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A 9-0 loss means little as Giants honor now-retired Bochy

The Giants packed McCovey Cove with a bevy of yachts, ferries and other watercraft Sunday to produce a booming foghorn in salute of manager Bruce Bochy ahead of the final game of his 25-year managerial career in what was perhaps baseball’s most cacophonous swan song.

From start to finish, there were tributes, thank-yous, gestures and ovations. Even Los Angeles got in on the act. It was an afternoon of emotions so strong they managed to overshadow the Giants’ dreadful showing on the field in their 9-0 sweep-sealing defeat at the hands of the Dodgers.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.

Bochy soaked in ovation after ovation, every time his name was announced, when he went to the mound to switch pitchers, whenever his picture shown on the video board.

One of the ovations that lasted over five minutes came after he was announced along with the afternoon’s lineup ahead of first pitch. As he held his grandson Braxton in his arms he acknowledged the crowd, waving his cap from the top step of the dugout, and Braxton, too, removed his little cap to mirror his grandad.

Ching Wong/SFBay

Said Bochy:

“He was taking it all in. Grandchildren — they’re the best. You become a hero again somehow.”

But Bochy never stopped being a hero to his players and the City he’s represented for 13 years. In spite of one of the team’s worst performance’s in 2019, a season largely characterized by mediocrity, almost all of Sunday’s 41, 909 sell-out crowd sat through a 9-0 blow out that lasted nearly 3-1/2 hours.

First baseman Brandon Belt said he was sorry the team failed to perform better for their skipper this season but he was impressed to see the fans honor Bochy like that:

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like that. It didn’t seem like anybody left, they stayed the whole game even though it was pretty terrible on our part.”

Bochy said he was deeply touched:

“That game, I mean it really couldn’t have gone worse, to be honest — five runs in the first inning — it was a little bit of slow torture. I looked up and this place was packed. But leaning on the dugout rail — I’ve never gotten tired looking at that — and for them to stay was something I’ll never forget.”

The manager broke out a catchers mitt to receive the afternoon’s first pitch from his son and former-Giants pitcher, Brett Bochy, which the veteran-catcher said was possibly one of the most meaningful pitches he’s caught in his long career:

“Handing the ball to him was up there with winning the World Series. It was nice to see Brett out there, and he threw me a nice throw. To have him throw out the first pitch, that’s something we both will cherish.”

Capping off a month-long campaign of gratitude for the skipper, the Jumbotron was smattered with a slew of messages of congratulations and appreciation from players, managers and coaches both within the organization and beyond, across nine innings.

Among the well-wishers who recorded a message was Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who, in addition to being a colleague, played under Bochy on the 2005 and 2006 Padres teams and the 2007 and 2008 Giants teams. Roberts expressed his admiration for Bochy:

“There’s no one I like competing against more than you, because every time I see you, I learn something. When you’re trying to be the best you gotta beat the best and there’s no one better than you.”

The Giants brought in over 20 players from Bochy’s storied managerial career for the post-game ceremony, and when former teammates of Roberts’ walked out from centerfield to join the other ceremonial guests in the infield, Roberts jogged out to meet them halfway from the visiting dugout.

But he failed to remove his Dodgers hat, which proved to be a mistake:

“It’s ironic he’s managing the Dodgers because we spent a lot of time together in San Diego, then he came up here. For him to come out [during the ceremony] was pretty special but it probably wasn’t a good move wearing the hat. He should have thought about that.”

Barry Bonds took care of the irritant, though. He and his teammates trotted over to the Dodgers manager and Bonds yanked the hat off Roberts’ head, hurling it into right field.

It was probably cathartic considering the Dodgers club set a single-season franchise record Sunday with their 106th victory at the Giants expense. 

Dereck Rodríguez (L, 6-11, 5.64 ERA) was given the chance to end the season on a high note after a serious sophomore slump, but it was not to be. He lasted just 1-2/3 and allowed five runs on four hits in the first inning alone. 

And so in what has been a theme for the better part of a month, 2020 bullpen auditions were underway for the final 7-1/3.

Sam Selman, Enderson Franco and Burch Smith combined for 4-1/3 scoreless frames before Sam Coonrod and Jandel Gustave broke the chain. 

Coonrod loaded the bases in the seventh on a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a single before walking home a run. Gustave loaded the bases the next inning on a single and a pair of walks before allowing consecutive singles. By the time he got out of the mess, the Giants were in a nine-run hole.

But no one will remember this game, or how miserable the loss was. They will remember what Brandon Crawford referred to as a “Bochy reunion” and the heartfelt words and emotions it drew from fans and members of the extended Bochy family.

Evan Longoria, who has only had the pleasure of two seasons with the future Hall of Fame manager, said he wasn’t surprised to see the organization pull out all the stops for Bochy:

“The Giants have always been about family and being so appreciative to the people that have been here and the people that have helped this organization. I thought it was really cool that they brought back so many of the old Giants that had made Boch’s career what it was.”

