimmy Rosario

#23 Tito Fuentes

#24 Willie Mays

#25 Bobby Bonds

#26 Dave Kingman

#27 Juan Marichal

#28 Jerry Johnson

#29 Steve Stone

#30 Don Carrithers

#31 Garry Maddox

#32 Ron Bryant

#33 Jim Barr

#35 Chris Speier

#36 Gary Matthews

#38 Elias Sosa

#38 Charlie Williams

#39 Randy Moffitt

#41 John Cumberland

#41 Frank Reberger

#42 John Morris

#42 Jim Willoughby

#44 Willie McCovey

#47 Don McMahon

#48 Sam McDowell

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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