The Giants Winning the 1962 National League Playoff

Here’s how the San Francisco Chronicle described the ninth-inning rally with which the Giants took a 6-4 lead over the Dodgers in the deciding game of the three-game playoff for the National League pennant in 1962:

Matty Alou, swinging for winning pitcher Don Larsen [yes, that Don Larsen], singled sharply into right field, and the afternoon somehow seemed to suddenly light up. A little of that brightness was wiped away when Harvey Kuenn forced Matty at second, and even manager Alvin Dark slumped slightly on the dugout steps as he glowered down at the tobacco juice-strewn floor.

But Willie McCovey, hitting for Chuck Hiller, walked on four pitches as Roebuck measured the big man’s strike area too finely.

Ernie Bowman went to first base to become McCovey’s legs, and Roebuck continued, with glaze in his eyes.

The great Dodger fireman, 10-1 by the books in 64 relief appearances, walked Felipe Alou, and the bases were loaded. The Dodgers were on their way out, their 4-2 lead in jeopardy, their dugout in a state of stunned and silent disbelief.

Willie Mays was next, and he crashed a horrendous blow back at Roebuck that Ed knocked down but could not retrieve in time to make a play. Kuenn scored. It was 4-3. Ecstasy began to sneak up on agony.

Stan Williams replaced the stricken Roebuck on the mound.

Orlando Cepeda, who had contributed the early agony by leaving base-runners stranded all over the Southland, crashed a line drive deep into right field, and Bowman danced home after the catch. It was 4-4, and the Giants in the dugout were going out of their cotton-pickin’ minds.

While pitching to Ed Bailey, Williams unleashed a wild pitch, and Felipe Alou and Mays moved up a base, leaving first base open. Dodger manager Walt Alston closed it by ordering Bailey purposely passed, loading the bases again.

Then, in their final moments of humiliation, the club that spent almost half the season looking back at the pursuing Giants collapsed. Williams walked Jimmy Davenport on the three-and-two, forcing Felipe home with the run that took 165 games and six months to arrive.

It was 5-4.

But the inning wasn’t over. The Dodgers had one more dignity-robbing move to make, and second-baseman Larry Burright made it. With Ron Perranoski now on the mound, Jose Pagan grounded to Burright, and Larry kicked the life out of it for an error. Mays exploded home with the insurance run, making Los Angeles’ impending ninth a little more bearable.

To finish off the game, Billy Pierce put Dodgers Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, and Lee Walls down in order, with Mays catching the Walls fly ball. Then Mays “went into a wild dance, threw the ball toward the right field stands, and the next moments were delirious. Giants cried, tugged, hauled, grabbed for Pierce, for Dark, for each other, in a wild melee in front of the dugout. It was pandemonium. It was majestic.”

I’ve gathered up a bit more on the Giants run in response to them winning the pennant in 2010. A few quotes from the postgame celebration:

Willie Mays: “Honestly I never thought we’d do it. I never thought we’d come back to win. . . never in a million years.

“This was it. This was the pressure. We won, see, we won. We got no time to worry about the Yankees now, we’ll take them as they come.

“This is my third World Series. I feel real good about the young fellows. I’m getting a big kick out of it it, but look at them–they’re wild. It’s wonderful.. You know, we’ve got so many fine young ball players on this club, we should be up there fighting for the pennant for a long time. Me? Well, I hope to play for seven or eight years.”

Giants manager Alvin Dark: “I always felt like a play-off [would happen]. Way back when we were four out, I felt like a play-off. This series certainly renews a man’s faith.”

On the ninth-inning rally to beat the Dodgers: “When the inning began, I wished for two things to happen. I was hoping we could get one of our first two hitters–pinch-hitter Matty Alou or Harvey Kuenn–on base so I could send Willie McCovey, our left-handed power hitter, up to hit against their pitcher, Ed Roebuck.

“Naturally, I was fully aware that a home run by McCovey in a spot like this would tie the score. My other wish was to somehow get the tying run to third base with Willie Mays at bat. Who else would any manager rather have up there?

“Fortunately, I got both wishes.”

Willie McCovey: “This is the greatest moment in my life.”

The Chronicle reported that in the clubhouse,

Jose Pagan was intrigued by the entry of ex-Vice President Nixon. After Nixon recited the life history of Billy Pierce to the press, including Billy’s near-perfect game in 1957 against Washington, Jose muscled in and extended his hand.

For the first time Nixon fumbled. “Er . . . I beg your pardon but I don’t recognize you without your working clothes,” said Nixon. “Who are you?”

“I am Jose Pagan. I am happy you are here.”

The former Veep never received a warmer greeting from a Latin American neighbor.

When the Giants flew back to the city that night to start the Series the next day, it was a madhouse. The Chronicle covered the scene:

At about midnight last night, Police Chief Thomas Cahill said he had “close to 300” men deployed on Market, more than he has ever used on a New Year’s Eve.

