Roger Craig 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 18, 2017

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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.

Remembering September 28th, 1987


23 years ago today, a great moment happened in San Francisco Giants history… and I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to it.

In 1987, my family moved from the Boston area to the San Francisco Bay Area. I was still smarting from the 1986 World Series when I saw my new local team make an unlikely trip to the post season.

The Giants (or the “Hum Babies” based on manager Roger Craig’s inexplicable expression) were far behind the Reds for most of the season. But like most of the Reds teams managed by Pete Rose, they faded down the stretch.

And the Giants made a slew of trades with the Pirates and Padres to remake their team in midseason. In came Dave Dravecky, Rick Reuschel, Don Robinson, Kevin Mitchell and Craig Lefferts to join the squad.

When my family arrived in the Bay Area in the first week of August, the Giants were in third place with a sub .500 record. They went 37-17 the rest of the way. Coincidence? OK, yes.

Then on September 28th, after many near misses over the years, the Giants played the Padres and had a chance to do what they hadn’t done since 1971… make the post season.

I remember watching the game from our new home in Palo Alto. I remember it being an incredibly exciting moment for the Bay Area. And looking back at the box score, it had an amazing cast of characters and some strategy that shows how baseball has changed since 1987.

Take a look at the Box Score here and let’s reminiscence.

HOW DEEP WAS THE GIANTS OUTFIELD?

They started Mike Aldrete, Candy Maldonado and Eddie Milner and was able to bring both Jeffrey Leonard and Chili Davis off the bench.

I remember that Giants team had about 4,000 veterans on their last legs who played as part time players. The Joel Youngbloods, Chris Speiers, Harry Spilmans and Eddie Milners of the world all contributed.

By the way, neither Leonard nor Davis started but each homered.

HOW GREAT WAS THAT DEAL WITH SAN DIEGO?

Maybe it was appropriate that the Giants clinched in San Diego with Dave Dravecky pitching.

It was the deal that brought over Dravecky, Mitchell and Lefferts that turned the season around.

How good a deal was it? The Giants gave up Mark Davis who would go on to win a Cy Young with San Diego… and the Giants STILL got the better part of the deal!

COULD THE PADRES LINE UP BE FILLED WITH MORE OVERHYPED BUSTS?

Anyone who stockpiled rookie cards during the 1980s must look at this lineup and cringe.

Future superstar Shawn Abner! Future closer Lance McCullers! Rising slugger Rob Nelson! Future lead off man Stan Jefferson! Sweet left handed slugging Marvel Wynne!

None of them lived up to the hype… and those baseball cards should have been put directly into bicycle spokes.

MAYBE HE’LL BE INVOLVED WITH ANOTHER GIANTS CLINCHER AGAINST SAN DIEGO IN 2010

In the 4th inning, Bruce Bochy came up as a pinch hitter for the Padres.

He struck out to Dravecky.

Now he is guiding the Giants to finish what they started in 1987.

BULLPEN STRATEGY WAS A LITTLE DIFFERENT IN 1987

Manager Roger Craig brought in Don Robinson, arguably his best reliever, into the 4th inning.

Can you IMAGINE that now? I think it takes Special Dispensation from the Pope to bring in a closer before the 9th inning and an executive order from the White House to have them pitch more than 1 inning.

Just imagine Bochy bringing in Wilson in the 4th inning of a 1 run game today.

LET’S JUST SAY ROGER CRAIG HAD FAITH IN THE CAVEMAN

OK, if bringing Robinson into the game in the 4th wasn’t crazy enough for 21st Century baseball fans, try THIS on for size!

In the 8th inning of a potential clinching game, and his top reliever already pitched 3 innings, and the game tied with the pitcher’s spot coming up… what do you think Roger Craig did?

HE LET ROBINSON HIT!

I guess no Joba rules for Robinson. Can you IMAGINE that happening today? A manager would be fired ON THE SPOT! In MID GAME for doing that!

Do what did Robinson do?
He hit a home run… and it turned out to be the game winner.

Let’s just say the strategy worked.

CHAMPS

Svelte Padres outfielder John Kruk hit a flyball to the warning track that was ALMOST a walk off come from behind homer… instead Hac Man Leonard caught it at the wall and Giants fans could do something they couldn’t do since Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry were on the team… celebrate a title.

WILL CLARK’S INTERESTING CELEBRATION

Most people on camera in a locker room celebration say things like “It was a team effort” and “this feels great but we’re looking for to the playoffs.”

Not Will Clark. He was screaming, dropping F bombs and doing what everyone must FEEL about their first post season berth.

“I LOVE CHAMPAGNE!”

I remember he had to apologize for his language. Come on… he was just doing and saying what every Giants fan was feeling.

The Giants almost made it to the World Series, falling a game short against a banged up Cardinals team.

But lest we forget, this was the day that San Francisco remembered how to field a playoff team.

Enjoy the entire clinching… Will Clark’s celebration starts at 6:45.

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