In 1883, the San Francisco Giants organization was first established as the New York Gothams. The team changed its name 3 years later to the New York Giants and has kept this historic moniker through the organization’s relocation to the Bay Area in 1958. As one of the original 16 teams in the MLB, the Giants have thousands of players who have competed for the spotlight, but these are the top 10 players who’ve donned the iconic Giants uniform.
10. Travis Jackson
Travis Jackson played his entire 15 season career with the New York Giants from 1922-1936. As the team’s shortstop, he earned the nickname “Stonewall” because of his outstanding fielding range and ability to locate the ball in play. Stonewall amassed 7,895 Defensive Chances in his career and only committed 381 Errors for an astounding .952 career Fielding Percentage. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive infielders of the 1920’s. Jackson combined his All-Star caliber fielding ability with a solid .291 career batting average. Travis was not a power hitter and embraced his role of hitting well-placed balls to put himself in scoring position. His 1,786 career hits still rank 6th overall in the Giants organization. Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, once said that Travis Jackson was, “The greatest bunter I ever saw.” With legends making comments like that, it’s no wonder Travis Jackson entered the MLB Hall of Fame in the class of 1982.
Madison Bumgarner is the first current San Francisco player to make the list. Despite his 2017 campaign being shortened due to injury, he has strung together an impressive 7-year stretch that includes 3 World Series championships, and a World Series MVP award. Bumgarner has played his entire career with the Giants, and has a career 2.99 ERA, 1,409 strikeouts, and 1.097 WHIP. Madison is one of the few pitchers who is known to hit the long ball, with 16 career home runs. I expect the 27-year-old, four-time All-Star, to make a full recovery and return to dominance.
8. Bill Terry
Bill Terry played his entire career with the New York Giants from 1923-1936 and filled a dual role as the team manager for the last 4 years of his career. Terry stayed on as the Giants manager until the 1941 season when he retired from the game for good. Bill still holds the club record with a .341 career batting average and ranks 15th all-time in this category. Bill Terry is a member of the 2,000-hit club, recording 2,193 career hits, and an additional 537 walks. He had more than 200 hits in 6 seasons, and in 1930, his 254 hits gave him a league-leading .401 batting average. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting 6 years in his career and won the 1930 batting title. Bill Terry played in four World Series, winning the 1933 championship. As a manager, he won 823 games, 3 NL pennants, and 1 World Series. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.
7. Melvin Ott
Mel Ott is a Giants great that signed with the team when he was 16 and didn’t leave until he was 38 years old. He was one of the great player/managers the game ever saw. Ott retired with 2,876 hits, 1,708 walks, .304 career batting average, .414 on-base percentage, 511 home runs, 488 doubles, 1,860 runs batted in, and 1,859 runs scored. His incredible on base percentage is a testament to his ability to put himself in scoring position and help his team win ball games. Mel finished his career with 8 seasons of 30+ home runs, 9 seasons of 100+ RBIs, and 10 seasons with 100 or more walks. He was an All-Star for 11 straight seasons from 1934-1944. Melvin Ott was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame with the class of 1951.
Juan Marichal played for the Giants for 14 seasons and was selected to 9 All-Star teams. Juan was the first Dominican player inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983 and remained the only Dominican-born player awarded this honor until Pedro Martinez was inducted in the class of 2015. In Marichal’s first career start, he held the Phillies to no hits through 7 2/3 innings and finished with a complete game, 12 strikeouts and 1 walk. He became a full-time starter, 2 seasons later and remained in the rotation for 12 seasons. In his 471 career games, he posted 243 wins, 244 complete games, 52 shutouts, 2.89 ERA, 1.101 WHIP, and 2,303 strikeouts. Marichal is known for his prolific 8-year stretch that included 6 seasons of 20+ wins, 7 seasons of less than 2.76 ERA, 6 seasons of 200+ strikeouts, and four seasons with a WHIP of .996, or below.
Christy Mathewson was the first dominant pitcher of the 20th century. His 373 career wins rank third all-time in a statistical category that will likely never be outdone due to the changes in the game over the last 100 years limiting the games a starting pitcher can play. Mathewson won more than 30 games 4 seasons, and in 1908 he completed 34 of his 44 starts and won 37 games, setting an NL record that still stands today. Mathewson threw an unhittable “fade away pitch,” that is most like the modern-day screwball. Mathewson used this pitch to lead the majors in strikeouts five times between 1903-1908. In his 17-year career, Mathewson recorded 13 seasons of 20+ wins. He won the Pitching Title five times, and the Triple Crown twice. His remarkable career achievements are the reason he was one of the five original inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1936.
