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Giants of '89 bask in the memories

Giants of '89 bask in the memories

SAN FRANCISCO - Will Clark remembers the 1989 National League Championship Series' opening game with clarity.

A young Chicago Cubs pitcher named Greg Maddux had shown him an outside fastball and later a changeup in his first two at-bats. "The Thrill" had an idea he was going to see an inside fastball in the fourth inning. Then Cubs manager Don Zimmer visited Maddux on the mound, at which point, Clark saw the words off Maddux's lips. He, as they say, sat on the pitch.

Clark hit a grand slam, sending the Giants to a win and, four games later, San Francisco's first league championship in 27 years.

"When I got back to the dugout, you guys were going crazy," Clark told his former teammates Friday outside AT&T Park as part of the Giants Community Fund's benefit, An Afternoon with the '89 Giants.

The 21 players, six coaches and trainers (manager Roger Craig among them) gathered 20 seasons after winning the NL pennant and playing in the earthquake-lengthened World Series. The team members will also be honored on the field Saturday for a ceremony as the Giants host the Oakland A's for a three-game series this weekend.

Friday resembled a high school reunion in few ways. Outfielder Candy Maldonado did some dancing and former pitcher and current broadcaster Mike Krukow introduced some old faces. Slugging outfielder Kevin Mitchell, who hit 47 home runs and batted in 125 runs that year, was reminded of the ball he's famous for catching -- with one hand. Second baseman Robby Thompson reminisced about the Spanglish-speaking "sweetheart" he knew as the late Jose Uribe. And everyone seemed to enjoy ragging on pitcher Mike LaCoss.

"To be able to get together with them and relive this is amazing," said Dave Dravecky, who famously worked his way back from cancer in his pitching arm to go 2-0 over 13 innings in 1989, his last season.

Brett Butler, Terry Kennedy, Matt Williams, Jeff Brantley and others were not in attendance Friday, but they were certainly important parts of one of the franchise's most historic seasons.

"The guy that did as much as anybody was Butler," starting pitcher Scott Garrelts said. "His fieriness and competitiveness, day in and day out leading off, it helped out everybody in the lineup. Every game it seemed like we were on a roll.

"At that point, guys really started understanding, 'This is real, and we got a good shot,' " Garrelts said. "Unfortunately, we didn't win the World Series and that was the downside."

The cross-town A's swept the Giants in the two-week-long series, outscoring their rivals 32-14. Current Giants hitting coach Carney Lansford clubbed one of the A's five home runs in Game 3.

A rookie Giants infielder named Greg Litton still had the time of his life.

"You always hear from young guys that get to their first year, to the World Series ... and they say 'I wish I would have enjoyed it, appreciated it.' I'm not one of those guys," said Litton, who backed up Thompson at second base. "I took it all in, never took it for granted."

While the A's Dave Stewart and Mike Moore each won two games in the series, Garrelts lost both of his starts after his 14-5 regular season.

"For 20 years, off an on, I spend time thinking what could I have different, what pitches should I have thrown," he said. "Knowing where we were at the beginning of the season, nobody really gave us [much of a shot]. We were a good ballclub, but nobody thought we were that good."

"I think we overachieved," Craig agreed of his 92-70 squad, complimenting an A's team that featured Hall-of-Famers Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley. The manager, now 79, began his first full season managing the Giants in 1986, one year after the team lost 100 games. By 1989, his managerial style was still plenty aggressive - and it was working.

Check the memory of the manager's first baseman for the evidence. Clark, now a special assistant in the Giants organization, remembered another 1989 moment, a more positive one: rounding third base on a Mitchell base hit, trying to score. Third-base coach Bill Fahey waving him in -- with a caution. As Clark sprinted toward home plate, kicking up dirt with his cleats, he heard the manager's message loud and clear.

"[Fahey] said, 'You got to go, but you're going to be out," Clark recalled.

So Clark went, almost unwillingly, and made a nifty slide. He was called safe, as Craig's mindset had paid off -- on that play and for the Giants in its 1989 season.

Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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