It has been brought to my attention that my “Any Ol’ Game” pandemic series has been biased by only covering American League games. In my defense, I haven’t even gotten to an Orioles game yet. But, yes, dear reader, you are correct. Let’s fix that.
What better teams to represent the National League than these two …
May 22, 1972
It was the first meeting of these legendary rivals since a benches-clearing brawl in September 1971, triggered when Giants pitcher Juan Marichal plunked Dodger Bill Buckner.
Giants manager Charlie Fox called the May 22 rematch a “typical donnybrook.”
A Donnybrook, Live and In Color!
But, to be honest, this game doesn’t seem all that donnybrookish to me. No brouhahas, ballyhoos, williwaws, or kerfuffles on this pleasant Monday evening at Dodger Stadium.
But it was still one of baseball’s greatest, orneriest rivalries.
Need a ticket to the game? EBay has this one … just $10.
The Giants would defeat the Dodgers 9-8, thanks in no small part to 5 RBI from the Giants young slugger Dave Kingman.
Kingman proclaimed: “Beating the Dodgers is the biggest thrill in baseball to me. If I could put all my hits together I would hope they were against the Dodgers.”
This is, I’m sure you’ll agree, one of the greatest sports quotes ever.
Should you wonder how the Dodgers felt about Kingman, I fast-forward you to 1978 when Kingman, by then a Chicago Cub, hit three home runs in one game, including a three-run shot in the 15th that led the Cubs to a 10-7 victory over the Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda sweetly sums things up for you here.
But, back to May 22, 1972.
The Giants homered four times in the game – Kingman had two, including a grand slam to left off of Tommy John in the third, that was followed three batters later by a two-run shot from outfielder Bernie Williams. Kingman’s second homer led off the sixth, followed two batters later by a solo shot from Ken Henderson.
The Dodgers homered once – a two-run home run from Willie Davis in the fifth.
Oh, Bernie Williams?
This Bernie Williams played just four seasons (1970-1973), mostly with the Giants. In his 102 major league game career, he hit just four home runs and this was one of them.
He is not …
… Yankees superstar outfielder Bernie Williams, who was only three at the time.
(Dammit, how do the Yankees wind up nosing their way into all these posts?)
As for the grand-slamming, two-homer Kingman?Embed from Getty Images
“I’m so wound up that I just can’t put into words exactly how I feel,” he told reporters after the game. He then proceeded to put his feelings into words: “What it was, really, was the biggest thrill I’ve had so far in baseball.”
Kingman’s “King Kong” career – which included 442 home runs and stellar seasons with the Cubs and Mets – was just ramping up, as another’s was winding down …
Just 11 days earlier, on May 11, the Giants, starting a rebuild and desperate to save a few bucks, traded Willie Mays to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000. The San Francisco press didn’t seem sad at all. “Mays has outlived his usefulness,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote. And, that was one of the kinder things.
Meanwhile, a young Baseball Bloggess, then living an hour outside of San Francisco, was devastated as she sadly took a pen and updated her Willie Mays card.
Giants starting pitcher Sam McDowell, in his first season in San Francisco after 11 in Cleveland and on the decline, got the win.Embed from Getty Images
“I haven’t pitched as badly in five or six years as I did tonight,” he grumbled to reporters. “From the second inning on, I didn’t have a damned thing. It got so bad that I was throwing sidearm screwballs. Know something? I never threw a screwball before in my life.”
After going up 6-2 in the third, McDowell used those lousy screwballs to let the Dodgers chip away, giving up four more runs before being lifted in the 8th for Jim Barr who gave up two more in the 9th.
Some say the hard-drinking McDowell was the inspiration for Sam Malone, Ted Danson’s character on Cheers.
Everyone says Dodgers starting pitcher Tommy John was the inspiration for Tommy John surgery.Embed from Getty Images
Tommy John. Pre-Tommy John Surgery.
John was “no decisioned” that night, lasting just 2.2 innings and giving up six runs.
A total 23,086 turned out for the game that lasted 3:05, but, the Los Angeles Times noted, most were gone by the ninth inning when the Dodgers scored two, pulling within a run. With two outs and the tying run on base, Dodgers pinch hitter Duke Sims came to bat. He flied out to right.
Pitcher Sal Maglie – who played six seasons with the Giants and two with the Dodgers during the 1950s – once said, “There was more excitement in a Dodger-Giants game, for me anyway, than any World Series. There was never anything like it. It didn’t matter if one team got five runs in the first inning. It didn’t matter about the standings. Something was going to happen.”
The Dodgers and Giants faced off 18 times in 1972. Each won nine. How perfect is that?
The Dodgers would finish the season 85-70, in second place in the NL West, 10.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds. The Giants would finish 69-86, 26.5 games back.
Willie Mays, one of the greatest to ever play the game, would retire after the 1973 season.
In 2011, the Baseball Bloggess would forgive the Giants for trading him.