In this new series I’ll be taking you back 50 years periodically to the 1971 San Francisco Giants team. That 1971 Giants team is one of my favorite Giants teams during my 63 year love affair with the San Francisco Giants. 1971 was the last stand for the super-talented Giants teams of the 1960’s that I grew up following passionately. Within a year the incomparable Willie Mays and future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry would be traded. In late 1973 Giants legends and Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey would follow Perry and Mays out of San Francisco. Now let’s go back half a century to relive some Giants history.
June 29, 1971
Fifty years ago tonight the Giants beat the Padres in San Diego 6-4. Don Carrithers, newly called up from Phoenix, got the win with 5 innings of 1 hit relief work. Carrithers struck out 5, walked 1 and only allowed a Nate Colbert home run leading off the bottom of the ninth.
But, the highlight was the 40 year-old Giants captain, Willie Mays, breaking a 0-21 slump with a long home run with two down in the ninth. Willie’s at bat was a real battle. He worked the count full and fouled off four more before connecting. The Say Hey Kid got a reprieve when one of the foul’s was a pop-up that Padres catcher Bob Barton, a former Giant, collided with third baseman Ed Spiezio and dropped it. Note: Ed Spiezio is the father of Scott Spiezio who shattered my heart when with the Giants leading 5-0 in the 6th game of the 2002 World Series he hit a 3-run homer in the 7th inning to get the Angels back in the game. The Angels won that game and game 7 crushing my dream of witnessing a Giants World Series championship celebration in person!
Back to June 29th 1971. Here’s what Mays said after the game.
“I don’t know what he was throwing at me. I just wanted to hit him.” said Mays, prone on Doc Hughes’ training table getting a rub down. Willie wasn’t even aware of the fouls. “I just want a hit anytime,” he said. “I’m tired. I’ve been playing a lot and I need rest. But I have to play. Man, I can’t even lift my arms lately.”
The 40 year-old superstar, Mays, wore down as the 1971 season continued. His homer that night in San Diego was his 14th of the season and the 642nd of his aMaysing career. He would only hit 4 more home runs in 1971, his last home runs in a Giants uniform. Shockingly, Mays was traded to the New York Mets in early May of 1972. I was 20 years old and alarmed my co-workers by breaking down in tears at work.
The win boosted the Giants lead over the Dodgers to 6 ½ games with a record of 50-28, best in the National League and second only to the Oakland Athletics’ 50-25. Like this season, the epicenter of quality baseball was the Bay Area. Across the Bay Bridge Vida Blue was setting baseball on fire with his Blue Blazer. Bay Area heads were swirling with dreams of a Bay Bridge World Series, 18 years before it happened.