San Francisco Giants Diary: Bob Brenly’s Inspirational Game


This is the first entry in my San Francisco Giants diary.

It was September 14th, 1986. As we crossed the San Mateo bridge on our way back from the game, I had a feeling that I hadn’t had up until then.

The Giants had already been deemed my favorite team even before I was born. Having an allegiance to another baseball team was unheard of in our family. But up until then it seemed forced.

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It was normal for my father or uncle to take me out to the ballgame at a moments notice. When my dad got home, he would ask me if my homework was finished and, if not, to go get, and I would do it on the way. My uncle had taken me to this Sunday afternoon affair, and I remember it being sunny, with the wind sweeping across the infield periodically.

8,594 fans were in attendance for the game against the Atlanta Braves. A far cry from the 41,000+ that sell out AT&T Park every game.

The team had been through a lot as of late with the ’85 team having lost 100 games. But there was hope built during this season, and this particular day proved to me that the team was getting closer to playoff contention. It was to become what I understood to be Giants baseball.

The Giants were 8.5 games behind that day, but that didn’t matter since the Houston Astros were running away with the division anyway. But it was all about those kids. I happened to be 10 years-old then, but I was always taught that the younger players were called kids.

Will Clark and Robby Thompson had come up the year earlier and played the game exactly how it was supposed to be played. Their uniforms were rarely clean, and you could see the focus in their eyes. But on this day, those kids’ performances were overshadowed by one of the old wily veterans.

December 1, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; General view of Candlestick Park before the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Brenly would play third that day, since Bob Melvin was behind the plate. Brenly had actually been drafted as a third baseman and had played there 44 other times that season, so it wasn’t a shock that he was there. The shocker came in the top of the fourth inning when Brenly had one of the worst innings on defense in the history of the game.

Bob Horner led off the inning with a chopper to third off Mike LaCoss. Brenly cut in front of Jose Uribe, which is what a third baseman is supposed to do, but he could not come up with it cleanly. After a single by Ken Griffey Sr, a sacrifice bunt, and an intentional walk, up came Glenn Hubbard with the bases loaded.

Brenly was hit with what looked like an inning-ending double play ball. But it hit off the heel of his glove, so he tried to come home to cut off the run at the plate. But his throw was well wide of Melvin, so not only did the one run score but so did Griffey.

After a single by the pitcher plated two more unearned runs, LaCoss got a flyout and another single before Dale Murphy stepped up. Murphy hit it right at Brenly, who could not find the handle, making his fourth error of the inning. That tied the Major League record for most errors in an inning.

Then the game of baseball started to grow inside of me.

Brenly stepped up in the fifth inning with the Giants down 4-0. He hit a solo shot to left over the old chain-link fence. At my age, it was not advisable for me to go down and wrestle with the bigger kids for a home run ball, but I was sitting near the bottom, among a smattering of fans.

After a few more runs for each side, Brenly stepped up in the seventh and singled home the tying runs making it a 6-6 ballgame. I remember my uncle saying that we needed to get close to an exit in the ninth. The parking lot always jammed up, even with only 8,000+ in attendance, and we didn’t enjoy being stuck there any longer than we needed to. We made our way to the first base side of the field.

Brenly had changed into Clark Kent and then back into Superman right in front of me.

Candy Maldonado and Chili Davis were both retired by Paul Assenmacher. Then up stepped Brenly, ot the prolific home run hitter having hit a total of 16 in 1986. He worked the count full and then hit a towering “no-doubt-about it” shot to left to end the game. He knew it was gone, as did we.

My uncle and I were in the car and had it started by the time the crowd started to file out of Candlestick. Listening to the post-game show on the way home, I started to understand what it took to be successful. It took heart, desire, and intestinal fortitude. Before that day, these players were untouchable in my eyes.

Brenly had changed into Clark Kent and then back into Superman right in front of me. He was just a man playing a kids’ game. And from that day on I have never booed a player who gave maximum effort. They will eventually make up for it, and I will love them again anyway.

Next: Dave Righetti: Should Coaches Be Considered for Hall Of Fame?