4. Buster Posey
Buster Posey is the best player on the Giants, and he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer if his career ended today. He has won NL Rookie of the Year, NL Comeback Player of the Year, 2012 NL batting title, NL Hank Aaron Award, NL MVP, 2-time Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, 3-time Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and 3-time World Series champion. He has strung together an impressive 9-year career with a .309/.376/.487 stat line that includes 550 Runs Batted In. In his 2017 campaign, he is hitting .347/.437/.521 with 23 RBI, and 8 home runs. Buster Posey has a WAR of 28.2 since 2012, 10 points higher than the next closest competition. Posey is not only a great hitter, but he is the best defensive catcher in the league. Posey has a career .994 fielding percentage and has thrown out 191 people trying to steal a base. One of the best stats when judging a catcher, is their ability to frame a pitch and use sleight of hand to turn a ball into a strike, and visa-versa. The popular stat to measure this is Runs Above Average, and Posey has a score of 26.8, or 2.7 ahead of the second-best catcher, and 10.7 above the third-place catcher. Buster Posey is clearly the best catcher in baseball and I expect his reign to continue for several years to come.
Willie McCovey is one of the most feared hitters of his generation. He was a career .270/.374/.515 hitter, with 521 home runs and a staggering 1,550 Runs Batted In. McCovey had 9 seasons with 28+ home runs, and 4 seasons with 39+ home runs. His beautiful home run swing is so popular that fans unofficially named the section of the San Francisco Bay behind AT&T Stadium McCovey Cove. Willie could have hit 60 home runs a season during his prime if opposing teams weren’t so afraid to pitch to him. Willie’s 260 intentional walks rank 4th all-time. In total, he accumulated 1,345 walks as pitchers danced around the strike zone to avoid giving up another long ball. He is without a doubt one of the greatest Giants of all-time.
2. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter this game has ever seen. He is a career .298/.444/.607 hitter who accumulated 2,935 hits, 2,227 runs, 1,996 runs batted in, 2,558 walks, 688 intentional walks, 514 stolen bases, and his most iconic stat line – 762 home runs. His career stats rank him in the top 10 for wins above replacement, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, games played, plate appearances, runs scored, total bases, runs batted in, runs created, extra base hits, times on base, assists at left field, putouts in outfield, and defensive games in outfield. He is also the MLB career leader in home runs, intentional walks, walks, Most Valuable Player awards, defensive games at left field, and putouts at left field. Barry Bonds deserves a spot in the Hall and should be recognized as the greatest offensive weapon to ever take the field. His admitted use of steroid is the only thing standing between him and Cooperstown. I don’t believe this should keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Bonds was an 8-time All-Star, and 3-time MVP before he hired the personal trainer who supplied him with steroids. Barry has received a higher percentage of Hall of Fame votes each of the last 4 years, and it’s only a matter of time before he is honored for his contributions to the game.
1. Willie Mays
The Say Hey Kid tops the list of all-time Giants for both his production on the field and his upstanding character off. His teammates said he could light up a room and was an absolute jot to be around. Willie hit .302/.384/.557 for his career and recorded 3,283 hits, 660 home runs, 1,903 runs batted in, and 338 stolen bases, which undoubtedly contributed to his likability in the locker room.
Mays signed with Birmingham Barons of the Negro American League when he was only 16 years old. Two years later, the Giants purchased his contract and he dominated the minor league competition. His second season in the minors he hit .477 with 8 home runs in the first 35 games. He was called up to the majors where he hit 20 home runs, winning the 1951 NL Rookie of the Year award.
The U.S. Army drafted Willie Mays at the height of the Korean War in 1952. He had to miss the remainder of the season, and the entire 1953 season. Mays believed that the 266 games he missed ultimately stopped him from breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. Mays didn’t want to join the Army, but made the most of the situation and spent his military career playing baseball at Fort Eustis in Virginia.
In 1954, he returned to the diamond and tore the cover off the ball, hitting .345/.411/.667 with 41 home runs and 110 RBIs, winning the NL MVP award. His outstanding abilities led the Giants to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Mays most iconic moment came in the eighth inning of the first game. With the score tied at 2 and runners on first and second with no outs, Vic Wertz crushed the ball an estimated 460 feet, and Mays immediately turned his back to the ball and took off at a full sprint. When he hit the warning track he looked up and the ball dropped perfectly over his shoulder into his glove and he turned and threw the ball with his momentum taking him to the ground. He held the runner at third and the Giants went on to win the game and sweep the series.
Mays would go on to play in 24 All-Star games and would finish in the top 6 in MVP voting 12 times. He won his second NL MVP award in 1965 after hitting a career-high 52 home runs. Mays had one of the most productive careers in professional sports, and every sports fan across the nation admired his abilities. Willie Mays became a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1979, and he will forever be the Giants greatest player of all-time.