The parades, the World Series trophies, the talk of a modern-day dynasty with three championships in five years all came after. And yet, everything changed years before any of it came to be.
Enter Dec. 8, 1992. San Francisco became Giant 25 years ago today.
"This agreement will make Barry Bonds the best-paid player in the game," Peter Magowan, who would soon take sole possession of the team in January, said. "It is a lot of money, but there is only one Barry Bonds."
Magowan, then a Safeway CEO, and Larry Baer, who worked at CBS Television at the time, were the Giants' saviors keeping the team in San Francisco instead of moving to Tampa Bay. Their next step was crowning a king of the city, beginning a new era.
No team needed a player like Bonds more than his hometown Giants. The team was coming off a 90-loss season in 1992. Their roster fielded nine players who found time in the outfield, combining for 38 home runs. By himself, Bonds hit 34 home runs in '92 with the Pirates, winning his second National League MVP.
It seemed like the perfect story. Bonds grew up with the Giants, his dad Bobby played seven seasons in San Francisco and Barry idolized his godfather Willie Mays (he wore No. 24 to honor the all-time great).
But even after he agreed to his record deal with the Giants, it almost never happened.
Bonds was set sign with the Giants two days earlier at the winter meetings on Dec. 6, but current club owner at the time, Bob Lurie, refused to give him the deal.
"You have to have control of the team to sign a ballplayer," Lurie reportedly said of Baer and Magowan. "And they don't have a team. We do not want Barry Bonds to be a San Francisco Giant at that price."
The price set the record for the largest contract in baseball history when Bonds officially put pen to paper. Bonds' six-year, $43.75 million deal beat Cal Ripken's record for total guaranteed money by more than $11 million, and his nearly $7.3 million per year edged out Ryne Sandberg's record at the time. Baer and Magowan came to an agreement with Lurie that if the purchase of the team somehow hit a snag, Lurie would not have to assume Bonds' contract and the team's newest star could essentially wind up with someone else.
Once the team's sale became official, Bonds’ reunion with the Bay was back on. The Giants had their next Mays and were willing to take an unprecedented step that was in some ways even bigger than Bonds' record contract. The Giants received permission from Mays, allowing Bonds to continue wearing his No. 24, even though the Hall of Fame center fielder's jersey had been retired by the Giants for years.
"It's like a boyhood dream that comes true for me. For a kid to have the opportunity to fulfill a dream of an idol," Bonds said at his news conference as he struggled holding back tears. "I was born on July 24, 1964, and I always thought that the Lord God brought you in this world and that day should be your favorite number. To have that opportunity for a great hero and to keep his name alive is an honor for me, and I want to thank the San Francisco Giants organization for talking to Willie for me and for giving me this opportunity. And especially to Willie for allowing this to happen."
However, after a public outcry, the Giants announced days later that Bonds would wear No. 25, which his father donned with the Giants.
"With this one move, we feel we have transformed the team on the field and sent a clear message to the Northern California baseball community that the new ownership group is committed to this franchise," Magowan said when he signed Bonds.
Bonds' first season in San Francisco was his best yet to date. In 1993, Bonds set career highs across the board in games played (159), runs (129), hits (181), doubles (38), home runs (46), RBI (123), batting average (.336), on-base percentage (.458), slugging percentage (.677), OPS (1.136), OPS+ (206), total bases (365), and bWAR (9.9). He won his second straight NL MVP, and fourth straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, moving the future of the Giants forward with each waggle of his bat.
Not only did Bonds put up staggering numbers in his first season with the Giants, the results trickled throughout the entire roster. The Giants improved by 31 games, from 72-90 to 103-59, but still failed to make the playoffs in the last year before the wild card was implemented. The Braves (104-58) won the NL West by one game.
After the Giants only saw 1,560,998 fans come to Candlestick Park in '92, fourth worst in the majors, fans flocked to the park with Bonds in the Orange and Black. The Giants' home attendance rose to 2,606,354 in Bonds' first season, placing them 10th overall.
The '93 season was the beginning of a 15-year marriage between Bonds and the Giants -- he hit 586 home runs and won four more MVP awards after his two with the Pirates. The Giants went 1,253-1,110 (.530), won the NL West three times and won the 2002 NL pennant.
Magowan and Baer made a splash to start their tenure in San Francisco by signing Bonds to his record-breaking deal. The team missed out on Bonds when they failed to sign him out of Serra High School in the second round on the 1982 MLB Draft. Strike two came when they chose Will Clark over Bonds in the 1985 draft, four slots ahead of where the Pirates selected Bonds.
The new regime refused to strike out.