"I still had two pitches. I could have hit a home run to win the game. You never know what would have happened."
All we can know is what did happen. After Chuck Hiller struck out, Willie Mays followed with a double to right that Roger Maris cut off with a tremendous play to hold Matty Alou at third base. That brought up McCovey, who hit a scorching line drive to second baseman Bobby Richardson. A couple feet either way and the Giants would have been world champs.
"When McCovey hit the ball, I thought we had won. And then we lost," Alou said. "They say baseball is a game of inches. But it's also a game of fractions of a second.
"It's a game of disappointment."
How disappointing? Charles Schulz, who became a huge Giants fan when he moved his studio to California's Napa Valley, drew a Peanuts strip shortly after the Series that showed Charlie Brown and Linus sitting dejected on a curb for the first three panels. They say nothing until the final panel when Charlie Brown wails, "Why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?" A month later, Schulz drew a strip that was almost identical, only in the final panel Charlie Brown cries, "Or why couldn't McCovey have hit the ball even TWO feet higher?"
It was the first time Schulz had ever drawn a strip that referred to an actual event. He would do so only once more in the next 40 years.
Alou manages the Giants now and his son, Moises, plays for him. After 43 years, the Alou family is still trying to bring home a championship to San Francisco.
Houston, We Have a Problem ... And We've Had It For 43 Years
There is a perception, particularly in the East, that there are no real Astros fans. That no Houston fans really suffer when the Astros lose, or at least not the way Red Sox fans suffered. Jim Deshaies knows that's not true. He pitched half his career in Houston and is one of the team's broadcasters now. And he knows that people in Houston care just as much about their team as fans elsewhere.
"We've been around long enough that there are generations of fans, parents taking their kids to games, people who have grown up with the team," Deshaies said. "There are quite a few guys my age who've grown up with the Astros. I'll bump into guys that know way more about our team's history than I do. They may not be quite as wacky as Red Sox fans, and there may not be quite as many, but they're there.
"We just don't have our own nation. We don't have a catchy name like Red Sox Nation. Maybe I need to start one. How about Astros Planet? 'Oh, this is not going to make Astros Panet happy.' Astros Planet I'm going to have to start using that. 'The Red Sox may have a nation but we have a whole freaking planet.'
"But then I'll probably get sued by some fast-food burger place for stealing their name."
True. As everyone associated with the Astros knows only too well, something will go wrong with every plan. Something always does.
The Astros debuted in 1962 the same year Alou didn't get the bunt down and 43 years later, they're still trying to reach the World Series. In 1980, the Astros lost in the best-of-five playoffs to Philadelphia when four games went extra innings, including the deciding fifth game, which they led in the eighth inning with Ryan on the mound. In 1986, with Deshaies on the staff, the Astros clinched the NL West on Mike Scott's no-hitter, only to lose another heart-breaking postseason series when they blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game 6 and eventually lost 7-6 to the Mets in 15 innings (Scott, who had already defeated the Mets twice in the series, would have started Game 7). And, of course, there was last year when the Astros led the NLCS 3-2, only to lose the final two games, including Game 7 with Clemens on the mound.
"Last year reminded me of 1986, with people going nuts, waving the rally towels and the energy and the excitement sky-high," Deshaies said. "But in '86, there wasn't that sense of desperation that we had to win because we've never won a pennant. That's more the sense now. Time is a big part of that it's been another 18 years but it's also something that's been beat into people's heads.