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10/29/10 1:46 PM ET
Rangers, Giants franchises have come long way
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
They sowed the seeds that have bloomed into the 2010 World Series. The long-ago heroes and misfits who view today's Giants and Rangers from the other side of a gorge generations and thousands of miles wide. Boys of another summer who have become men of autumn. These days, they link their pasts with the immediate future: Former New York Giants wonder, "Is it time we win another?" Former Washington Senators wonder, "Isn't it about time we won one?" Except for their origins on the East Coast, of course, the two franchises have little in common, certainly not pedigree. In New York, the Giants won a bunch of World Series through 1954. In Washington, the Senators were "first in war, first in peace and last in the American League." OK -- in all honesty, they used to say that of the original Senators, the ones who fled and became the Minnesota Twins after the 1960 season. But the newborn Senators who immediately replaced them in 1961 were as good as the original.
Put it this way: For years, the club record for most RBIs in a game was held by a guy who drove in 89 runs across a 10-year career.Ken Hamlin is rightfully proud of that claim, considering it "one of the most memorable" parts of a 468-game Major League career as a utility infielder. "That was a record that stood for two or three years and I was proud to hold that for those few years," Hamlin recalled in a recent tribute on the website of Western Michigan University. Hamlin, 75, was inducted into WMU's Hall of Fame mere days ago. A totally coincidental spotlight that also shone on Al Worthington, the 81-year-old former Giants right-hander inducted earlier this month into the Athletic Hall of Fame of Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. The teams' alumni are sprinkled throughout the land, linked these nights by the glow of televisions beaming the World Series. The Giants, who played their last game in New York 53 years ago, are represented by the kings -- Willie Mays and Monte Irvin -- and their court that includes Ray Katt, Joey Amalfitano, Alvin Dark, Don Mueller, Bill Taylor, Windy McCall, Billy Gardner and Johnny Antonelli. There is an army of former Senators, naturally, an intriguing cross-section of yearning hopefuls whose dreams never came true, former All-Stars twinkling in their twilights (Denny McLain, Jimmy Piersall, Minnie Minoso, Moose Skowron, Zoilo Versalles and the original Frank Thomas among others) and prospects in the crucible of notable careers (Claude Osteen, Ken Harrelson, Ken McMullen, Joe Coleman). The iconic link between the Senators and the Rangers obviously was Ted Williams, their manager for four seasons. The Splendid Splinter became the Splendid Splitter with the team's somewhat acrimonious departure in 1971, which left the nation's capital without baseball until the Nationals' 2005 arrival. Brewers broadcaster Dave Nelson, a reserve infielder on Williams' 1970-71 teams, recalled him as "not a real good manager." But Nelson "enjoyed playing for Ted. He was always enthusiastic. But he was more interested in the offensive side of baseball so that's what we worked on all the time. We were not very good with fundamentals or pitching." In absolute agreement with that is a man who occupies a unique place in Washington baseball history: Don Mincher, a slugging first baseman, was the only one to play both for the original Senators (1960) who moved to Minnesota and the expansion Senators (1971) who replaced them. Tracked down earlier this month by the New York Times in his native Alabama, Mincher, 72, remembered Williams as "the most personable guy I ever met." "He wasn't that great a manager, because he didn't really care about defense," said Mincher, echoing Nelson. "And he just couldn't figure out why everybody couldn't hit .340. It was beyond his imagination that not anybody could pick up a bat and hit .340. He just couldn't stand it." Williams was a lifetime .344 hitter. As a manager, in four seasons he didn't have a single .300 hitter. No wonder he was unhappy. No wonder the Rangers do not share a historical link with their Senators forebearers to compare with the Giants, who constantly fan the Polo Grounds memories. While witnesses were agog at the sight of Irvin, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey uniting to deliver first pitches in AT&T Park prior to World Series Game 1 (Mays was scratched by illness), today's Giants players were nonplussed for a good reason. "In Spring Training, they're around a lot," Brian Wilson noted. "We're picking their brains about what it's like to put on a Giants uniform. This is one of the classiest organizations around. We're spoiled. We talk to them on a consistent basis. We talk to Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. They're around the field all the time. They've got lockers next to us." Other missing Giants were definitely there in thought -- or even in the game notes. Vladimir Guerrero's two errors in Game 1 were linked to the last right-fielder to have two miscues in a World Series game: Mueller, in 1954. The Giants won that World Series -- in a monumental four-game sweep upset of the 111-win Cleveland Indians -- despite Mueller's flubs. And despite Antonelli's unwanted claim to fame. The left-hander's very first World Series pitch was smacked for a home run by Indians leadoff hitter Al Smith in Game 2. "I believe I'm the only pitcher ever to do that, give up a home run on his first pitch in the World Series," Antonelli, 80, told the Rochester Democrat as this 106th World Series was getting under way. From there, it was all downhill for Antonelli and the Giants. He won that game, 3-1, the second rung of that Series sweep. Through three previous tries -- in 1962, 1989 and 2002 -- the Giants are still waiting to win another. "Those Giants lost in the World Series because they were short on pitching," Antonelli said. "Texas has more hitting than the current Giants, and some good pitching, too, but I think the Giants have more pitching depth and can win this Series. I'll be watching and rooting for them." Their scattered ancestors will be watching and rooting for the Rangers, too. Although they probably have a tougher time coming to grips with the fact a franchise renowned mostly for shortcomings is actually going long. A few days ago, at a charitable reunion in Washington, D.C., of former Senators Roy Sievers, Ken Retzer, Fred Valentine, Chuck Hinton, Jim Coates and Osteen (they signed autographs to benefit breast-cancer research) another ex-Nat reminisced about his almost-career. Don Lock, the smooth center fielder, hit 99 home runs in five seasons with the Senators, and told MASN.com he was glad he stopped there. "Ninety-nine makes it easier to remember," Lock said. The Rangers have come a long way from the time falling short was considered a blessing.