A Giant Wait: from Will Clark to Aubrey Huff

I’ve been waiting 23 years for this. No, I can’t quite claim like Mike Murphy and many others that I’ve been waiting 52 years for a World Series championship in San Francisco, but I can safely say I’ve been waiting 23 years for this. And for me it all connects with who was playing first base.

It all started with the 1987 Topps Complete Set. I has just been introduced to baseball cards by my dad, and there were two cards I went hunting for – Mark McGwire and Giants number 22, playing first base – Will Clark. Far and away, my favorite player of all time. I collected every single card of his from 1987 till 1992. I won a random drawing to be the Milk Duds Celebrity Bat Boy for a day, which meant I got to sit in the dugout at Candlestick before the game, get autographs, a picture with then-hitting coach Dusty Baker, and the best part – I got to meet Will Clark. Giants fan for life cemented.

1989 came and went, swept away by the boys across the bay (my second favorite team). I wasn’t old enough to realize the history yet. Just saw that my favorite player didn’t win the World Series.

In 1993 they went 103-59 and didn’t make the playoffs. When Will Clark left after the 1993 season, I was heartbroken. To the Texas Rangers? Texas? From that point forward, it was a three-year gargantuan struggle to fill first base. Todd Benzinger? J. R. Phillips? Mark Carreon?

Ahh, but then J. T. Snow came along, and hope re-emerged. Once number 6 took over at first base, the Giants had a string of eight straight seasons contending all the way to the last week. There was 1997, when they lost to the Marlins in the first round. 2000, losing to the Mets.

Then 2002. 2002. We watched the woe-inducing Game 6 on tape, already knowing the result. Crushed.

2003, Snow gets thrown out at the plate. The Bonds era on the decline. The first baseman parade continued – Hillenbrand, Klesko, Bowker, Ishikawa.

Something happened though, something special in 2010. It all changed with first base, a guy named Aubrey Huff. The 2010 Giants leader in the metric Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 5.9, a spot inhabited for 13 seasons by a man named Bonds, and by another guy named Lincecum from 2008-9. Note that their regular season record in 1989, their last World Series appearance was 92-70. 2010? 92-70. Most important player in 1989? Will Clark, 9.4 WAR.

Year Tm W L Finish Playoffs Top Player Managers
2010 San Francisco Giants 92 70 1st of 5 Won WS (4-1) A.Huff (5.9) Bruce Bochy (92-70)
2009 San Francisco Giants 88 74 3rd of 5 T.Lincecum (6.3) Bruce Bochy (88-74)
2008 San Francisco Giants 72 90 4th of 5 T.Lincecum (7.0) Bruce Bochy (72-90)
2007 San Francisco Giants 71 91 5th of 5 M.Cain (3.7) Bruce Bochy (71-91)
2006 San Francisco Giants 76 85 3rd of 5 B.Bonds (4.6) Felipe Alou (76-85)
2005 San Francisco Giants 75 87 3rd of 5 R.Winn (3.9) Felipe Alou (75-87)
2004 San Francisco Giants 91 71 2nd of 5 B.Bonds (12.4) Felipe Alou (91-71)
2003 San Francisco Giants 100 61 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-1) B.Bonds (10.3) Felipe Alou (100-61)
2002 San Francisco Giants 95 66 2nd of 5 Lost WS (4-3) B.Bonds (12.2) Dusty Baker (95-66)
2001 San Francisco Giants 90 72 2nd of 5 B.Bonds (12.5) Dusty Baker (90-72)
2000 San Francisco Giants 97 65 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-1) B.Bonds (8.7) Dusty Baker (97-65)
1999 San Francisco Giants 86 76 2nd of 5 B.Bonds (4.0) Dusty Baker (86-76)
1998 San Francisco Giants 89 74 2nd of 5 B.Bonds (9.3) Dusty Baker (89-74)
1997 San Francisco Giants 90 72 1st of 4 Lost LDS (3-0) B.Bonds (8.8) Dusty Baker (90-72)
1996 San Francisco Giants 68 94 4th of 4 B.Bonds (10.8) Dusty Baker (68-94)
1995 San Francisco Giants 67 77 4th of 4 B.Bonds (7.3) Dusty Baker (67-77)
1994 San Francisco Giants 55 60 2nd of 4 B.Bonds (6.4) Dusty Baker (55-60)
1993 San Francisco Giants 103 59 2nd of 7 B.Bonds (10.6) Dusty Baker (103-59)
1992 San Francisco Giants 72 90 5th of 6 W.Clark (4.4) Roger Craig (72-90)
1991 San Francisco Giants 75 87 4th of 6 M.Williams (4.9) Roger Craig (75-87)
1990 San Francisco Giants 85 77 3rd of 6 B.Butler (4.5) Roger Craig (85-77)
1989 San Francisco Giants 92 70 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-0) W.Clark (9.4) Roger Craig (92-70)
1988 San Francisco Giants 83 79 4th of 6 B.Butler (7.2) Roger Craig (83-79)
1987 San Francisco Giants 90 72 1st of 6 Lost NLCS (4-3) W.Clark (4.6) Roger Craig (90-72)

The improbable 2010 run stretched through the season, including falling way down in the standings only to climb back, with the whole cast of characters contributing to a playoff berth clinched in Game 162. Ross. Burrell. Posey. Torres. Cain. Sanchez and Sanchez. Uribe. The list goes on. Come playoffs, there was nail-biting win after nail-biting win, and somehow it seemed like everything was coming together. Down go the venerable Braves. Down go the mighty Phillies. On came the Texas Rangers. 20 runs in two games. One blight, a Game 3 loss, followed up by Bumgarner’s brilliant 8 innings in Game 4. Then came Game 5, Giants up 3 games to 1, a masterful pitching duel between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, scoreless through 6. When Renteria hit the 3-run homer in the seventh, it seemed like the end was truly near. Full count, bottom of the ninth, Brian Wilson on the mound. Strike three. Pandemonium in the Kuo household. Joy in the city of San Francisco. The 2010 Giants had won the World Series.

I got to go to the victory parade. Winning feels great. Especially after 23 years.

Buster Posey in the Victory Parade (San Francisco, 2010). Nikon D200, 80-200mm f/2.8D, 1/320s, f/4, ISO 400.

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