The Giants lost the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes with Wednesday's news of Minor League Baseball realignment but gained a new Oregon affiliate. The Eugene Emeralds are the Giants' new High-A team, turning the clock back to 1962.
That's the last time the Emeralds were affiliated with the Giants, ending a four-year run as San Francisco's Class B minor league team. In those four years, the Emeralds had 16 future major league players, with some notable names to boot.
When the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1958, the Danville Leafs remained their Class B minor league team as the Emeralds were unaffiliated with a major league team. The Giants then turned to the Northwest League in 1959, making the Emeralds their newest affiliate.
The Emeralds played at the 4,000-seat Bethel Park, which actually is the same capacity as the $19.2 million PK Park that the Giants' newest minor league team will play at. That first season was a tough one, as the Emeralds finished fifth out of six teams in the league with a 68-71 record. But Eugene did have five future pros. A 20-year-old Bobby Bolin went 20-8 with a 2.84 ERA and struck out 271 batters in 225 innings pitched. Bolin went on to have a 13-year MLB career -- nine with the Giants -- and finished with a 3.40 ERA.
While Bolin had a notable major league career, the biggest name came to Eugene in 1960 when an 18-year-old Jesus Alou joined the Emeralds for nine games. Jesus is the oldest of the famed Alou brothers. His older brothers, Matty and Felipe, also played in the big leagues, and Felipe went on to manage the Giants for three seasons.
Jose Tartabull, the father of Danny Tartabull, also played with the Emeralds in 1960. At just 21 years old, Tartabull hit .344 with 20 doubles and 15 triples and stole 24 bases. He had a nine-year MLB career, but none with the Giants.
Alou thrived with the Emeralds in 1961. At 19 years old, he hit .336 with 10 homers, 31 doubles and five triples. He was called up to the Giants two years later and spent 15 seasons as a pro where he had a .280 career batting average. That 1961 squad featured five other future big leaguers, including Jose Cardenal (who finished his career with nearly 2,000 hits ) and Bill Hands (who had 111 career wins).
The Giants' previous final season affiliated with Eugene might have featured their two best future pros not named Alou. A 20-year-old Dick Dietz hit .292 with 14 homers and 15 doubles. He went on to have an eight-year MLB career and was an All-Star with the Giants in 1970 when he hit .300 with 22 homers, 36 doubles, 107 RBI and had a . 941 OPS. Along with a great hitter in Dietz, the 1962 Emeralds also had Frank Linzy, who had a 2.85 ERA and recorded 110 saves over 11 years. He finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1965 with the Giants when he went 9-3 with a 1.43 ERA and 20 saves over 57 games. Linzy even finished 13th in NL MVP voting that year.
Some guy named Willie Mays was a bit better and won the '65 NL MVP.
The Giants both turned back the clock and looked towards the future with a beautiful facility by adding the Emeralds as their newest affiliate. The front office certainly hopes Eugene produces future major leaguers like they did years ago for San Francisco. With a farm system on the rise, that definitely is the expectation.
Plenty of future road trips to the Pacific Northwest should be in store for Giants fans.