Oct. 18, 2014
How San Francisco Became Giants
In a year of the improbable, the possible has happened for the San Francisco Giants
Travis Ishikawa, once a top prospect with the San Francisco Giants, sent his team to the World Series with a walk off shot against Michael Wacha (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Written by Jake Elman
Way back in the day, when Joe Torre was still manager of the Yankees, the YES Network (the station that broadcasts New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games) used to run this promo titled 'Where Heroes Become Legends." This, if I recall correctly, was aired in the 2007 season, and would feature not Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter, but guys like Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, and Chien-Ming Wang. They were the guys whose jerseys you'd see around the stadium, but you might not think of them if you weren't a Yankee fan or a big baseball fan.
Of course, the promo died after that season as promos normally do. Still, it has to be one of my favorite sports commercials of all time, solely because it captured the Yankees organization and baseball as a whole with that one line - where heroes become legends. It meant that even if you were the highest paid player or the 25th man on the roster, your play could earn you a spot in the history books of time.
Late last night, way across the nation in San Francisco, California, someone decided to bring that idea back.
In a National League Championship Series that featured some of the biggest names in baseball right now - Pablo 'Kung Fu Panda' Sandoval, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina, and others - it was the 'little guys' that arguably made the biggest contributions. Kolten Wong, once the Cardinals' second baseman of the future, to end game two. Joe Panik, formerly of John Jay High School in East Fishkill, New York, in the early parts of game five.
And then...well, a picture says a thousand words, doesn't it?
You have to love Joe Buck's emotion on that call, considering he's received so much scrutiny for a monotone voice during big plays.
For the first time since Bobby Thomson's 'Shot Heard Round The World' in 1951, and on the eleven year anniversary of , the San Francisco Giants won a playoff series courtesy of a walk off home run. The funny thing is, it wasn't Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Michael Morse, or even Joe Panik who hit that walk off. Instead, it was a 31 year old, former highly regarded first baseman with the Giants who, only months ago, was considering retirement.
This was Travis Ishikawa, a first baseman by trade who had played 197 of his 200 career starts at first and had let a ball by Jon Jay go past him earlier in the game. Travis Ishikawa, the man who'd been cut by the Pirates in April to clear a spot for Ike Davis and latched on a minor league deal with his former team, the San Francisco Giants, did something Barry Bonds never did. He did something Jeff Kent, Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey. or Willie Mays was ever able to accomplish. That, friends, is can't predict ball at its finest.
"Yeah, I'm sure he's going to wake up and realize what just happened," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said following the 6-3 victory over the Cardinals. "He's such a great kid. For him to go out and play left field when he hasn't been out there a lot, and not just play, but do a good job. ... I know the one ball [by Jay got past him], but this guy's been a big part of our offense since he's been out there in left field."
“You just feel it with this team,” Ishikawa deep into the San Francisco night. “When you’ve got guys who have been there and done it before, there’s a confidence you can feel.”
And what did Ishikawa, a twenty first round pick way back in 2002, say about the fact it was he who hit the walk off home run?
“Destiny, I guess."
It only makes sense, I guess, that the team so many people had doubts about coming into the postseason would reach the World Series for the third time in five years. This is a team lacking several key members of their pitching rotation due to injury or inefficiency, a team that at times looked like a true World Series team, while resembling a 90 loss team at other times.
Back in May, I right now, only behind Tampa's Joe Maddon, New York's Joe Girardi, and Cleveland's Terry Francona. If I had to change that list, I'd make him number one, and that's not a gut reaction to them making the World Series. There are so many managers that could not win with a team like this, one ridiculed these past few months for prolonged team slumps, but Bochy has proven time and time again that he can handle the big time.
At this point, I'd make the argument Bruce Bochy is on his way to the Hall of Fame once he's done managing, because his numbers speak for themselves. After last night, Bochy is on his way to his third World Series in five years, and his fourth all time. He's four wins away from his third World Series ring, all with the Giants, though we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. After all, you can't predict ball.
We won't see any more baseball until next week, and even if the Giants get outplayed and outmanaged by the Kansas City Royals, we should take these next few days to bask in the aftermath of a superb playoff series. This was easily one of the better National League Championship Series in recent memory, and if you're a baseball fan, this is what you live for. We shouldn't be asking ourselves, "Did the Giants win the series or did the Cardinals lose it," but instead celebrating the fact we got to witness such an awesome five games, capped off by a clutch hit by a player who, not too long ago, almost called it quits.
San Francisco, where heroes become legends.
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