Amy G

Will Clark discusses Giants role, Candlestick memories, managing someday

Will Clark discusses Giants role, Candlestick memories, managing someday

Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Amy catches up with Giants legend Will Clark.

Like many of you reading this, Will Clark was my favorite Giant. Unlike many of you reading this, Will Clark is someone I now refer to as Uncle Will. How did that happen, right? 

I have been extremely fortunate to interview and work with Giants greats in my 12th season covering this team. There’s always a nod of recognition, a handshake, a hug, if there have been multiple interview interactions over the years with a player, former player, coach, former coach. etc. 

But Will Clark became my friend. He said to me one day in his trademark Louisiana drawl, “You know what you are, Amy G, you’re my rookie.” Like Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow took care of him as the Giants’ 1985 first-round draft pick with a huge target on his back. 

Clark used to spend several innings of the game in the dugout with me and warn me that a foul ball was coming my way. Sure enough, the warning saved my life -- multiple times. He graciously introduced me to his wife and children and allowed me to interview and have a relationship with his son, Trey, whose autism is Will and his wife Lisa’s biggest focus with regards to fundraising and community outreach. 

The best part about my relationship with Will Clark? We could not be more opposite. Let’s just say we are not on the same page regarding some current hot-button topics. He leans one way, and I lean the other. But when we’re not talking “ball,” we talk “life” and we’re actually able to meet in the middle.

Wouldn’t that be great if our current Congress could do that? Maybe Will Clark and I will run for President and Vice President? Everyone else is doing it.

Until then, let’s start with Will's current role with San Francisco, and then we can reminisce about how freaking fantastic he was as a Giant! Enjoy…

"I’m actually one of the special hitting instructors, and so I show up, I’m on the field early with the team during batting practice and pre-work, if they do any early work, and then once the game starts, since I’m not a 'full-time coach,' I actually put on my marketing hat and I’m in the stadium. I go around to all the suite levels, I see a lot of our suite holders and clients. Sometimes I sit in the stands. I enjoy watching the game.

"Not only do I see the major league club at least once a month, but I also see two of our minor league clubs. Richmond, Virginia for sure -- that's our Double-A team. And if you can play on Single-A or Double-A level, you can play on a major league level. Those are our two sort of Eastern teams. Being from Louisiana, those are easy for me to get to."

If you grew up a Will Clark fan, then you’re very familiar with Candlestick and the love-hate relationship the players and fans had with the park. My memories pretty much range between frozen and frost-bitten, but Will has a knack for turning a challenging situation into a challenge -- something he can use to his advantage -- and that’s exactly what he did it with The ’Stick.

"Well, I actually enjoyed playing at Candlestick. I've told several people that it made me the ballplayer that I was because, you literally, with all of the stuff going on around you, whether it be the wind or the hot-dog wrappers, whatever it might be, the sun -- you had to concentrate on the baseball. And you had to do a better job at doing your job than the other guy. 

“To play at Candlestick was not easy. You had to have a lot of heart, ignore everything, and still go out there and do your job."

C’mon, no one is that "glass-half-full." I pushed for something, anything that The Thrill wasn’t thrilled about regarding Candlestick. I broke him, for a minute!

“All right, the only thing that I did not like about Candlestick was when the 49ers started playing there. The infield became literally a minefield. From about August on when they started playing their preseason games, you'd get a ground ball down there, and it'd be, watch your face sometimes. It was like, 'I don't know where this one's going. This one might eat me in the chops.’ So that was the only thing I really hated about Candlestick. 

“There were certain nights, you'd walk out there and you weren't going to hit a cannon out of there that night, and you'd be a single, line-drive hitter. You'd go up to all your teammates and be like, 'Hey boys, we're going to have to string all these together because nobody is going deep.’ So, that was the fun part about playing at The ‘Stick. 

“And then the other part, too, was when you did have those nights at The ’Stick, you'd watch the other team walk out on to the field, and they were like [freezing] and you were like, ‘Man, we got 'em!’ Come on, boys, let's go, we just got to score a run or two. We got 'em. They don't want to play."

