As we continue our countdown of 60 seasons of San Francisco Giants Baseball (or really the 1970s) from worst to greatest, we remember when the debacle of the ’70s started; 1972.
The Giants came to San Francisco in 1958, and not only were they warmly welcomed with a gorgeous parade down Market Street; they were welcomed with incredible success. The San Francisco Giants had winning seasons in each of their first 14 seasons in the City by the Bay, and that run included a pennant, a near-miss of a world championship, a division title and many memorable moments.
Along with those moments were many stars. First, there was the greatest player who ever lived in Willie Mays. There was also Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Bonds, Mike McCormick and many more. Cepeda and McCormick were already gone, but following the “Year of the Fox,” in which the Giants won the National League West in 1971 under manager Charlie Fox, Gaylord Perry was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
Things were very different going into 1972. The renovations to Candlestick Park, which completely enclosed the stadium and replaced the grass on the field with astroturf, were complete, and the Giants were now sharing the Stick with the 49ers. Longtime owner Horace Stoneham was starting to run out of money, and as a result, his ownership began to weaken.
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The start of the regular season was delayed by the first players’ strike ever. When the season finally got underway in Houston on April 15, the 25th anniversary of when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the Giants shut out the Astros 5-0 in Houston. The Giants started out 4-2, but then they tanked, and they lost 14 of their next 17 games. On May 9, the Giants were 7-16.
Then two days later on May 11, the unthinkable happened. Willie Mays, the greatest player who had ever lived, was traded to the New York Mets. Mays returned to the city where his major league career began, but the city San Francisco lost its hero. It was the end of an era.
The Giants continued to plummet, and do did attendance. On June 23, the Giants were 22-45. They actually pulled off a 16-8 July, but they plummeted again in the final two months, and they ended up going 69-86 in the strike-shortened season. They ended up drawing 647,744 fans for the season, which was down 458,299—41%—from the previous season’s total of 1,106,043.
Sure, 1972 wasn’t the worst season for the Giants, but it was the end of an era and the beginning of what was almost the end of San Francisco Giants baseball.