From the archives: The 1993 San Francisco Giants
Posted on August 29, 2013
Will Clark of the San Francisco Giants sits dejectedly in the dugout after a game that the Giants lost during their eight game losing streak at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California in September of 1993. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
It’s no secret that this year’s version of the San Francisco Giants team is playing out the string with five weeks of garbage time left before the miserable 2013 season is over. It has been a hard season for many Giants fans to understand and endure. For the newer fans who think they should win a World Series every year who are out there complaining I would like to share the story of the 1993 orange and black- the greatest baseball team San Francisco has ever had.
The Giants entered the 1993 season full of optimism as the franchise had been saved for the city and kept from moving to St. Petersburg, Florida by a new ownership group led by Peter Magowan and Larry Baer. The fans were thrilled to welcome local kid Barry Bonds back to the Bay Area as baseball’s highest paid free agent. Popular coach Dusty Baker was named manager of the ball club and many Giants fans, myself included, couldn’t wait for spring training to start.
When March of 1993 rolled around I was slogging through the worst job I ever had. I was a staff photographer at my hometown paper, The Argus in Fremont, California. The paper was owned and operated by the evil Dean Singleton. The place sucked and I needed to get away. What better place than Scottsdale, Arizona?
I took off for spring training with my good friend, fellow photographer and Associated Press legend Eric Risberg. We spent a week shooting Giants games at the magnificent new Scottsdale Stadium that opened up the year before on the site of the old ballpark. We dined at the Pink Pony and Don & Charlies and had the time of our lives. We were excited for opening day at Candlestick Park and couldn’t wait for the regular season to begin.
I still remember the Southwest flight home from Phoenix. I was not fired up about going back to my shitty job the next day. Spring training had been so much fun, but I knew once I went back to work there would be more frustrations. I would shoot boy scout meetings, houses being fumigated, and art and wine festivals for a miserable group of editors. Little did I know the real bad news that awaited me when I got home. My dad (pictured above) was sick, and things did not look good.
With my dad battling cancer and my job sucking so bad the 1993 Giants were my beacon of positive light. Due to my newspaper job I was not able to shoot many of the home games in the early part of the season, but I watched almost every one on television with my dad, enjoying the great broadcasts on SportsChannel Pacific. If I wasn’t near a TV the great Hank Greenwald described the thrilling action on KNBR as the Giants started to pile up wins. When I was at the ballpark the voice of new public address announcer Sherry Davis (pictured above) sang out across the yard, and I was left yearning for my favorite PA announcer from the 1970’s, the great Ralph Nelson.
It’s funny how things work out in life. My parents were living in my childhood home in Fremont. I was living in Newark, the next town over, and was working at the local paper. I had tons of free time during (cruising around for features- ha!) and after work . I spent this time hanging out with my dad and looking forward to that days game. Because of my bad job as was able to see my dad every day.
Of course the guy who was most electrifying on the team and the fun to watch was Barry Bonds. Bonds came to the Giants with the well-deserved reputation of being a great player and a bad guy, and man did he deliver both ways! I never had the chance to see Willie Mays play in person, so Bonds instantly became the best player I had ever seen play on a daily basis.
In 1993 Bonds was still a Gold Glove left fielder. With his amazing spin move and quick release that he learned from Bill Virdon in Pittsburgh no opponent dared try for a double on a ball hit down the line in left. In spite of his weak arm the footwork and aggressiveness Bonds showed in the field gave him a reputation. Opposing hitters had to settle for long singles, and fans began to appreciate what a complete ballplayer #25 was.
As June drew to a close the Giants were playing great ball and my dad wasn’t doing so well. I have a very bizarre memory and so many moments that I can recall are based on Giants games. Who they were playing. Where the game was. Who won. These are the details that I remember when my dad spent his final week with us in Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, CA. The Giants were on an old school east coast road trip- the kind they used to go on when the schedule made sense: Mets, Expos, and Phillies. They were also kicking ass.
