San Francisco — Leo Durocher was playing enough baseball to know what the moment demanded. Sportsmanship, personal approval of work done well by rivals. Jackie Robinson showed him the way.
Duroche was in control of the New York Giants in 1951 when Homer, who won the Bobby Thomson pennant, leveled the Brooklyn Dodgers. Even after such a fierce defeat, Robinson visited the Giants clubhouse and congratulated him.
“I knew Jackie was bleeding inside,” Duroche wrote in his famous memoir, “Nice Guy Finish Last.” “He wanted to congratulate someone in the world other than me. Still, Jackie came with a smile.”
Well, it was 1962 on the west coast, and the Giants reunited in the ninth inning, stunning the Dodgers for a pennant and leading a full-base walk. The Dodgers coach at the time, Duroche, wanted to do something elegant.
“But I couldn’t do that because I was sitting there without removing the spikes,” he wrote. We have listed the many Dodgers that led the team to 102 wins. “The seven key players who have had the best season of their career, and we couldn’t shake the Giants.”
One team should feel the same on Thursday night at 24 Willie Mays Plaza by San Francisco Bay. The process of determining pennants is different from 1962, but these facts are the same. The Giants and Dodgers had the same number of victories, more than any other major team. Only one will survive.
In 1962, the team drew 101-61 after 162 games, setting the World Series berth in the endangered best three playoffs. This year, both teams are aiming for their 110th overall victory in the finale of the Top 5 National League Division Series.
Given the strength of both teams, it’s a shame that there’s nothing more on the line than a date with the Atlanta Braves in the NL Championship Series. But this season was really strange. The Dodgers had the highest number of franchise wins at 106, but finished second in the NL West, behind the Giants, who set the franchise record at 107.
As a wildcard participant in the playoffs, the Dodgers drew a fourth seed. They defeated the St. Louis Cardinals last Wednesday and set up this clash with the Giants. The team alternated between the Giants Shutout, the Dodgers Rout, and the Repeat results, and landed in a confrontation between all the winners, reflecting the era of Duroche, Robinson, and Maze.
“In any sport, if your cross-generational rivals are playing a meaningful series, in this case a very meaningful game, all that story comes back to life,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Said on Wednesday. “Competition between these generations is like the foundation of this sport, making it an American pastime.”
Roberts will know: he played for both the Dodgers and the Giants, and his stolen base caused a comeback to break the Boston Red Sox curse over the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series. Their rivals met in a seven-game epic both in 2003 and 2004, but due to all the star power in their roster, they were neither a 100-win team.
The finale of this Division Series between Los Angeles and San Francisco is the fifth in baseball history, with a pair of 100-winning teams confronting each other in a post-season winner-taking game. (The 1962 playoffs were technically part of the regular season.) The Giants and Dodgers are on the list. One is long ago and the other is recent.
1912 World Series
Game 8 (Game 2 ends in a draw): Boston Red Sox (105-47), New York Giants (103-48), 3-2 in 10 innings
It’s on a short list of the best games in baseball history. Christy Mathewson, famous for shutting out three times in the 1905 World Series, took a 2-1 lead at Fenway Park.
Giants center-fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped the flyball and made a highlight-worthy catch to save a long hit (if the highlight was present). However, Matthewson walked on to the next batter and called off second baseman Fred Merkle with an untouched foul ball. Given a new life, Tris Speaker chose Tyinglan as his home, and Larry Gardner’s sacrifice fly won the Boston title.
1931 World Series
Round 7: St. Louis Cardinals (101-53), Philadelphia Athletics (107-45), 4-2
A was trying to be the first team to win the World Series three times in a row, but with little success. They kept Pepper Martin hitless — he was 21-12 in the first six games — but Andy High and George Watkins both scored first and third.
When Doc Cramer singled Home 2 against tired Burleigh Grimes, A couldn’t compete until one away from exclusion. Bill Harahan, who won two complete games, made it to the final.
Cardinals continues to be a fairly regular World Series participant, but A hasn’t returned for 41 years. By that time, they were playing in Auckland. So they finally got the 3 Pete and won the championship in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Game 5: Kansas City Royals (102-60) Yankees (100-62), 5-3
It was bad enough for the Royals to lose the last year’s top five ALCS on a home run by Chris Chambliss away from Mark Littell at the chaotic Yankee Stadium. This time, the Royals returned home and took a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning in search of the first pennant.
The Yankees didn’t make it happen and reunited in three runs from Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura and Ritter. The Mickey Rivers single drove in Thailand, and Willie Randolph’s sacrifice fly led the Yankees. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Mike Torrez shut out after five and three shutout innings, and Sparky Lyle finished the game with a double play grounder and sent the Yankees to the World Series.
Reggie Jackson, who was put on the bench by Billy Martin for this game, made the series his own with three home runs in the Game 6 Clincher on the Dodgers.
2017 World Series
Round 7: Houston Astros (101-61) over Dodgers (104-58), 5-1
This was before the exposure of the electronic signature theft that hurt the Astros championship run. But it’s worth remembering that Houston clinched this World Series on the streets. There was no help from the noisy Minute Maid Park trash can.
This game was mostly decided before the sun set in Los Angeles. George Springer double-rushed the lead-off to the left, first scoring a slow error on the Astros’ two runs, and then chasing the Dodgers starter Yu Darvish on a two-run home run.
At that point the Astros were 5-0 and the starter Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t last long (hit four batters), but the Dodgers couldn’t solve Charlie Morton. He closed the 5-1 victory with four dominant innings, pulling Corey Seager away from José Altuve.
Seger entered the Dodgers three years later against Tampa Bay and won .400 to win the World Series Best Player Award. The Dodgers had an impressive title defense this season, but couldn’t completely beat the Giants during the regular season — and Thursday will be their last chance.