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When the Giants were kings

The 2012 World Series championship team reunites at Oracle Park

As the 2022 Giants clawed their way through the dog days of summer, hoping to gain a playoff spot, they paused to celebrate a memorable season from their storied past. On Saturday, Aug. 13, they set the way-back machine to 2012 and held a festive reunion of the squad that brought the World Series championship to San Francisco for the second time in three years. They would add a third in 2014.

One by one, 23 retired members of that hallowed club, led by manager Bruce Bochy, paraded onto the field from an opening in the center field wall to choruses of cheers from the sellout crowd. Current Giants Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt joined them for the celebration in front of the mound, emceed by Giants broadcaster Dave Flemming.

Memories were shared of that epic season in which the players dubbed themselves “The Cockroaches” for their refusal to go away.  Said Bochy, “They were the most resilient team with a never-say-die attitude. The heart they played with was remarkable.” 

It was a season of highs and lows. The highest high occurred on the night of June 13, 2012 at home against the Houston Astros when Matt Cain pitched his way into the record books. After hitting golf balls into McCovey Cove with PGA pro Dustin Johnson during pregame, Cain faced the Houston Astros and threw the first perfect game in franchise history. “Matt was firing on all cylinders, so you knew he was going to pitch a good game,” Bochy recalled. “Of course, no one could have predicted he would be perfect.”

The lowest low was the plight of Melky Cabrera, the offensive leader and fan favorite in the first half. After earning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games on Aug. 15, 2012 for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Meanwhile, general manager Brian Sabean engineered two key trades, bringing infielder Marco Scutaro and outfielder Hunter Pence to the Giants. Both were key contributors on the field and in the clubhouse, helping the team win the National League West flag with a couple weeks to go.

Then, in the playoffs, things got really interesting. After dropping the first two games of the NL Division Series to the Reds at what was then called AT&T Park, they were left for dead.

Not so fast. Before Game 3 in Cincinnati, Pence led an impromptu pep rally among the players in the visitors’ dugout. Inspired, they proceeded to sweep the Reds in the final three games to advance to the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Again they fell behind 3-to-1 in that series before outscoring the Cards 20-to-1 in the final three games to stamp their ticket to the World Series. Scutaro was on fire at the plate, batting .500 (14-for-28) with four RBI and four runs-scored, earning NLCS MVP honors. As a surprise rain storm descended upon  the action on the field at the end of Game 7, an immortal photo image of Scutaro, arms outstretched, smiling up at the sky, spoke the joy of the moment.

Despite such heroics, the oddsmakers deemed the Detroit Tigers the clear favorites to win the World Series. But by then, the Giants had grown tired of being the underdogs.

They took it to the Tigers in the first two games, played in San Francisco. In Game 1, three home runs by Pablo Sandoval paced the Giants to an 8–3 victory. They followed it with a 2–0 shutout behind the stalwart pitching of starter Madison Bumgarner and relievers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo.

Then it was on to Detroit where Ryan Vogelsong, starter-turned-reliever Tim Lincecum, and Romo combined for another 2–0 conquest. And in the final close-out game, Cain and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Casilla and Romo put the final touches on a dream season with a 4–3 10-inning victory, the winning run coming on a single to center by Scutaro, plating Ryan Theriot.

A decade later, Bochy was still beaming at his team’s accomplishment. “It was great to see the guys again,” said the skipper after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. “When you win the World Series, you know there will be a champagne celebration in the clubhouse, a victory parade back home, and someday a reunion. The way we were received by the fans today made this one truly special.”

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