With the Giants again in the playoffs, and feeling like they might be ready to create the magic of a pennant-winning run once again, here’s the story of how they won the 1989 pennant. The Chronicle’s Carl Nolte described the key scene in game 5 of the NLCS vs. the Cubs like this:
In the eighth, with two out, Mike Bielecki gave up three walks in a row, and Cubs manager Don Zimmer sent for his ace of aces, Mitch Williams, to face Clark.
“Strength against strength,” Zimmer said.
Williams is a bearded, intense man they started calling “Wild Thing” in honor of the relief pitcher Charlie Sheen played in the movie “”Major League,” except he doesn’t particularly like the nickname any more.
The Candlestick sound system played Williams’ theme at full blast: “Wild Thing/You make my heart sing/You make everything /Groovy.” The 62,084 fans were on their feet, roaring.
But Clark, glowering with lamp black under his eyes to keep the glare down, thought of only one thing. “There were 62,000 fans yelling and screaming, and the only thing I’m worried about was the baseball. I couldn’t even tell you what Williams’ eyes looked like, or if he had a beard.”
Williams threw him five pitches; Clark hit the sixth, two runs scored, the Giants went ahead 3-1.
There was pandemonium at Candlestick, wild cheering and shouting nearly everywhere in the city. In the ninth, though, the Cubs nearly did it.
It was the reverse of the Giants’ big moment – two out, bases loaded. But this time, Bedrosian, the Giants reliever, got the side out.
In the clubhouse later, soaked with champagne, Clark credited others. “My teammates were great and so were Bay Area fans,” he said.
“We’ve all seen athletes rise to the occasion,” said Craig. “You saw that again today.”
It was a day so special that the two Bay Area scientists who won the Nobel Prize yesterday cut a news conference short to go to the ballgame. It was also the hottest October 9 in 55 years, Columbus Day and Yom Kippur rolled into one. “It was a beautiful ending,” said David Gonsoroski at Gino and Carlo’s bar in North Beach. “The weather cooperated for a Columbus Day win. Hurray for North Beach! Hurray for Columbus!”
When the game ended, all over the city, from the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach, cars honked their horns, firecrackers saved from the Fourth of July for this occasion went off. People gave total strangers high-fives.
The city’s joy was loud enough to hear: It was as if San Francisco itself had roared.
Before that moment, the city had been giving off a metallic hum as thousands of radios and television sets tuned into the game.
In the television department of the Emporium on Market Street, 108 television sets were on display, and most of them were tuned to the game, drawing a crowd of 150 people.
“Normally we have the TVs tuned to KQED, the educational station, because we don’t want the subject matter to absorb people,” said salesman Norman Zukowsky. “But today we had to turn on the game to avoid bloodshed.”
In the Financial District, Bill Norris, who makes his living as a panhandler, turned off his transistor radio between innings because the batteries were failing fast and the voice of Giants announcer Ron Fairly, crackling with excitement, was fading away.
“Oh, I’m a big fan,” said Norris, who came to the Bay Area from Illinois, home of the Cubs. “I’m rooting for the Giants now because I live here.” Actually, he lives in an alley off New Montgomery Street.
In other parts of the city, there was a lot of tough talk about what the Giants would do to the A’s, once the World Series starts on Saturday. It will be the first series between teams from the same region since 1956, when the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers.
About 4,000 Giants tickets will go on sale in a phone lottery today.
“I expect to see a lot of brawls in the bars and clubs,” said Aaron De Beers, who works at the Cafe Trieste in North Beach. “It will be fun.”
And here’s some excerpts from Ray Ratto’s story for the Chronicle on the Giants closing out the Cubs in five games with that afternoon game at Candlestick on October 9, 1989:
The Cubs collected 10 hits and 14 baserunners yesterday, but until the ninth inning, all they had was a single, unearned run to show for it. That came in the third, when Jerome Walton hit a line drive into the path between Mitchell’s eyes and the sun in left field for a two-base error. Mitchell was without his sunglasses at the time, but said, “They wouldn’t have done any good anyway; the sun goes right through those things. I just put my glove where I thought the ball was going to be.” Walton then scored on Ryne Sandberg’s double to right.
True to form for the series, though, even that ended badly for the Cubs. Sandberg tried to make it to third, but chopped his steps rounding second and was thrown out by a combination of throws from Pat Sheridan and Robby Thompson.
