Giants’ Top 5 first basemen: Guardado's take

March 31st, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans. With that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. We also asked fans to weigh in on Twitter:

Here is Maria Guardado’s ranking of the top five first basemen in Giants history. Next week: second basemen.

1) Willie McCovey, 1959-1973, 1977-1980
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986

One of the most beloved players in franchise history, McCovey captured six All-Star selections, the 1969 National League MVP Award and the 1959 NL Rookie of the Year Award over his 19 seasons with the Giants. A fearsome left-handed power hitter, “Stretch” won three NL home run titles and crushed 231 of his 521 career homers at windswept Candlestick Park, the most of any player. When the Giants moved to their ballpark at China Basin in 2000, they named the body of water beyond the right-field wall McCovey Cove as a nod to the dozens of balls he likely would have launched into the water had he played there.

"He could hit a ball farther than anyone I ever played with," fellow Hall of Famer and Giants teammate Willie Mays once said of McCovey.

McCovey leads all San Francisco players in games (2,256), home runs (469) and RBIs (1,555) and also holds the NL record with 18 career grand slams. Since 1980, the Giants have conferred the Willie Mac Award to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership McCovey demonstrated throughout his career.

2) Bill Terry, 1923-1936
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954

Terry hit .341 over his 14-year playing career with the New York Giants. He won the NL batting title in 1930 after hitting .401, the highest mark in franchise history. No NL player has hit over .400 since then. Terry also set the Giants' single-season record for hits with 254 in 1930. He succeeded John McGraw in 1932 and became a player-manager, posting an 823-661 record over his 10 years as the Giants’ skipper. Under Terry’s leadership, the Giants won three NL pennants and defeated the Washington Senators in the 1933 World Series.

3) Will Clark, 1986-1993
Key fact: Will become only the second Giants player who is not in the Hall of Fame to have his number retired by the club, after Barry Bonds

Selected with the second overall pick of the 1985 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State, Clark batted .299 with 176 home runs and 709 RBIs over eight seasons with the Giants. “Will the Thrill" earned five of his six career All-Star selections in San Francisco, along with two Silver Slugger Awards and one Gold Glove. He delivered one of his finest seasons in 1989, when he hit .333 with 23 home runs and 111 RBIs and finished second in NL MVP voting, behind only Giants teammate Kevin Mitchell. Still, Clark captured MVP honors in the 1989 NLCS after batting .650 with two home runs and eight RBIs to help the Giants beat the Cubs in five games. The Giants are expected to retire his No. 22 during a special ceremony at Oracle Park this year.

4) Orlando Cepeda, 1958-1966
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999

A 20-year-old Cepeda debuted with the Giants in 1958 and went on to unanimously win the NL Rookie of the Year Award after batting .312 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs over 148 games. “Baby Bull” earned All-Star nods in six of his eight-plus seasons in San Francisco and finished second in NL MVP voting in 1961, when he led the league with 46 home runs and 142 RBIs, a single-season San Francisco record.

Cepeda was limited to only 33 games in 1965 after sustaining a right knee injury that eventually required surgery. He returned the following year, but he appeared in only 19 games for the Giants before being traded to the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Ray Sadecki on May 8, 1966. In St. Louis, Cepeda promptly won two NL pennants, a World Series title and the 1967 NL MVP Award. Former Giants owner Peter Magowan once called the trade “the worst mistake this organization has ever made.”

5) Roger Connor, 1883-1889, 1891, 1893-1894
Key fact: Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976

Viewed as one of the first power hitters in baseball history, Connor hit .319 with 76 home runs over 10 seasons with the New York Giants. He won the batting title in 1885 with a .371 clip and hit .300 or better in 11 of his 18 seasons in the big leagues. Connor retired in 1897 with 138 career home runs, a total that no player surpassed until Babe Ruth in 1921, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Honorable mentions
Johnny Mize is enshrined in Cooperstown with a Cardinals cap, but his stint with the New York Giants was interrupted when he took a three-year leave of absence to serve in World War II. Mize returned to launch 51 home runs in 1947, tying the Pirates’ Ralph Kiner for the NL lead.

Brandon Belt helped the Giants win World Series titles in 2012 and ‘14 and has made 37 career postseason starts at first base, the most in franchise history.

George “High Pockets” Kelly, another Hall of Famer, spent 11 of his 16 big league seasons with the New York Giants and drove in 136 runs to capture the RBI crown in 1924.