For the eighth time in the history of the franchise, the San Francisco Giants are World Series champions.
Actually, the folks in San Francisco have celebrated only the last three titles (in the last 11 years). Before 1957, the Giants were located in New York – usually playing in the shadow of the Yankees and Dodgers.
The Giants beat the Yankees in the World Series two years in a row in 1921 and 1922, with Babe Ruth hitting his first World Series home run in the ninth inning of the fourth game in the 1921 Series. But the Yankees won their next five World Series matchups with the Giants – in 1923, 1936, 1937, 1951 and 1962.
When the Giants beat the Washington Senators in five games in the 1933 World Series, a young outfielder from New Orleans named Mel Ott hit two of the Giants’ three home runs in the Series. Ott went on to finish a 22-year major league career third in career homers behind Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx, and was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. He also held National League records for homers (511), runs (1,859), runs batted in (1,860), extra base hits (1,071), bases on balls (1,708) and total bases (5,041). But a generation later, he would be the answer to a trivia question regarding a comment by Leo Durocher.
Before a July 5, 1946, game at the Polo Grounds, broadcaster Red Barber was needling Durocher. the Giants’ fiery manager, about his reputation as a hothead.
“Why don’t you be a nice guy for a change, Leo?” asked Barber.
Durocher stood up, waving his arms, and yelled, “A nice guy!” Then he pointed to Ott in the Giants’ dugout and said, “You ever see a nicer guy than Mel Ott? And where is he? In last place! Me, I’m not a nice guy. But I’m in first!”
Later, his words would be changed to “Nice guys finish last.” But that wasn’t what Durocher said, and it wasn’t what he meant. His point was that nice guys don’t enjoy any more success than jerks.
When Ott was a 16-year-old kid playing for a semi-pro team called the Patterson Grays before his senior year at Gretna High, he received a post card with the words, “Report to McGraw, Polo Grounds, New York.” He thought it was a practical joke, but it wasn’t.
McGraw was considering using him as a catcher. But Ott’s size (5-9, 170 pounds) didn’t measure up to major league standards at that position, so he moved him to the outfield. But McGraw didn’t fool with Ott’s unique batting style of lifting his lead foot about a foot off the ground as he stepped into a pitch, and he didn’t allow any of his minor league managers to change it, either.
Another Louisiana product who helped the New York Giants win a World Series was Alvin Dark of Lake Charles. He started his major league career with the Boston Braves, but was traded to the Giants in 1950 and led the National League in doubles with 41 when the 1951 Giants erased a 13-1/2 game deficit to beat the Dodgers in a playoff game for the pennant. Dark had a .289 career batting average in a 14-year major league career.
Although the Giants were never able to match the Yankees’ postseason success, they usually took care of business when they reached the World Series before and after they moved to the West Coast – and that’s exactly what they did this year.
I don’t know whether this Giants team has a bunch of nice guys like Ott, or a bunch of jerks like Durocher. Don’t know, and don’t care. But they were good enough to win another World Series championship, and that’s how they’ll be remembered.