Will Clark is one of the few Giants who didn't mind hitting at 'The Stick (Photo by The Associated Press)

You can’t spend time with Will without asking him about his relationship with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. He actually was Uncle Will to Mike and Duane’s kids long before he was to me. They have endless stories about each other which are guaranteed to make you head to the restroom because you’re laughing so hard. But you also realize how much these three love each other and that they forever will be teammates.

"They are such great friends. Mike Krukow took me in as a rookie, and he basically housed me. They had a little guest room in the back of the house that they were renting, and I just piled in the guest room. I became 'Uncle Will' because I wasn't that much older than some of their kids, so I was out there playing with the kids and all that. So, Mike and Jennifer and I are really, really close.

“Duane had just gotten through with his playing career, and as our broadcaster, we got to be very close because he had so much expertise. I'd lean on him just as much as I'd lean on Mike.

“Needless to say, between the three of us, there were a few conversations over beers as to how to be a major league ballplayer and how to go about it the right way. How to not wear yourself out, just on and on and on. And to this day, that friendship remains. 

“I sneak up there to the booth after I finish my appearances, and just listen and admire how good they are, and just pat them on the back and tell them how great of friends they are.”

There is no better compliment for a baseball broadcast than for a player of Will Clark’s caliber to say job well done …

“You know, to be totally honest with you -- and this is coming from a ballplayer -- when you're having a rough go at things and the broadcasters are up there and they still find a way to make you look good, that's pretty unbelievable. [Kruk and Kuip] are the best at it. Because they've been there, done it. They know that when you're down in the dumps, maybe a little pat on the back will bring him out of it instead of just burying him when he's in the hole. They do a great job at it, and I’m amazed. 

“That's why I go up there. Not only just because I’m a friend, or because I watch every game on TV when I’m not here, but just to admire at how good they are.”

Remember when I wrote we were going to reminisce about how freaking fantastic Will was as a Giant? It’s time …

From 1988 to 1992, he was named to five straight NL All-Star teams, finished in the top five of the NL MVP vote three times, won two Silver Slugger awards and earned a Gold Glove. In 1989, he was the NLCS MVP, hitting .650 with two homers and eight RBI against the Cubs, propelling the Giants to the World Series. 

Throughout his career, Will excelled at the plate against the elite. His numbers are outrageous not only against some of the best pitchers of his era, but also arguably some of the best pitchers ever! Against Orel Hershiser = .324. Doc Gooden= .328. Greg Maddux = .315. Fernando Valenzuela = .327. To name a few… 

“If you want to know the truth, it all goes back to when I made the team. When Roger Craig was telling me, 'Hey look, you're going to be a major leaguer now.' And he told me, 'You're going to face everybody's No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and if I’m going to give you an off-day, it's going to be on somebody's No. 5. You are facing the big boys -- that's what a major leaguer does. 

“And from Day 1, I got Nolan Ryan right out the box. Every time you faced the Dodgers, you faced Orel Hershiser. Every time you faced the Braves or the Cubs, you got Maddux. Every time you faced them again, you got [Tom] Glavine. So, you're going to get the upper echelon every time. What are you going to do? Are you going to hide, or are you going to battle? I’m going to battle. I want the No. 1 out there. I want the best out there, and let's do this little competition we're about to have.”

April 8, 1986 is an iconic moment in Clark’s career. He homered off Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in his first big league at-bat. He went on to homer off Ryan six times total, but the first obviously was the most memorable and one he always enjoys reflecting upon.

“I think that first at-bat cemented the nickname Will The Thrill. That's sort of what that first at-bat did.  I got Nolan the first at-bat, and wow, unbelievable. but, the next day, I got Matt Scott. ... Yeah, it helped out with the nickname and all, but as far as me personally and what kind of career I was going to have, I don't think it would have changed me personally. But it is a big feather in the cap, and it is something you will never forget. 

“Another thing on that is one of the things that I still enjoy is when you hit a baseball with a wooden bat and you catch it clean. It makes this god-awful whackkkk sound, and it's absolutely amazing when you're up at home plate and you catch one dead center. Watching the video off of Nolan Ryan, it is the best sound you've ever heard because it was in the Astrodome, so it was in a confined space, and it is the loudest whackkkk, and I still get goosebumps.”

