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Former Giant Felipe Alou still rues the bunt that got away

Now an assistant to the Giants' GM, Alou fervently hopes this year's team can bring San Francisco its first World Series title. That, he believes, could help ease the sting he still feels over his failure to get down a key sacrifice bunt in Giants' Game 7 loss to the Yankees in the 1962 Series.

October 30, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

Reporting from Arlington, Texas — He is haunted still, nearly half a century later.

He failed to get the bunt down. His team failed to win the World Series.

That sickening feeling might never entirely go away. However, should the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, Felipe Alou will feel just a bit better about himself, and about what he could not do in 1962.

"Of course," Alou said Saturday. "It's for the fans in San Francisco. Every time you pick up a newspaper, you read how we haven't won it in San Francisco yet. For this group to be the first group of players to win in San Francisco, that would really be something."

Alou sat in the San Francisco dugout, sporting an orange tie, as the Giants' former manager and current assistant to General Manager Brian Sabean.

As he talked, his mind wandered back to 1962, the Giants' fifth season in San Francisco. The roster featured Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal.

"That was some kind of team," said Alou, the right fielder.

Those Giants did not appear destined for October, but they made up four games on the Dodgers in the final eight days of the season, forcing a three-game playoff to decide the National League champion.

"They had the best pitching staff I've ever seen," Alou said. "We beat Koufax in Game 1. Then we had to go face Mr. Drysdale."

The Giants knocked Drysdale out in the sixth inning of Game 2, then lost the game in the bottom of the ninth, on a sacrifice fly by Ron Fairly. In Game 3, the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning, but the Giants scored four runs — on two hits, three walks, a sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and an error — and advanced to the World Series.

That series extended to seven games. The New York Yankees won three of the first five games, and the series returned to San Francisco. The Giants won Game 6, by a score of 5-2, to force a decisive Game 7.

The Yankees led, 1-0, as the game headed to the bottom of the ninth. Felipe's brother Matty, pinch-hitting to start the inning, dropped a bunt single.

Felipe Alou followed. He got the bunt sign.

"When I saw the bunt sign, I had my doubts," he said.

He had two sacrifice bunts all season.

Alou bunted. The ball rolled, and rolled, and — this was Candlestick Park — eventually rolled foul.

"I blame the wind," Alou said. "I bunted, and it was fair for a while. Then the wind blew it."

The Giants tried the hit-and-run, and Alou fouled the pitch. He then struck out.

What everyone remembers about Game 7 of the 1962 World Series is that the Giants died dramatically, with two on and two out in the ninth, when McCovey's line drive was intercepted by Bobby Richardson.

What Alou remembers is that Mays doubled before McCovey batted. Had Alou gotten his bunt down, Mays would have driven home the tying run.

The modern manager does not ask players to do things they do not usually do. The modern manager puts his players in position to succeed.

Alou found no comfort in such thoughts, even 48 years later. He had hit 25 home runs that year, and driven in 98 runs, and those statistics offer him no solace.

"You've got to be ready to bunt in the World Series," he said. "I was not ready."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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