One of the remarkable things about the way the world and information is set up now is in many ways, we can learn information about other places much quicker. There was a time when everything seemed to be regional with a few collectively shared experiences.
In terms of following sports, it takes virtually no effort to find out who plays for what team, what shows are popular where or anything about an area.
When my family moved from Massachusetts to California in 1987, in the pre-internet age, I might as well have been moving to a different country. In many ways it felt like I did.
Among the many things that I didn’t know moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1987 was some of the details of the sports teams.
Sure, I knew Joe Montana was the quarterback of the 49ers, I knew who Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco was and the Giants still had a Clark at first base, but now it was Will, not Jack.
One thing confused me. One of the stars of the 49ers, whose team was filled with all time beloved fan favorites, was named Roger Craig.
The manager of the Giants? He was named Roger Craig.
Imagine moving to a new place and having THAT to sort through in your head? I met the 49ers Roger Craig a few times. Nice guy. Very funny and self effacing.
I have never met the former manager of the Giants. He seems like a nice guy. He looks like a classic old time manager, which I suppose is a euphemism for “old white guy.” He would fit in Bull Durham, possible because he was from Durham, North Carolina.
As a player,he was part of several championship teams including the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers and 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. He won a pair of World Series games as a starting pitcher and earned 3 rings.
Craig also pitched on the 1962 Mets, arguably the worst team of all time. Everything balances out.
Craig was the manager for the Padres in the 1970’s and became Sparky Anderson’s pitching coach in the 1984 World Series.
In 1985, he took over a disastrous Giants team that was coming off a 100 loss season. By 1986, they had a winning record and Roger Craig had his infectious optimism pour out onto the roster. He dubbed players who gave it their all “Hum Babies” and Hum Baby became a rallying cry.
Right around the time we arrived in California, the Giants passed the Reds in the standings and for the first time since 1971, the Giants had a post season team. He managed the Giants to Game 7 of the NLCS. Two years later, the Hum Babies won the National League pennant. The Giants were swept by Oakland in the Earthquake Series, but Craig turned a last place team into a pennant winner.
He remained the Giants manager through 1992 when he retired and Dusty Baker took over.
It is hard to imagine now a time when the Giants making the playoffs seemed so unlikely. But that had not played in October in MY life time until Roger Craig was at the helm.
And once the Giants packed up Candlestick, the 49ers would come in. Either way, there was a Roger Craig there.
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