I mentioned in my intro that Will and his wife, Lisa, have made autism education, research and fundraising a priority. Their son, Trey, is autistic, and being on the spectrum has exposed the family to a life that has been challenging at times, but has made them all better people. 

Will is the ambassador on Autism Awareness Night at Oracle Park and he has divulged in multiple interviews about being the parent of an autistic child making him more patient, more understanding and often helping put things in perspective.

Will clearly understands how to utilize the stage of baseball for a much greater cause.

“You know, that's one thing that we do as baseball players. You're fortunate enough to play a kids game as an adult, and you’re fortunate enough to make quite a bit of money for your family and stuff. And you still have to realize that I’m a person, and there's a lot of other people who are a lot less fortunate. when I was a ballplayer. 

“I did a lot of stuff for ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, as a baseball guy, a baseball kind of disease. And then when I won MVP in 1989, a van was given to me and I gave it to United Way here in the Bay Area. You got to remember that, look, I’m a ballplayer, and I’m given a lot of stuff. But there's a lot of people that are less fortunate around me, and since I have a stage, I’m going to use that stage. I’m going to use that stage for their benefit, not for my benefit, but for their benefit. I did that as a player, and I’m continuing to do that in the role I’m at right now with the Giants. 

“The Giants have always embraced causes here, and it's fabulous that the Bay Area does it, but the Giants have really embraced the autism side of things. We have the autism night here, raise quite a bit of money for research and development, so that's where all my focus is now. ... The Giants are so great about it. It's pretty awesome what the Giants do."

You know you’re thinking it: Does Will Clark want to manage someday?

“You know what? The straight-out answer -- I’m not even being political -- is I’m not the guy that's going to pat you on the back. I am the guy who's going to kick you in the butt. Today's youth, shall we say, don't really respond to that real well. So, if that was in my future, I would definitely have to do some sort of minor league job or something like that to get the feel for it.

“Yeah, I know the X's and O's, and I know what's supposed to be done and all that sort of stuff. But as far as running a pitching staff and who would be ready and who's the best matchup and stuff like that, that would not be my strength. So, I'd have to rely on somebody for that. I would need a little bit of experience doing that.”

Could Will Clark manage the Giants someday? You never know ... (Photo via The Associated Press).

Maybe the better question is: How would your wife feel about you managing the San Francisco Giants?

“You know what, as much as I love the Bay Area, it'd be a piece of cake to move out here. So, another thing is just being full time. I had retired to be home and to be with Trey and watch him grow up -- Ella as well. Now that they're older and a little more on their own, that wouldn't be a hard adjustment. 

“But, at the same time, it's still something that I do like my freedom a bit, you know what I’m saying? Because once the season starts, it's February to October every day. Look at us here -- it's a Sunday at the ballpark, and I've been here since 7 a.m., and we don't have batting practice, so it's a full-time job ... It's not off the radar, but I'd definitely have to have some help and some more experience.”

Fair enough. Hey, he didn’t say no, right? 

Lastly, it’s time for our Toyota fan question from Eric Nathanson:

Does it matter to Will if his number ever gets retired by the Giants? Is that something he thinks about?

“Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. The Giants have always had a policy where the numbers that were retired were Hall of Famers. And then that changed last year when Barry (Bonds) got his number retired. He is not a Hall of Famer, so it opened a door. 

“I wanted to stay a Giant my whole life. That's why I came back to the Giants. Let's just say that the talks have been starting, and hopefully, it gets done. And with your help, fans, if you'd like to partake and put a little pressure on the Giants, I would love it, thank you. If No. 22 ever winds up there, it'd be really, really special.”

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amygon Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season.

MLB broadcaster Ron Darling on Bruce Bochy, Giants-Mets memories, more

MLB broadcaster Ron Darling on Bruce Bochy, Giants-Mets memories, more

Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Amy catches up with MLB broadcaster Ron Darling.
At the time of this interview (Dec. 2018), Ron Darling had not been diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. The daunting news broke earlier this baseball season and I’m happy to report after an absence from the game for treatment, Darling has returned to the broadcast booth cancer-free and happy to be around the game he loves.

