Over the last 25 years, the San Francisco Giants have had plenty of popular players don the Orange and Black for only one season. Included on that list is outfielder Kenny Lofton.
The 35-year-old was brought in to aid their playoff push and fill a void atop the lineup.
A perennial All-Star in his prime with the Cleveland Indians, Lofton earned six AL All-Star nods and collected three Gold Glove awards early in his career. When the Giants acquired him, he was still a very good player who filled an immediate need.
The left-handed hitter wasted no time introducing himself to Giants fans. In his first at-bat with the team, Lofton launched a home run off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Brett Myers.
With Lofton setting the table, the Giants went 36-18 over the final two months of the season to claim an NL wild-card berth.
Their postseason run that year left them on the doorstep of a World Series title, as they were bested by the Anaheim Angels in a memorable seven-game series.
Despite that disappointing conclusion, it is what Lofton did in the 2002 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals that is the enduring legacy from his time in a Giants uniform.
In a similar fashion to Travis Ishikawa in the 2014 NLCS, Lofton sent the Pac Bell Park fans home happy with a line-drive single that plated the pennant-clinching run:
The Giants ultimately came up short that season, but it was certainly not due to a lack of production from Lofton.
In 46 regular season games with the team, he hit .267/.353/.306 with 30 runs scored.
With a likable personality and game-changing speed on the bases, Lofton will always be a player the fan base remembers fondly. It doesn’t hurt that he will also be associated with winning.
That’s not surprising since Lofton brought a winning culture wherever he went. Incredibly, the University of Arizona product reached the playoffs in 11 of his 17 MLB seasons.
During that time, he accumulated a .247/.315/.352 line over 438 postseason plate appearances. He was never a power hitter, but he reached base at a high rate, offered gritty at-bats, and played stellar defense.
Late in his career, Lofton bounced around a lot. When teams needed a spark plug atop the lineup, Lofton was normally at the top of their list of trade targets, just as he was for the Giants in 2002. All told, he switched uniforms 11 times.
He was worth an impressive 68.3 WAR for his career, producing a .299/.372/.423 line for a 107 OPS+ while recording 2,428 hits, 1,528 runs scored and 622 stolen bases at a 79 percent success rate.
Surprisingly, Lofton only received 3.2 percent of the vote in his first and only appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013, failing to reach the requisite five percent threshold to remain on the ballot despite a very nice career.
His time in San Francisco was brief, but the fan base will always remember his contributions to the 2002 team. The image of him singling home David Bell and raising his arms to celebrate as the Giants clinched the NL pennant for the first time in 13 years is a sight that fans will carry with them for a long time.