“They’re really running wild,” he said. “Fights all over town–in bars and on the streets.”

The peak was at the airport, where the crowd was so eager to greet the team it was impossible for the Giants’ United Air Lines jet to pull up to its regular unloading area.
Instead, while the mob surrounded the jet concourse and climbed on luggage and equipment for a better view, the plane from Los Angeles unloaded its pennant-winning passengers at the United maintenance terminal, a mile to the north.

It was “by far the largest crowd ever seen at the airport,” said Captain Jack O’Brien of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Scores of late-coming fans simply left their cars on the Bayshore Freeway and hiked to the passenger terminal.

“We’re as happy as anybody else about the Giants, but this is ridiculous,” protested a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. “There’s not a thing we can do. Our cars can’t get through.”

The crowd was so thick at Concourse B, the United jet loading area, that regular flights couldn’t taxi up under their own power. To prevent injuries from jet blasts, planes were towed to their gates by tractors.

Neither appeals nor trickery succeeded in controlling the mob. . . .

Finally, shortly after 9 o’clock, when the Giants were safely unloaded from their plane, the crowd was informed that the team had been taken to the maintenance base “for their own safety.”

But the disappointment was brief. Moments later, the crowd spied the team’s special bus, roaring along an airport taxiway an escort of police cars and motorcycles.
The crowd surged out, surrounding the caravan and bringing it to a halt.

Police Chief Thomas Cahill, who gave the 75,000 estimate of crowd size, stood guard with a dozen officers.

“If we had been a thousand, we never could have held back that happy crowd,” Cahill said. “They pushed so hard I nearly became part of the bus.”

Superintendent of Schools Harold Spears announced that he would “encourage” his principals to keep the city’s pupils informed of the inning-by-inning progress of World Series games: the first game of the series was starting at noon on a Thursday in Candlestick Park.

“It’s a big day in San Francisco,” he said, “and it will certainly carry over into the schools. It’s going to be a day where they can’t get along without that information.”

Acting Mayor Harold Dobbs said: “Our school children are among the Giants’ most enthusiastic fans, and I want this first World Series in San Francisco to be an event all of them as well as all of us can look back and remember with great pride as the tremendous event that it is.”

And the Chronicle’s legendary Herb Caen had this to say to the Yankees:

I know there are lots of things you’d like to do besides play baseball, since you’ve never been here before, and we want you to do them. You’re probably as sick of baseball as baseball is sick of–but no; politeness at all cost.

[At Candlestick] look at the way the wind plays with the hot dog wrappers. And remember that it’s the only ballyard in the world in which a sportscaster was once heard to say: “it’s a hard drive to dead center–no–it’s drifting a little–FOUL!”

On behalf of all San Franciscans, we bid you welcome, Yankees. Welcome to a city that has always been big league, and has made major leaguers out of a club that had bush league support in New York. The cry around here used to be “Wait till next year!”, but next year is here at least, and now all we’re waiting for is you.

Finally, here are a couple more pictures of the Chronicle’s coverage of the Giants run to the 1962 pennant. (With 165 games played by the Dodgers and Giants, it was the longest season in mlb history.) This, from the end of the regular season:

This, from the coverage of the post-playoff celebration:

For those of you who’ve gotten this far, two last tidbits you might enjoy. Before game 3 of the N.L. playoff, the Chronicle reported from L.A.: “I have,” said portly Alfred Hitchcock, siting erect and dignified at a table with his wife, “the utmost confidence in the ultimate defeat of the Giants–the good guys always win in our fair city.”

And a day earlier, the Chronicle said:

Don Drysdale will not pitch in today’s second game of the National League playoff, according to Dodger manager Walt Alston, and Don is fuming about it. “What the Hell,” Drysdale snapped yesterday. “Are they saving me for the first spring intrasquad game?”

Alston: “I could take a chance and pitch Drysdale with two days’ rest. . . . Drysdale wants to pitch, and that’s a good sign, but he would be going with only two days’ rest for the third time lately.”

Drysdale did wind up starting game 2. In ’62, Drysdale was starting a five-year stretch of making at least 40 starts a year, and he’d already made 8 starts in September, before pitching game 2 of the playoff.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great article, for a fan of the baseball 60’s like myself.

    Why was Lee Walls hitting in the number three spot in the LA lineup?

  2. For the Dodgers losing 6 to 4, a day of infamy.

  3. I remember listening to the dramatic top of the 9th in the final playoff game…it was between classes at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento. They’d already scored 3 runs to take the lead, 5-4. I’ll never forget Lon Simmons’ call…”Pagan grounds to 2nd, Burright fumbles it!, Mays scores to make it 6-4, Giants”. Nothing like the magic of baseball on the radio…

  4. Beat LA!! Always

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