“That was a big play, no question,” Giants manager Roger Craig said later. “If he’s safe, it’s a man on third with one out, and (Mark) Grace would be coming up soon.”
Reuschel faced other tight scrapes in the [first, with Mark Grace and Jerome Walton on first and third with two out], fourth, sixth and eighth, but escaped each time because of his skill and those of the gentlemen behind him.
In the fourth, he hit Andre Dawson on the wrist with a 1-2 pitch, and Luis Salazar followed with a base hit to right that sent Dawson to third. Shawon Dunston, though, grounded sharply to Thompson, who began the Giants’ seventh double play of the series.
In the sixth, successive singles by Marvell Wynne and a ubiquitous Grace put runners at the corners with one out, but Dawson, who finished the series with two hits in 19 at-bats, flied to right and Salazar grounded gently to Thompson.
In the eighth, Reuschel walked Walton, watched as Sandberg sacrificed him to second – Sandberg’s second sacrifice of the entire season – and walked Grace intentionally with two out to get to Dawson, who bounced back to the box, his eighth failure with men in scoring position in 10 opportunities.
With all those opportunities and all those zeros, the Cubs were probably asking for what they got. And what they got, of course, was Clark.
He started the seventh with a first-pitch triple that headed down the right-field line, ticked off Dawson’s glove and nestled in the corner, enabling a moderately gimpy Clark to lumber to third. “The ball just kept tailing away from him,” Clark said of Dawson. “I was around first, and he hadn’t even gotten to the ball yet to throw it to the cutoff man, so I just kept running.”
Mitchell followed with a one-strike fly ball to deep center, scoring Clark easily and tying the game.
“It really wasn’t even a strike,” Mitchell said, “but in that situation I’m going to be aggressive. They’d been working me away all day, so I had to go out and get one.”
[In the eighth] Candy Maldonado . . . fought the temptation to try to save his entire season with a swing and coaxed 10 pitches and a two-out walk from Bielecki. Then came Butler, who also worked Bielecki to a full count before walking himself.
“I guess I was a little tired,” Bielecki acknowledged. “I wanted to get that last out and take it from there. I tried to reach back, and there was nothing there.”
At that point, Cubs manager Don Zimmer went out to talk to Bielecki and decided to let him pitch to Thompson. “He asked me how I felt, and I told him I could get him out. I missed with the first two pitches, then I just lost it.”
The four-pitch walk loaded the bases for Clark.
Zimmer called for his stopper, Mitch Williams, and everything his fastball would allow.
“I threw him all fastballs except for one,” Williams said. “At 1-2, I threw him a slider, up and in and exactly where I wanted it. It should have struck him out, but he fouled it back. That’s the best pitch I’ve got, and he fouled it off.”
The next pitch was the fastball, and Clark lined it over second base, the perfect end to a near-perfect series.
“I was talking to Mitch (Kevin Mitchell) in the on-deck circle, and he said, “You remember this guy,’ ” Clark said. “I said, “I do,’ and Mitch said, “Go get it done,’ and I said, “It’s done.’ “
It was Clark’s third hit of the game – the team had just four – and his 13th of the postseason, in 20 at-bats. They were his seventh and eighth RBIs of the series, one short of the N.L. Championship Series record held by teammate Matt Williams. It was the hit of the season, one that Clark greatly merited as the series’ most valuable player.
But not quite the end, because the Cubs didn’t exactly go away. Steve Bedrosian, who replaced Reuschel, nearly pitched the Giants back into trouble because of successive singles by pinch-hitter Curtis Wilkerson, Mitch Webster and Walton, the last of which made it 3-2.
“My arm’s hangin’, man,” said Bedrosian, who gained his third consecutive save in his fourth consecutive appearance. “My fastball didn’t have a lot of giddy-up on it, so when Sandberg came up, I had to change up there. I’d just thrown 10 fastballs in a row, and you can’t do that.”
With the tables neatly turned and Sandberg, who had a moderately spectacular series himself, at the plate, Craig went to the mound to ask Bedrosian what he wanted to do.
“It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said it,” Craig said. “He said, “I want this guy.’ A lot of guys tell you that, but sometimes you can tell what they really want is to be the hell out of there.”
It took one pitch. Sandberg, who hit an even .400 in the series, sent a modest grounder to Thompson, who backed up a bit to make sure he got a proper hop and threw to Clark for the final out, at 2:54 p.m.