I don’t have much of a history with the former MLB pitcher. He was good, I knew that much. He was an All-Star, World Series champion and Gold Glove award winner, indicating his prowess on the mound. I met Ron back in 2000, during my producing days when he worked with, then, FOX SportsNet Bay Area as an analyst for the A’s. His reputation, however, in the game as a player and analyst has long intrigued me. Throughout the game, Ron is known as a true pro and put simply, he’s just well-liked. 

One of only a handful of Major League players born in Hawaii, Darling brought a different look to the game, literally and figuratively. He expanded diversity in the game and that look, shall we say, was also very popular with the female fans. He donned the cover of many magazines in is heyday and even dabbled with acting. He’s crossed paths with so many during his tenure in America’s pastime and it turns out we have several baseball friends in common, including Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

That seems like a good place to start ...

"[Bochy] is one of my favorite teammates of all time. I played in Triple-A with Bruce and we used to call him 'Sunday Bruce Bochy.' He would only play on Sundays. He'd hit a home run, a double, and drive in three, never see the light of day in the lineup until next Sunday because we had two catchers, Mike Fitzgerald and John Gibbons, who were the guys the Mets were counting on for the future. Boch was my locker mate, I learned a lot from him about how to conduct myself like a pro.

I think the Bay Area sees this kind of rough and tumble manager who manages by his bootstraps. I just remember he had the biggest laugh. He had more fun than anyone should be allowed to have at Triple-A.

Legend has it, Bruce Bochy’s head size is so big he could fit a six-pack of beer in his helmet. I figured Ron Darling would know the truth ...

"I don't know if he can fit a six-pack of beer, but you know you are unique when you have to bring your own helmet when you get traded to a new team because they don't have one in your size."

Fair enough. Since 2006, Ron’s been with the Mets broadcast crew but he got his break in television right here in the Bay Area when he served as an analyst for A’s pregame in 2000.

Let’s go back to where it all began ...

"I'll tell ya it was such a great job. The good thing about Northern California, you know, I wasn't thrown into a New York market or a Chicago market. I just felt embraced by the people that produced or directed. I mean and having that kind of loving care really kind of helps you get over the tough spots."

Little did he know he’d end up in the toughest media market with a fan base not exactly known for being “soft”. That jump from long-time player with the Mets to analyzing New York and fairly critiquing them is not exactly easy.

"You know, when I first started the job, I thought that, naively, that I'd be in the clubhouse, kind of, 'Hey I played ball, you're playing ball, we have this fraternity connection’ and it's just the opposite. I definitely love being around the players but I'm older than most of their fathers now and I found that I want that connection but I don't want to be too close, because one, it's their livelihood, I have to remember, I used to play, but I can't play anymore, they are doing it. And without getting too close, that I don't have to make a judgment call to say, 'God I really shouldn't critique that guy because I really like that guy.' You just call it the way it is. I think it's probably the most challenging part of the job."

Ron Darling got his broadcasting break in the Bay Area before becoming a staple of the Mets' broadcast on SNY (Photo by The Associated Press).

In my experience, ballplayers are always great about giving credit where credit is due, especially when it comes to their moms. Darling is no different, but his gratitude went beyond the cliché of “Thanks mom for driving me to and from every little league practice” or “Thanks mom for making sure I always had snacks.” Darling thanked his mom for giving him his athletic ability.

"In some ways, I kind of feel bad for my mom because she is of the age where she never got to really enjoy Title IX. She would have been a collegiate athlete easily. But in my family, my dad was the coach and he learned how to coach from like reading and stuff and my mom was an unbelievable softball player, unbelievable volleyball player and all of her athletic ability came to all of us boys. I have three younger brothers, they all played collegiate athletics. I have one brother who played for the Yankees, so mom produced a lot of athletes."

Mom also produced a tough kid in Darling, as he, unfortunately, faced some nasty racial situations as the lone Hawaiian in the bunch.

"When I first started playing professional baseball, clubhouses were relentless. I wouldn't even say some of the names I was called when I first started playing pro ball, and I'm not saying it to make people feel bad, it's just how it was in those days, and all of that stuff. I'm so happy that, even if some think it, they don't voice it like they used to in clubhouses.

