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1962: SF falls 'inches short' of title

Felipe Alou (right) welcomes Willie Mays home after the slugger hit a homer against the Dodgers in a 1962 playoff.

In some ways, the 1962 World Series was anticlimactic compared to the thrilling pennant race with the Los Angeles Dodgers that preceded it. The Giants staged a remarkable comeback after being four games out of first place with seven games remaining to pull into a tie with the Dodgers. With identical records of 101-61, the rivals met in a best-of-three playoff series.

Billy Pierce blanked the Dodgers in Game 1 while Willie Mays drilled two clouts to provide an 8-0 romp at Candlestick. Los Angeles returned home for the second game and plated seven runs in the sixth and won 8-7.

The Giants found themselves trailing 4-2 in the top of the ninth in Game 3. Third baseman Jim Davenport drew a bases-loaded walk to cap a four-run rally that gave San Francisco a 6-4 victory in the decisive game at Los Angeles, earning a ticket to the World Series against the Yankees.

But the team's celebration was kept to a minimum since they had to take a midnight flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco and prepare for Game 1 of the World Series the following day at Candlestick Park.

"We had scrambled so much and then we got into the playoff series with the Dodgers. Then we took two out of three games from the Dodgers," said Davenport. "It did, in a way, take a lot of excitement away from the World Series."

San Francisco fans, however, were exuberant, anxious to see the home team appear in its first World Series. And what a treat they got. In a nail-biting series, the two teams traded victories, neither of them winning two in a row.

"The '62 World Series was so exciting. I went crazy," said Gloria McKay, who worked as an usherette at Candlestick Park since 1960. "I was so excited that I went out and bought a pair of shoes!"

The Yankees jumped out in front first, winning, 6-2, behind lefty Whitey Ford. Yankees third baseman Clete Boyer knocked in a go-ahead solo home run in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie.

Giants right-hander Jack Sanford roared back in the second game, tossing a three-hitter and shutting down the Yankees, 2-0. Second baseman Chuck Hiller scored the Giants' first run in the first inning, while Willie McCovey blasted a solo homer in the seventh to lock up the game.

In Game 3, Giants starter Billy Pierce and the Yanks' Bill Stafford pitched shutout ball for six innings at Yankee Stadium. In the end, the Bronx Bombers would prevail, breaking the stalemate with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Giants made a ninth-inning bid by scoring two on Mays' double and Ed Bailey's two-run dinger, but couldn't hold on. They lost 3-2.

The Giants staged another pitching gem as Juan Marichal tossed four innings of scoreless ball against Ford. Unfortunately, the Dominican Dandy left the game after getting hit on the index finger while bunting. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the series.

"I wish I could have finished the game and had the chance to pitch a second game," said a disappointed Marichal. "But that happened and that was it."

The Giants did, however, go on to win the game, 7-3, behind Hiller's grand slam off Yankees right-hander Jim Coates.

In Game 5, the Yankees' Ralph Terry and Sanford dueled to a 2-2 tie after seven innings until the Yanks' Tom Tresh's three-run homer cracked the game open in the eighth. The Giants' 5-3 loss gave the Yankees a one-game advantage and sent the Series back to the 'Stick for Game 6.

Four rain-drenched days put the Series on hold. Desperate to play ball, team officials instructed two helicopters to hover five feet above the wet field. Their hope was that the choppers' powerful propellers would create enough wind to blow dry the soggy surface.

"There was a lot of water settled on the field. They thought, 'If we come in with the helicopters, we could move that water to make it drain better,'" said pitcher Mike McCormick, who didn't play in the Series due to shoulder problems. "It was still bad. I think what it really did was to show the fans and the public that they were doing everything they could to play the game."

Once play got underway, the Giants didn't disappoint. They evened the Series at three-all with a 5-2 victory behind Orlando Cepeda, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Then came the final game -- Game 7. Close to 44,000 fans watched Terry and Sanford take part in an awesome pitching duel. The Yankees' only run scored on Tony Kubek's double-play grounder in the fifth inning. But the Giants threatened to score -- and win -- in the bottom of the ninth inning with a man on second and third with two out and slugger McCovey at the plate.

"I was hoping they would walk him and get to me," said Cepeda, who was on deck.

Terry decided to throw to McCovey. The rest is history. A loud crack from McCovey's bat brought the Giants to their feet, anticipating victory. Terry threw down his glove in disgust. It wasn't until he turned around to see that Bobby Richardson had snagged the hard liner for the final out of the game did he know that the exciting series had come to an end -- in the Yankees' favor.

The Giants, meanwhile, were shocked.

"It happened so quick. It was over in such a split second," Davenport said. "You always think back, 'If the ball had been that much further, we'd have had a championship ring on our fingers.'"

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