Bochy, however, was floored by how much the organization did to make the day so epic. He said he was kept entirely in the dark about the nature of the ceremony and even many of the things they did over the last month of the season to honor him were surprises:

“I was blown away. I was just trying to keep it together, this was as tough a day as I’ve ever had, because you just can’t believe that there’s that many people that cared and made the effort to come out to be part of this. And with all these ex-players coming out, and each one of them getting emotional about it — it was an emotional roller coaster all day.”

Among the players who showed up for Bochy was a Forever Giant who hasn’t shown his face around these parts in nearly four years. The retirement of Bonds’ number didn’t bring him back . The deaths of Willie McCovey and former-owner Peter MaGowan didn’t draw him.

It took the retirement of his beloved manager to bring  Tim Lincecum back into the fold and Bochy said he nearly lost his composure upon seeing him:

“Timmy’s a tough one to get a hold of, I’ve tried to text, I tried to see him in Seattle, so when he was announced, that put me over the edge a little bit. I said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get through this.’

Timmy is somebody who’s really close to my heart and for him to come down here is a pretty big deal for me, because I know he’s not a guy that looks to be around this type of situation.”

There were Giants contingents from each of Bochy’s World Series teams, including Brian Wilson, Ryan Vogelsong, Marco Scutaro, Chris Heston, and Barry Zito, among others. And a handful of Giants spoke at the ceremony including Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavey and Grégor Blanco.

Sandoval, who has often referred to Bochy as a second father, became tearful describing his appreciation for how Bochy has impacted is life:

“One of the moments that I always wanted to say thanks to Bochy and the organization for is how they made my dream come true. Because I played with my brother and I always prayed to god about playing in the World Series in game seven, and Boch accomplished that dream for me in 2014.”

One of the few bright spots on the playing field Sunday was the opportunity fans had to show appreciation for another Forever Giant. 

On a day Madison Bumgarner was originally slated to take the ball one more time for San Francisco before heading into the great unknown of free agency, he instead picked up a bat.

Ching Wong/SFBay
Ching Wong/SFBay
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) awaits the ball in the fifth inning during a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, September 29, 2019. (Ching Wong/

In what initially seemed like a curious move, Roberts, hooked reliever Dustin May (W, 2-3, 3.63 ERA) for ace and longtime Bumgarner adversary, Clayton Kershaw, in the bottom of the fifth.

Bochy claims there was no advanced planning between opposing managers for this moment and that he did not know Roberts planned to give the ball to Kershaw.

But when Kershaw took the field, Bochy decided to swap the big lefty in for Brandon Crawford so Bumgarner could take his bow before the hometown crowd:

“I couldn’t think of a better scenario. I really wanted Craw to hit but I just wanted to do something for Madison. With all he’s done, I just said, ‘There can’t be a better script right now with Clayton on the mound, facing a guy he’s battled so many times.’ It was a pretty cool moment.”

Upon exiting the dugout, Bumgarner was awash in a roaring ovation. Los Angeles catcher Will Smith promptly took a well-timed visit to the mound to give Bumgarner his moment.

Crawford was gracious in making way, though he did kid Bumgarner a bit:

“I told him, ‘You better hit a homer.’ No, that was cool. I think it was kind of the only way that Boch felt like he could get a good ovation from the crowd for Bum since he wasn’t pitching today, so I understood the whole deal there.”

As Bumgarner absorbed the love and adoration of the City for whom he helped bring home three Championships, he waved his cap at the first sell-out crowd since 2019’s home-opener and tipped his hat to the only manager he’s ever known. Then, after the moment passed, he stepped into the box.

In another clear gesture of respect, Kershaw threw Bumgarner seven-straight fastballs, topping out at 91-mph, before Bumgarner lined out to third for the inning’s third out. As he stepped off the mound, Kershaw tipped his cap to both Bumgarner and the Giants retiring manager.

Ching Wong/SFBay
Ching Wong/SFBay
A fan holds up a sign before the final game of San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, September 29, 2019. (Ching Wong/

Posey said Kershaw’s actions didn’t surprise him in the least, and he described the three-time Cy Young Award winner as a class act:

“That’s what makes baseball fun, because of little tidbits like that that you get to see throughout the year. I thought it was really cool how Kershaw pitched him, too. He went right after him and challenged him. Those two have been going at it for a decade now, and hopefully there will be more to come, we’ll see.”

The Giants failed to score a single run on the day their longtime manager finally slipped on the gold watch, but the season finale still served an important purpose for the organization and its fanbase as it grapples with the end of an era.

Bochy offered an off the cuff speech that was articulate and touching, thanking the fans, his players, coaches, support staff, family and the organization. He was halted by tears more than a few times as he wrestled with his emotions.

Asked what he would say if, like the United States President, he were to write a letter and leave it on his desk for his successor, he struggled mightily to get the words out:

“I’d probably leave a note telling him he got the best job in baseball. And I mean that. I’d talk about [how great] the owners are, the front office, the City, the surrounding areas, the ballpark, the fans — he’s getting the best job in baseball.”

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