- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Astros were only 5½ games behind the Giants, and a successful weekend would shoot them into the race. No longer the team that always battled the Mets for 10th place, they are a young group of developers, with the three hardest throwers in the league, Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Tom Griffin. They will be contenders for years to come. More important, the Astros have developed a pride in themselves. Dierker has appointed himself team lyricist, and after every game he sings verses of his song, It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be an Astro, dutifully accompanied by the other players.
Last Friday night Dierker shut out the Giants 2-0, winning the game when Denis Menke hit a two-run homer off Perry in the bottom of the ninth. He held McCovey and Bonds hitless and permitted only one Giant runner to reach second base. After the game Dierker and the Astros sang one of the few printable verses of their song:
Now Harry Walker is the one that manages this crew
It was not a damaging loss for the Giants because their closest pursuers, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, also lost. "Every time we win a game," said King, "we're going to gain a game on two clubs. And every time we lose, two clubs will gain on us. That's how it's going to be all the way down to the wire."
On Saturday night, with Mays back in the lineup, the Giants roared to a 7-1 lead. Bonds got a double, McCovey had two hits. Then, with two out in the ninth, the Astros had four runs across, trailed by only one run and had runners at first and second and Menke at the plate. The hero of Friday night, however, looked at a called third strike Saturday night, and the Giants survived a scare. Sunday, though, they did not, losing 7-6 after leading 6-0 in the fourth.
"Our club is funny," McCovey said. "I don't think we're as good as some of our clubs that finished second the last four years, but we have something they didn't have. Winning is a serious matter."
The Giants have been near first in September before, but, says McCovey, "The last four years we had to fight for second. We're less apt to panic than, say, Houston or the Cubs. If we get beat, we'll get beat—not because we've tightened up or panicked. We've always won the crucial series for second place. This year the crucial series will be for first. Remember in '66 when we forced the Dodgers to use Koufax in the second game on the final day to beat us for the pennant? We didn't panic then."
With Cincinnati's Murderers' Row, L.A.'s Mod Squad, Atlanta's Hammerin' Hank Aaron and the Astros' Jimmy Wynn chasing them, the Giants cannot panic now. Willie and Clyde is too fine a title for a World Series movie—or even a playoff movie—to throw away.