And I think this game -- we were just talking about my mother and her athletic ability -- there are so many people of such great renown and distinction, that's limited to just a certain demographic of white male to do this job. Makes no sense to me. We should be reaching our tentacles everywhere we can to find the greatest and brightest and that's where this sport will grow."

Darling’s memories of the San Francisco Giants involve freezing nights in the wind tunnel that was Candlestick Park. So suffice to say, Oracle Park is quite the upgrade. Plus, Darling has two sons that live in the Bay Area so his yearly trip to cover the series between the Giants and Mets is a welcome one.

"I can't get enough of the smell of garlic fries, that's the first thing. And I think because of where the stadium is -- you have to remember, I played at Candlestick Park -- and where the stadium is now and wherever I stay in San Francisco, I always walk to the stadium and I always walk home. It's just a really beautiful experience. It's a great fan experience. It's one of the top three or four baseball stadiums in the country and the Giants fans, they're so cool. Baseball fans in general aren't cool, they're kind of the hotdog and beer crowd, whatever. But the Giants fans are cool. You feel like you could be watching the Giants or transposed to be watching a grateful dead concert. They're that cool.

"Candlestick was an interesting ballpark because it had such a wind tunnel that went out to right-center. I remember the first time I pitched at that ballpark, Jack Clark hit a 3-run home run off me in the first inning. And he hit it, and it was kind of a line drive, so off the bat, I said, 'Boy that's got to be a single or a double.’ And it went out of the ballpark and I was like, 'You got to be kidding me.' I don't think I pitched very well in that ballpark. I remember sitting on the bench, I think I'm a macho guy, you're a baseball player, an athlete, I was sitting on the bench and, not screaming for your mother, but I was that cold. I was so cold but trying to pretend like you weren't."

The Mets and the Giants are forever linked. The Mets colors of orange and blue represent the Giants and Dodgers of the New York era before moving West in 1958. So we couldn’t wrap up without discussing one of the best games in Giants/Mets history -- you got it, the 2016 NL Wild Card Game in New York. One and done. Doesn’t get any more stressful than that.

Here’s how Ron saw it ...

"That one game, in particular, felt like a Western to me. It was like two gunslingers, but it just wasn't meant to be, because as all Giants fans know, Madison Bumgarner does not lose in the postseason, and he does not lose at Citi Field. His numbers are ridiculous. And certain guys who pitch, Bumgarner and others, that when you watch a guy like that pitch you go, 'God I wish I was him.' You wanted his career. That's how good he is."

Madison Bumgarner "does not lose in the postseason," Ron Darling says. He's not wrong. (Photo by USA Today Sports Images).

That’s it for me, but Ross Bently had a Toyota Fan Question for Ron! 

You’ve been in the booth for SNY for well over a decade as well as working several MLB playoffs. What’s the most memorable game you’ve called as an announcer?
"Great question. I was lucky enough to do the postseason game between the Cardinals and Phillies. Carpenter vs. Halladay. Pitchers matchup par exemplar. 1-0 Cardinals with the last out made by Ryan Howard, who tore his Achilles on the play. He lay defeated as the Cardinals rejoiced. It really showed how tenuous winning and losing can be. I was emotional as we signed off. Never forget it!"

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amygon Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season.

Bob Brenly shares lifelong friendship with Mike Krukow, love of baseball

Bob Brenly shares lifelong friendship with Mike Krukow, love of baseball

Editor’s note: “As Told To Amy G,” presented by Toyota, will feature exclusive conversations with Giants staff, players and alums, as well as interesting figures around Major League Baseball, throughout the 2019 season. Today, Bob Brenly remembers his days as a Giants catcher, his lengthy bond with Mike Krukow and that infamous four-error day.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know Bob Brenly as a Giant. My first real recollection of him was as the 2001 World Series-winning manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks -- Gonzo (Luis Gonzales) hit the game-winning single off Mariano Rivera, Jay Bell scored, and Brenly threw his arms up in victory.

It wasn’t until 2008, my first year covering the team, that Mike Krukow schooled me on Bob Brenly the Giant. Brenly was Kruk’s personal battery mate for seven seasons, and the two formed an amazing bond. Being that I now have 12 seasons in with Kruk, getting to know Bob over the years has been pretty easy.

