As a motivational speech, it doesn?t quite rank with Knute Rockne?s ?Win one for the Gipper,? but it came darn close to being just as effective.
In 1964, legend has it, Giants manager Alvin Dark said of feeble-hitting pitcher Gaylord Perry: ?They?ll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run.?
Well, that obviously got Perry?s competitive juices going. The race was on.
Five years later, Neil Armstrong and the rest of his NASA team won.
But it was close.
Monday is the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, and it?s also the 40th anniversary of Perry hitting his first big-league home run, after nearly 500 at-bats.
His home run, against the Dodgers? Claude Osteen in a 7-3 Giants? win at Candlestick Park, came about three hours after astronaut Buzz Aldrin declared ?the Eagle has landed.?
About nine hours after Perry?s homer, Armstrong descended from the lunar module and famously proclaimed: ?It?s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.?
For those interested in such archeological digging, the Giants? starting lineup on the day Perry and Armstrong made history was: Bobby Bonds, RF; Ron Hunt, 2B; Willie Mays, CF; Willie McCovey, 1B; Jim Davenport, 3B; Ken Henderson, LF; Hal Lanier, SS; Bob Barton, C; and Perry.
Despite Perry?s home run and the win that gave them a 54-42 record, the Giants, under manager Clyde King (Dark was managing in Cleveland by then, after a stopover in Kansas City), were on their way to a fifth consecutive second-place finish in the era before wild-card playoff teams.
What were the A?s, under manager Hank Bauer, up to while Armstrong and Aldrin were landing on the moon and Perry was clearing the fences?
They were in Anaheim, splitting a doubleheader with the Angels. In the second game, Reggie Jackson hit his 37th homer of the season. The A?s starting lineup in that second game: Ted Kubiak, SS; Dick Green, 2B; Jackson, RF; Sal Bando, 3B; Danny Cater, 1B; Rick Monday, CF; Joe Rudi, LF; Larry Haney, C; and Lew Krausse, P.
Oakland would go on to win 88 games in ?69, the franchise?s most since the Philadelphia Athletics won 94 in 1932, but they, like the Giants, would finish second.
What else was going on in the world of sports 40 years ago? Here?s a brief and selective look:
The New York Mets, on the way to their miracle World Series win in less than three months, were five games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League East.
The New York Jets of the American Football League were preparing for training camp as pro football?s defending champions, six months after shocking the NFL?s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Joe Frazier had recently defended one version of boxing?s heavyweight championship by stopping Jerry Quarry in the seventh round. Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali was into his third year of forced exile from boxing for refusing induction into the Army. He was free, pending an appeal he would eventually win.
The Boston Celtics had won the NBA championship 2? months earlier, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the seventh game of the Finals, which would be Bill Russell?s last game as a player. He won 11 NBA titles in a 13-year career.