SAN FRANCISCO -- Five alumni from the 1958 Giants, San Francisco's inaugural Major League team, shared Thursday's ceremonial first-pitch honors: Felipe Alou, Ed Bressoud, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Davenport and Willie Mays.
Among this quintet, the great Mays is undoubtedly the one most widely associated with the Giants. But fans who have followed the Giants since their move West from New York keep a special place in their heart for Davenport, who has spent 46 of his 52 years in baseball with the Giants in some capacity.
Davenport, 77, still works for the Giants as a special assistant in player development. He has worked with several current Giants, including Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz.
A former infielder, Davenport likes the spirit of this year's Giants club.
"They kept plugging and plugging and plugging," said Davenport, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner at third base in 1962. "I have to give them credit. Good things can happen when you play hard."
Davenport saw no parallels between the Giants he played for from 1958-70 and the current team.
"These kids probably play a little better fundamentally, because we lived and died by the home run, with Mays, [Willie] McCovey, Cepeda and that bunch," Davenport said. "I would have loved to have played with this pitching staff. Not that we didn't have good pitching. But all of their starters here are quality starters."
One contemporary Giant does remind Davenport of himself: second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
"He's my type of player," Davenport said. "He's got more ability than I had, but I had to be the type of player to do the little things, and he looks like he knows how to do those things."