Those 1971 Giants; my first Giants team
In 1987, Don McMahon was pitching batting practice to the L.A. Dodgers, and collapsed with a heart attack and passed away. And we lost Bobby Bonds in 2003 and Dick Dietz in 2005. That’s the sad part of the story.
I was curious about the current whereabouts of the ’71 team; the team that created a Giants fan out of me. My relatively quick and unimpressive research also shows that Tito Fuentes is a Spanish language broadcaster for the Giants, as he has been for years; Chris Speier is some kind of special assistant for the Reds; Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal rule the world as baseball royalty; Gaylord Perry rules his own particular world of retirement somewhere in North Carolina; Alan Gallagher and Hal Lanier may or may not still be managing obscure independent minor league teams in towns only slightly bigger than Bodie, Calif.; Ken Henderson is retired in Pennsylvania, or not.
Obviously there were other players on the team, but these are the guys from the ’71 team that stick in my mind. It was only last season, as I was walking along that really cool walk-of-history on the McCovey statue side of the Cove, which has plaques with the starting lineups from the first game of each SF Giants season, that I was reminded that Hal Lanier started at shortstop that first day of the season, and Speier took over later at some point.
But as much as anything, it was Lon Simmon’s play-by-play that drew me in. Who knows- if the awful Monte Moore hadn’t been the A’s broadcaster, there’s a chance I could have ended up an A’s fan. Certainly the A’s were winning more in those days. But Lon had it just right. He was obviously awesome, and the world of Giants baseball enveloped me that summer. Lon’s call for a Giants’ homerun, on paper, doesn’t sound like much: “You can TELL it goodbye!” But it was the hoarse crackle in his voice or something. He made it dramatic and memorable.
Of course, that season ultimately ended in disappointment, and we had no way of knowing that the Giants wouldn’t make the playoffs again until SIXTEEN years later. But I now had a shared history with the Giants. I had been through a lot with them in that ’71 season. So, here’s to the ’71 team. Not a World Series winner, unfortunately; but still a pretty cool team in my mind. And now that the SF Giants won rings in 2010 and 2012, I can thank the ’71 team for helping to set the stage.