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This has been a provoking and puzzling summer for proud San Franciscans. First of all, the "booming" city's population sank 60,000 in the census. Second, the Giants—who were expected to win the 1960 National League pennant as a penance for blowing it in the final week last year—are playing as though they intend to drive the population down even more.
Last week the Giants returned to the West Coast after a wretched eastern trip during which they won only five games, lost seven and, of all things, tied two. The horror of it all is that they left San Francisco in June to get straightened out on the road. They were not so much straightened out as steamrollered. And back in California they showed no signs of revival. A week ago Tuesday night they took the field against the Dodgers (there is the club to watch) in Los Angeles where a horn-tooting crowd of 47,500 all but laughed at their antics. Consider the Dodger half of the seventh, which one L.A. commentator described as "more complicated than a set of instructions for a do-it-yourself brain-surgery kit." Bud Byerly had come in to pitch for the Giants, who were losing 4-0. The Dodgers' Junior Gilliam walked. Charlie Neal bunted. Giant First Baseman Orlando Cepeda tossed the ball wild in a mixup at the bag, with Neal getting credit for a single and Gilliam racing to third. Byerly hit Frank Howard to load the bases. The first pitch to Gil Hodges got by Catcher Bob Schmidt for a passed ball. Gilliam scored, and Neal and Howard each advanced a base.
Tom Sheehan, the Giants' new 66-year-old manager, lumbered from the dugout for a conference. As he crossed the foul line, a ball got away from the Giant bullpen, prompting the crowd to hoot even more. Sheehan went back to the dugout, Byerly stayed in for one more pitch, and then Sheehan, who had been stalling for time, brought in Joe Shipley. Shipley picked up two outs, but then Wally Moon drove in a run on a slow infield hit that Shortstop Andre Rodgers should have charged, and Pinch Hitter Norm Larker doubled to drive in two more runs. Johnny Antonelli came in—yes, what with three wins and five losses, yesterday's hero is now in the bullpen—to strike out Johnny Podres, but the game was over. The Dodgers won 8-0. The Giants got only four hits off Podres, and only one runner, Willie Mays, reached third base—and that was on an error, a wild pitch, an infield out.
The next night the debacle was worse. The Giants lost again, this time 10-0, as Stan Williams allowed them only three hits. In disgust the San Francisco Chronicle ran the head: GIANTS PLAY DEAD AGAIN and the subhead: HOWARD, WILLIAMS HUMILIATE INEPT SF.
On Thursday afternoon the Giants returned home to Candlestick Park to play against St. Louis. This time they did better. They scored. But they lost 7-3. The only bright spot was Antonelli's nice relief work. "I felt I had my stuff back again," Johnny said later. "I was around the plate with good stuff." Tom Sheehan said: "I hope it keeps up. If he keeps pitching this way, we've got another starter."
The next night the Giants lost to the Cards again, 7-1. On Saturday the Giants lost their fifth straight, this one to the last-place Cubs, 7-6 in 12 innings, and fell to fifth place. On Sunday they broke the spell by beating the Cubs 5-3 on five unearned runs.
What's wrong with the Giants? A lot. To be specific:
First Baseman Willie McCovey, last year's late-blooming rose, has wilted. "The biggest trouble with the club is that McCovey is not hitting like last year," said Tom Sheehan one morning last week as he sat in his undershorts in his L.A. hotel room. "Where they pitching him? They're pitching inside, outside, all over. He's just not hitting the ball. They tried every place last year, too, and the kid hit .354. It's just that something happened to the boy. He tells me he never hits in the first half of the season, that that's his history. That's our only ray of sunshine. The other day I told him, this is July 1—let's go! Last year when he swung—whack!" Sheehan watched an imaginary ball soar across the room and bounce off a picture. "Now," said Sheehan, "he hasn't batted in a run in three weeks. And when he slumps at the plate, then he slumps in the field."
McCovey, who is still a kid new to the ways of the big city, also irked Sheehan by cutting up in Philadelphia. He was spotted coming back to the Warwick Hotel at 3 in the morning. Sheehan, further annoyed by a few Giants who were staying up late to play cards, slapped a curfew on the players. No fines were imposed, but Sheehan thundered against any more hanky-panky.