Monday, April 12, 2010

The San Francisco Giants Spit On Tradition

The San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer just announced recently retired Rich Aurilia will be honored by retiring his No. 35 jersey and giving him a spot on the Giants' Wall of Fame outside the ballpark.

Every Giants fan must have said, "Huh"?

Aurilia was a good player, but hardly a legendary institution in San Francisco. He was with the team for 12 of his 15 seasons as a player. His best season was in 2001, while with the Giants. He earned his only All-Star selection and won his only Silver Slugger after setting career best marks of 206 hits, 37 home runs, scored 114 runs, five triples, and batter .324.

He got to see Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs that year on drugs, so who is to say Rich didn't pop a few of BALCO Barry's special vitamins in his mouth that year? With extra outfielder Marvin Bernard, a teammate on that team, recently admitting he was on steroids that year, it is more than fair to look at Aurilia's one big season of his career with scrutiny.

That is the legacy Barry Bonds left baseball with.

Though he never came close to those numbers again, Aurilia did set a record by hitting five home runs in the Giants 2002 post season. It helped them get to the World Series, where the Giants lost.

He ended his career with a batting average of .275 with 186 home runs and 756 runs batted in. He had 143 home runs and 574 runs batted with 1,226 hits in 12 years for the Giants.

Solid numbers, but is it a career worthy to have his number immortalized next to Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, and even Jackie Robinson?


If Aurilia is worthy by the Giants newly lowered standards, it makes one think who else should get this honor since they are perhaps more deserving.

Alvin Dark

You want to see how the Giants treat their greats? Look no further to Alvin Dark. In 1969, he was voted the greatest shortstop in franchise history.

Initially drafted by the football Philadelphia Eagles, of the NFL, in the third round of the 1945 draft, he elected to serve his country in World War Two, then decided to play baseball upon his return.

The Giants grabbed the 1948 Rookie of the Year from the Boston Braves at the end of the 1949 season, a year after leading them to an improbable World Series appearance. He stayed with the Giants as a player until 1956. He was a key component of their 1954 Word Series winning team, finishing fifth in the leagues MVP voting that year, and was a three time All-Star in 1951, '52, and '54. He also won the first Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1955, given to the player who best exemplified Gehrig's character and integrity both on and off the field.

He returned to the Giants in 1961 as a manager, piloting them to the 1962 World Series. After losing in seven games to the New York Yankees, he was misquoted by a reporter with a disparaging comment against black and Latino players. Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson quickly came to Dark's rescue, refuting the reporters story. He was still fired after that season.

Dark resurfaced across the San Francisco Bay in 1974 as the skipper of the Oakland Athletics. The A's would go on to win the World Series that year.

In seven years as a Giants player, he hit 98 home runs and drove in 429 runs on 1,101 hits. Very comparable numbers to Aurilia, minus the fact he played five less seasons and got a World Series title. After all of this, the Giants haven't even put Dark on their Wall of Fame, let alone retired his jersey.

When you see the Giants current Wall of Fame, which is full of mediocre players like Aurilia, it is bewildering that Dark is missing from it. Disgraceful, really.

Jo-Jo Moore

Yet another Giants great not even on the teams Wall of Fame, despite being ninth on the franchise hit list with 1,615.

He spent his entire 12 years as a player with the Giants, finishing with a .298 career batting average. He also helped them win the 1933 World Series, as well as appear in two others. He hit over .300 five times, and never struck out more than 37 times in a season. He was an All-Star six times.

If Rich Aurilia had a career worthy of having the Giants retire his number, then what about the vastly superior career of Jo-Jo Moore?

Larry Doyle

The greatest second baseman in Giants history is also not on the teams Wall of Fame. In 13 years with the club, he smacked 1,751 hits. It is the eight most in team history.

He helped the Giants win three pennants, and was named the MVP of the 1912 season. He is also the first man to ever hit a ball out of the Polo Grounds.

Doyle led the majors in hits twice, doubles, triples and batting average once. His 25 triples in 1911 is the seventh most for a season in MLB history.

Travis Jackson

Another Giants legend not on the Wall of Fame. 15 seasons and 1,768 hits. "Stonewall" is in Cooperstown as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but this apparently is not good enough to be recognized by the team.

Jack Clark

"Jack the Ripper" spent ten years in the Giants uniform, getting 1,034 hits, 163 homers, and 595 RBI's and two All-Star games with them. Good enough to get the first ever recipient of the Willie Mac Award on the teams Wall of Fame, yet apparently his career with them apparently doesn't equal Aurilia's as far as getting his jersey retired.

Will Clark

The "Thrill" spent eight years with the Giants, collecting 1,278 hits, 176 dingers, and 709 ribbies. He also was a five time All Star, won a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers, a Golden Spikes, and was the 1989 NLCS MVP for them. Good enough for the Giants Wall of Fame, but apparently he falls short of getting his number retired by them.

Robby Thompson

Robby spent 11 years in a Giants jersey. He got 1,187 hits, 119 homers, and 458 RBI's. He also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger once, and went to the All-Star game twice. He also won the teams Willie Mac Award in 1991, honoring spirit and leadership. Good enough for the Giants Wall of Fame, yet deemed not as good a career as Aurilia to get his number retired.

How about Johnny LeMaster? He was with the Giants from 1975 to 1985. He retired after the 1987 season with a 222 batting average, 22 home runs and 229 runs batted in. One of his homers came off an inside the park job in his first career at bat, which is a MLB record. He was often booed by Giants fans, so he once wore a jersey replacing his last name on the back of the jersey with "BOO".

Some say Aurilia's organizational ties are the real reason he is getting this honor from the Giants. He has become a broadcaster. Well, if this is all it takes to get this honor, then the Giants may as well as retire the numbers of two other former players who now broadcast games for them.

Duane Kuiper batted .255 over four years for the Giants. He is the only MLB player to hit two bases-loaded triples in a game, and he once went 3,379 at bats before he hit the only home run of his career.

He broadcasts games with ex-Giants pitcher Mike Krukow. Krukow went 20-9 in 1986, finishing third in the Cy Young Award. In the 1987 NLCS, he went nine innings, giving up just two runs in the win. It was his only post season experience. He also hit three of his five career home runs for the Giants.

He won 66 games over seven years for the Giants, and is on the teams Wall of Fame.

Certainly the Giants should consider retiring his jersey if they are going to retire the jersey of Rich Aurilia.

There can be a longer list of former Giants who had careers comparable, yet will not get any honor or recognition by the franchise. The ownership group led by Sue Burns and Bill Neukom need to step in and stop Baer. They cannot allow this farce to take place.

The Giants need to better embrace their entire history, one that is full of much better baseball players than Rich Aurilia.


Lester's Legends said...

That is bizarre. Totally would have went with some of your selections, especially The Thrill, over him.

Anonymous said...

Great post Stone,
Agree with Lester about Clark & Travis Jackson. Besides, you made your point very well.