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Ferguson: How the Giants nearly came to Toronto

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Scott Ferguson
10/26/2012 11:06:19 AM
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It's not over by any means, but the San Francisco Giants are up 2-0 on Detroit and are off to a great start in their quest to win the seventh World Series title in franchise history.

They were founded in 1888 when they joined the National League as the "Gothams". The Giants have won more games than any other franchise in pro sports history and they have more former players and managers in the Hall of Fame (66) than any other franchise in the Majors.

Some would say they've done this against all odds. They moved once, from New York to San Francisco after the 1957 season and came awfully close to moving two other times.

In fact, the history of baseball in Toronto would have changed drastically if one potential move had gone through. In the mid-70's Horace Stoneham had run into financial troubles and worked out a deal to sell the club to a Toronto group, which included Labatt's Brewery, Vulcan Assets and CIBC for $13.25 million. The team was slated to move to Toronto and play out of that re-vamped Exhibition Stadium in 1976 as the Toronto Giants.

Bob Lurie came to the rescue though and bought the club for $8 million and kept them in the City by the Bay. In the wake of that, Toronto and Seattle were awarded expansion teams and the Blue Jays were born in 1977.

Sometimes you wonder what it would have been like, if Toronto had landed in the National League and had been a rival of the Expos. Would a team still be in Montreal if that had happened?

There were some interesting names on that '76 Giants team who could have played in Toronto. The manager was veteran Bill Rigney. The outfield included former Yankees outfielder and broadcaster, the late Bob Murcer, Gary "the Sarge" Mathews who would one day become a Blue Jays batting coach and broadcaster. How about this one: Larry Herndon, who hit that fateful homer for the Tigers on the final day of the 1987 season at Tiger Stadium off Jimmy Key that gave Detroit a 1-0 victory and a division title over the Jays.

Those Giants also had former Expos shortstop Chris Speier who's now the bench coach at Cincinnati. Plus they had and a couple of relievers who would wind up with the Blue Jays, Randy Moffitt (Billie Jean King's brother) and Gary Lavelle.

The Giants finished in fourth place that year with a 74-88 record. They didn't make it to the World Series again until they played Oakland in the 1989 Earthquake series, the same year the Blue Jays won their second division title before bowing out to the A's in the ALCS.

It's interesting to speculate how things might have turned out, but all in all, it was probably more rewarding to watch an expansion team grow and become a World Series champ in its 16th year of existence.

The Giants were nearly sold again in 1992, to Vince Naimoli who would have moved them to St. Petersburg, Florida. But this time Peter Magowan swooped in and bought the club for $100 million. Naimoli, of course, would later get an expansion team as well, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The upshot of the Magowan purchase is, he went out and signed free agent Barry Bonds away from the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1993 season.

In 2000, the Giants finally moved into their much-needed Pac Bell ballpark, now AT&T and have since become one of the top franchises again in the majors. Some would argue the presence of Bonds made that happen even though the club never won a World Series with him in the line-up.


Winter Additions

It doesn't sound as though the Blue Jays have much chance of getting free agent right hander Kyle Lohse. Though the Cardinals are not going to re-sign the 34-year-old who won 16 games this season, he makes his off-season home in Arizona and apparently would rather play in the West and likely stay in the National League.

Though he had a terrible season, and is heading into the final year of his contract (worth $22 million), it doesn't look as though two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is going anywhere. He's a cult hero in San Francisco and he's rekindled belief that he can turn it around by pitching so well in middle relief in the postseason. On top of all of that, he's only 28.

Buster Posey has already been named the National League's Comeback Player of the Year. If he hadn't suffered that horrific broken leg last season, we just might be talking about the Giants going for a third straight World Series title. He means that much to the team.

Giants celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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