Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
San Francisco Giants Mt. Rushmore
This organization began playing in 1883 as the New York Gothams before becoming known as the Giants in 1885. The Giants broke the hearts of many New York fans when the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants won five World Series while in New York. Attendance has always been strong for the Giants. They led the NL in attendance for most seasons prior to World War II. Upon moving to the Bay Area, they ranked in the top four in the NL in attendance the first eight seasons by the Pacific. Since 2000, the Giants have enjoyed crowds ranking among the top five in the league every season but two. There are few franchises with more difficult decisions for Mt. Rushmore. A franchise rich in tradition and success will certainly claim many worthy candidates. Tough calls all the way around here. Arguments will ensue.
Perhaps the only player with no arguments against him would be the Say Hey Kid. Triples, stolen bases, RBIs and walks would be the only significant offensive categories in which you won’t find his name atop the list for the all-time franchise leaders. (And he’s second or third on those lists.) In fact, the Hall of Famer is widely considered among the best to ever play the game for any team at any position. He hit 646 home runs for the Giants and totaled 3,187 hits and scored 2,011 times. His career spanned both New York and San Francisco, making him a fan favorite in both cities.
The first-ballot Hall of Famer reached base more as a Giant and drove in more runs than Mays. Only Mays has more total bases and hits. Ott made his debut with the Giants at age 17 in 1926, but didn’t become a regular until 1928. From that season through 1945, his last season as a full-time player, he averaged 28 home runs, 102 RBIs and 102 runs. Not a bad 18-year run. He walked 100 times in 10 of those seasons and had a .400 or better OBP 14 times. His OPS topped 1.000 seven times. He won six home run titles and finished in the top 11 in MVP voting eight times. As a 20-year-old in 1929, he posted career highs in home runs (42), RBIs (151) and OPS (1.084), and none of those led the National League.
One of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mathewson won 372 games with the Giants. From 1901-14 he averaged 26 wins a season. In those days it wasn’t unusual for an ace to make occasional relief appearances. Big Six, as he was called, did that a handful of times each year, notching what would now be known as a couple of saves each year to go with his 26 wins. He led the NL in wins four times, ERA five times and strikeouts five times. Mathewson is the only hurler to win 30 games four times since 1900. The New York ace perhaps did his best work in the World Series. He tossed three complete game shutouts in the 1905 World Series against the Philadelphia A’s. Over those 27 innings, he gave up 13 hits and walked one batter. He made 11 starts in the Series over his career with an ERA of 0.97.
Okay, let’s get the controversy out of the way up front. Did Barry Bonds use steroids or not? Most everyone believes it, but it has yet to be proven. And did MLB have a rule in place restricting or banning their use when Bonds played? No. What about HGH or other PEDs? But the numbers are what the numbers are. Bonds owns the six best on-base seasons in team history and the six best slugging seasons. His slugging percentage as a Giant is 100 points higher than Mays’. Bonds won five MVPs with the Giants (one of which was five years before his head expanded). He batted .312 with 586 home runs and 263 stolen bases in San Francisco. But the strongest argument for Bonds stems from the excitement he created at the ballpark. Just once in franchise history had the Giants drawn 2 million fans until Mr. Bonds showed up in 1993. That season, the Giants welcomed 2.6 million through the gates. And from 2000-04, the height of the Barry Bonds Era, the franchise enjoyed its five largest attendance seasons. And that doesn't count the many kayakers anxiously awaiting Bonds' home run balls in McCovey Cove.
With 469 home runs for the Giants, Willie McCovey ranks fourth in hits, homers, RBIs and total bases. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1959 and an MVP 10 years later.
In one of the most spectacular feats in All-Star Game history, Carl Hubbell struck out five Hall of Famers in succession in 1934. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin all went down on strikes.
Juan Marichal won 238 games for the Giants, tied for third behind Hubbell and Mathewson.
Long-time manager John McGraw led the club to 10 pennants between 1903-32 and won three World Series.
Bill Terry was the last player in the National League to hit .400 and ranks in the top five in hits, runs and RBIs. His .341 batting average is best in team history.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: