When team owner Horace Stoneham announced the move of his New York Giants to San Francisco for the 1958 season, he pleaded financial distress.
“If I can’t keep the lights on, how can the boys play ball?” Stoneham asked.
Under the pressure of declining attendance and faced with a ballpark (the Polo Grounds in Manhattan) that was falling apart, Stoneham saw no choice but to hitch his star to Walter O’Malley and his Brooklyn Dodgers. The teams moved to California together, ensuring their rivalry would endure in close geographical proximity.
Today in sports we’re accustomed to owners who have billions from other endeavors. But in the 1950s, Stoneham’s only business was the Giants. The transfer to San Francisco was a desperate attempt to save the family business.
Stoneham was wise to move. In the 1960s, with Willie Mays leading the way, the San Francisco Giants were one of the best and most innovative teams in the sport. The Giants won a pennant only four years after the move to California, and the roster was sprinkled with many Latin and Black stars, as Stoneham’s team embraced integration in baseball.
Since becoming the darlings of the Bay Area, the Giants have won six pennants and three World Series titles. Stoneham died in 1990 at age 86, but he’d be gratified to see how his business decision has proved so successful.
To honor Stoneham and the rich history of baseball in the city, here’s our San Francisco Giants all-time roster.
Giants All-Time Roster
Buster Posey, Catcher, 2009-2021
Not just the best catcher in San Francisco Giants history, Posey is the greatest catcher to ever wear the Giants uniform. A .302 career hitter, Buster is one of only three catchers to win Rookie of the Year and MVP, with Johnny Bench and Thurman Munson.
Honorable Mention: Tom Haller, Bob Brenly
Willie McCovey, First Base, 1959-1973, 1977-1980
In 1970, when McCovey was at the height of his slugging powers, Cincinnati Reds manager Sparky Anderson said of the Giants cleanup hitter, “If you pitch to McCovey, he’ll ruin baseball.” From 1969-71, “Mac” averaged .300 with 40 homers, 119 RBI, and a .603 slugging percentage. Sure enough, many National League managers took Sparky’s advice: McCovey was intentionally walked 105 times in those three seasons. He was Rookie of the Year in 1959, MVP in 1969, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Cepeda, Will Clark, J.T. Snow, Brandon Belt
Jeff Kent, Second Base, 1997-2002
In six seasons in a San Francisco uniform, Kent provided lineup protection for Barry Bonds. He averaged 41 doubles, 29 homers, 115 RBI, and had a slash line of .297/.368/.535 for the Giants. He was the 2000 NL MVP.
Honorable Mention: Tito Fuentes, Robby Thompson
SAN FRAN HISTORY: The Fabled History of the San Francisco Seals
Brandon Crawford, Shortstop, 2011-Present
The shortstop position has been one of the weaker spots for the Giants over the years, but Crawford has proven to be fantastic in his decade-plus with the team. Solid in every area of the game, in 2021 he was fourth in NL MVP voting when he had a career year: .298 with 24 homers, and a Gold Glove.
Honorable Mention: Chris Speier, Rich Aurilia
Matt Williams, Third Base, 1987-1996
If it hadn’t been for a MLB labor stoppage in the mid-1990s, Williams probably would have set the single-season home run record before the steroid boys came along. In 1994, Williams slugged 43 homers in 112 games before the season was halted due to a player strike. Over a 162-game stretch that went into 1995, the powerful right-handed hitter smacked 62 homers. He hit 247 circuit blows for the Giants, and was also a fine defender at third, taking home three Gold Gloves.
Honorable Mention: Jim Ray Hart, Jim Davenport, Darrell Evans, Pablo Sandoval
Barry Bonds, Left Field, 1993-2007
Say whatever you want about Bonds and his chemist friends — he was a brilliant baseball player, even without the aid of pharmaceuticals. He won five MVP awards for the Giants, four of them after the age of 36. He set the career and single-season homer records as a Giant, and in 1996 he was baseball’s second 40 HR/40 SB player.
Honorable Mention: Gary Matthews Sr., Jeffrey Leonard, Kevin Mitchell
Willie Mays, Center Field, 1958-1972
Barry’s godfather is still the greatest player in baseball history. He was 26 when the New York Giants moved west to California with their rivals, the Dodgers. He was a superstar on the East Coast, and a superstar on the West Coast. The Say Hey Kid won three home run titles in San Francisco, and in 1965 he was named NL MVP when he smacked 52 homers, despite windy Candlestick Park. He was also arguably the best center fielder in history, and won 12 Gold Gloves.
THE BEST OF THE BEST: Ranking the 10 Best California Sports Teams Ever — College and Pro
Honorable Mention: Chili Davis, Ángel Pagán
Bobby Bonds, Right Field, 1968-1974
Mentored by Willie Mays, father of Barry. With Bobby in right we have a “family” outfield for the G-Men. The senior Bonds was one of the fastest players in baseball at his peak. He also had great power from the right side of the plate. From 1969 to 1974, Bobby averaged 30 homers and 41 stolen bases, while also earning three Gold Gloves.
Honorable Mention: Candy Maldonado, Hunter Pence
Will Clark, Designated Hitter, 1986-1993
With his squeaky voice, treacherous scowl, and famous eye black, Clark was a sight to see on the diamond. In eight seasons as a Giant, “The Thrill” was the heart of the order, batting .299 with a high of 35 homers, 40 doubles, and 116 RBI. In the 1989 NLCS, Clark was unstoppable. He batted .650 with 13 hits, two homers, and eight RBI in five games.
Honorable Mention: Jack Clark
Juan Marichal, Starting Pitcher, 1960-1973
In the 1960s, the National League had three brilliant pitchers in their prime: Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Marichal, known as “The Dominican Dandy.” With a famed high leg kick and his masterful screwball, Marichal proved to be at his best when facing the best. In games against Koufax, Gibson, Warren Spahn, and Jim Bunning, four future Hall of Famers who starred in the 1960s, the Giants righty was 24-12 with a 2.11 ERA.
Gaylord Perry, Starting Pitcher, 1962-1971
Once at a special family father/child game at Candlestick Park in the 1970s, Perry’s daughter was asked about her dad’s suspected spitball. “It’s a hard slider,” the younger Perry said.
Gaylord wasn’t throwing a hard slider. He used a variety of methods to get wet stuff on the baseball in a 22-year career where he won 314 games. He recorded 134 of those victories with the Giants. Want to know how much baseball has changed since the days of the four-man rotation? In the 1969-70 seasons, Perry averaged 327 innings and 24 complete games.
Madison Bumgarner, Starting Pitcher, 2009-2019
Measured by importance to winning championships, Bumgarner rates among the best pitchers in history. In three World Series (each won by the Giants), MadBum allowed one earned run in 36 innings(!) for a 0.25 ERA. He had a 1.03 ERA in seven games in the 2014 postseason, with four wins and a save in the World Series clincher.
Matt Cain, Starting Pitcher, 2005-2017
The quiet ace of the 2010-14 teams that won a trio of titles, Cain pitched a perfect game, and was perfect in the 2010 postseason when he allowed zero runs in three starts in three different playoff series. A shoulder injury ended his career at 32. But Cain was as good as any pitcher for a few years in his prime.
Tim Lincecum, Starting Pitcher, 2007-2015
A singularly unique pitcher, Lincecum was a short, skinny fastball specialist with a violent delivery. Despite his size, “The Freak” threw a 148-pitch no-hitter in 2013. He was a key arm in two World Series for the Giants. Even though his arm blew out at the age of 32, Lincecum is a legend in the Bay Area.
“I have only seen a handful of pitchers with his charisma and stuff,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Honorable Mention: Mike McCormick, Jack Sanford, Vida Blue, Mike Krukow, Kirk Rueter
Robb Nen, Closer, 1998-2002
With his signature slider, which he called “The Terminator,” Nen saved a franchise record 206 games for the Giants. Like Cain and Lincecum, Nen’s career ended at the age of 32, his due to a torn rotator cuff caused by the unusual way he threw his devastating slider.
Honorable Mention: Rod Beck, Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla
Bruce Bochy, Manager, 2007-2019
No manager has ever won as many as three World Series titles and not been elected to the Hall of Fame. Eventually, Bochy will get that honor. He led the Giants to famous even-numbered year titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. He was respected as a players manager who treated his roster with careful guidance and respect.
Honorable Mention: Roger Craig, Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou