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1971: Robertson drills four homers to down Giants

Bobby Bonds hit 33 home runs and committed only two errors in 1971.

1971 was the "Year of the Fox." That was the year manager Charlie Fox, who had replaced the fired Clyde King 1 1/2 months into the 1970 season, led a team made up of aging stars and rising youngsters to a Western Division title.

The Giants got off to a fast start, winning 18 of their first 23 games. The energy and raw talents of youngsters like outfielder Bobby Bonds and shortstop Chris Speier melded nicely with the experience and wisdom of veterans Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Willie Mays. Bonds smashed 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. Speier played solid defense, creating a formidable double-play duo with second baseman Tito Fuentes. Meanwhile, pitching ace Marichal continued his domination over batters, notching 18 wins. At age 40 and showing no signs of age, Mays slugged four home runs in his first four games. His production didn't let up as he went on to set a National League career record for runs scored in June.

This winning combination kept the team in first place for almost the entire season; the Giants spent only three days in second place. Despite such steady play, the team began to wear down near the end of the season. They saw their nine-game lead on Sept. 4 dwindle to one game by Sept. 25. It wasn't until the final game of the season that the Giants clinched the NL West title on Marichal's 5-1 gem over the San Diego Padres.

The Giants salivated at the chance to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the best-of-five championship series. They had beaten the Pirates nine times out of 12 and seemed likely candidates to win the pennant.

"We were happy we were going to play them," McCovey said. "They were fearing us."

The Giants jumped out of the gate full steam ahead. In the series opener at the 'Stick, the home team beat the Pirates, 5-4, in front of 40,977 fans. McCovey and Fuentes fueled the attack, ripping two-run homers in the fifth inning.

But the team wouldn't fare so well in the next three games. In the second game, Pirates first baseman Bob Robertson hit three home runs, leading Pittsburgh to a 9-4 win. The Bucs' win snapped a six-game losing streak at Candlestick Park.

Despite a beautifully pitched four-hitter by Marichal in Game 3, the Pirates won again, 2-1, at Three Rivers Stadium.

Pittsburgh earned their ticket to the World Series by taking Game 4, 9-5, and eliminating the Giants. McCovey's three-run homer and four RBIs weren't enough to pull out a victory.

"It just goes to show you that anything can happen in the playoffs," McCovey said.

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