I remember following these games from the hospital, and it seemed like the Giants scored at least 10 runs every game (they actually scored 10 runs or more in 6 out of 8 games on the trip). Steve Scarsone was even getting big hits! It was during this road trip that my father died, on July 9, 1993. I know it wounds funny, but being able to watch the Giants on television that weekend against the Phillies from The Vet helped take my mind off things.
Losing my dad made me realize that life was too short and it was crazy for me to continue working at the awful newspaper. It was time to quit my job and start freelancing full-time. My good friend V.J. Lovero encouraged me to turn in my two-weeks notice at work. I had started doing a few assignments for Sports Illustrated, Upper Deck, and the NBA in 1993 and thought it was time to give up on my job that paid me a whopping $550 a week.
Because the Giants were having such a great season they were getting national attention. Sports Illustrated baseball picture editor Laurel Frankel gave me the big break I was looking for a few weeks after my dad died by assigning me to shoot a few games against the Phillies at Candlestick Park. I was the extra shooter so my job was to shoot from overhead first base. I did not care. I was in the ballpark shooting baseball for the magazine!
By the time the Atlanta Braves came to town at the end of August the Giants still had a decent lead in the National League West over them, but the series was big. I was assigned to shoot the day game of the series by the magazine from the center field TV platform. Laurel sent me the Carl Zeiss 1000 mm mirror lens and a Nikon F3 body so I could shoot Fujichrome of batters at the plate and anything else I could focus on with this crazy manual focus system.
The date was August 25, 1993 and Bill Swift was on the mound for the Giants hoping to salvage the final game of a three game series (see above). Swift was having a great year, but this would not be his day. He gave up 6 runs on 11 hits in 4.1 innings as the Giants lost to Greg Maddux 9-1. Uh-oh. The Giants record was still an incredible 83-44, but the Braves were coming fast. The Braves were now just 4.5 games back and it was getting scary.
The Giants limped into September, trying to piece together their tiring starting rotation with Duct Tape, Scott Sanderson, and the next Juan Marichal– rookie phenom Salomón Torres. I remember watching Torres make his debut on television as he beat the Marlins in Miami 9-3 August 29, 1993. He went 7 innings and gave up 3 runs. Our savior was here! Torres would lead us to the pennant! Oh wait!
September was a scary nightmare as the Giants lost 8 straight and the Braves seemed to win every game. By the final week of the season the Giants needed to win every game just to have a chance at a one game playoff against the Braves to declare an NL West champ. Back then there was no wild card, and the Braves were finishing the season against the truly shitty Colorado Rockies. The Braves had not lost to the expansion team all season. There was no reason to expect that they would lose on the final weekend.
Torres lost the final home game of the season 5-3 to those shitty Rockies on September 29, 1993. I shot the game from high first base for SI and knew this was a crushing loss. The next four games were at Dodger Stadium against the lowly Dodgers, who were finishing a bad season. You knew the Dodgers wanted nothing more than to eliminate the Giants from the race. I was not shooting the games down there, so I watched them on TV with my mom. Of course Bonds and the Giants played out of their minds winning the first three. It all came down to game #162 on Sunday.
We all know what happened next. The Braves victory over the Rockies was final by the time Torres started for the Giants. A Giants win and there would be a playoff game the next night at Candlestick. I would be shooting for SI. The Giants had Swift ready to go. But no. Torres was awful, and so was every other arm out of the pen. The Giants lost 12-1. The season was over. The final record of 103- 59 was not good enough. The fantastic pennant race had been exciting to follow, but man was it a bummer to be on the losing side.
It was a long and sad winter for me. The Giants season had been the masking tape over the wound of my father’s death. Even though it was 20 years ago it feels like yesterday. If I could endure the 1993 season I could go through anything. This losing season? Ha! That’s nothing. Do you remember they won the damn World Series last year? I do! I even published a book about it- NEVER. SAY. DIE. My dad would have liked it.