I opened our interview with a question about Mike, and it brought an instant smile to Brenly’s face. But no one would have guessed Mike eventually would want Bob to be his personal battery mate -- not after witnessing their first time working with each other.

I can speak to this personally: Mike Krukow is one of the best people on the planet, but if he’s going to be your friend, if he’s going to trust you -- really trust you -- you’re gonna have to prove to him you’re worth it.

Krukow is a hard get, but once he’s in with someone, it’s for life.

“He had a habit of if he was throwing to a catcher for the first time, he was going to make it as difficult as possible. He shook off every sign, and not only did he shake off the sign, he would step off the rubber with this look of disgust and roll his eyes just to embarrass the living daylight out of a young, stupid catcher.

“When he did it to me in San Diego, I wasn't aware this was one of his things. I'm hanging signs, and he's shaking his head and shaking his head, and -- bam! -- a base hit. Bam! -- a base hit, another base hit, another base hit, and he's still shaking me off. So, finally I called timeout as the pitcher was coming to the plate, and I went to the mound and took a while because I wasn't sure what I was going to say. This is a veteran major league pitcher, and I’m a dumb catcher. So, finally I got to the mound and said, 'Well, let's see if you can get the blankety-blank pitcher out,' and I slammed the ball down in his glove, and I walked back behind home plate, and I think that was the moment where he went, 'OK, I can work with this guy. He's on the same wavelength that I am.’

"After that, I sort of developed into his personal catcher, and it got to the place where I would put a sign down, and he wouldn't shake off anymore. He would just start his delivery, and I would know he was going to throw something else. It was like thinking with one brain, and I loved that part of the game. Working with Mike Krukow, it was one of the great joys of my career.”

That friendship blossomed well beyond the diamond. Their families became intertwined through a love of culture, music and a lot of laughter. And when it comes to the intensity that surrounds this game, Krukow and Brenly always have known when it’s time to lighten up things.

“Oh yeah, great friends. We both love classic rock and sometimes oddball music. Jennifer and my wife, Joan, became very good friends as well, and we tried to make sure the team stayed loose when they needed to stay loose, and maybe cracked the whip a little bit if they needed that, too. We hosted parties, we rented a cruise ship out on the Bay one time and dressed up like the guy from ‘The Love Boat,’ Captain Stubing, and had the entire ballclub. ... But yeah, we tried to be as inclusive as we could, to make sure everybody felt like they were a part of it.”

One of Mike Krukow’s favorite things about Bob is something you might not know about him: He has a vast knowledge and passion for music. Kruk and his entire family (five kids) all are musically talented, and he has great respect for anyone who has an ear and wants to strum to a beat or two. Brenly fit the bill.

“I’ve always loved music, and I loved going to concerts and music festivals, but it really started when I retired as a player and went into broadcasting. I had a lot of free time, and you can get into a lot of trouble in this game with free time, and I always wanted to learn to play a guitar. And we happened to be in Philadelphia, and I went to a thrift shop. I think it was $75, and I ended up with a cheap acoustic guitar, and I just kind of started teaching myself. I bought books that taught me chords and things like that.

“It's been like 30 years, and I'm not much better than I was when I started, but I enjoy the living daylights out of it. I take a guitar on every road trip now. I have a little portable amp I can listen to with headphones, and with modern technology, I have apps that you can play along with your music on the iPad, so I find it very relaxing and a very productive hobby.”

When Brenly decided to hang up his cleats, he received an offer to go into broadcasting with the Cubs. He snagged the opportunity to remain in the game in a different capacity, but he never cut ties with the orange and black, and eventually came back West in yet another role -- coach, with a chance to work with his greatest mentor, Roger Craig.

“After my second year doing radio, Al Rosen called toward the end of the season and asked if I would be interested in being a coach. And right away, I said, 'No, I don't have any interest in riding the buses again. I don't want to go to Cedar Rapids. I've already done the minor leagues.' And he says, ‘Oh no, no. In the big leagues.' And, well, that was a different story.

“We had some conversations, and I thought getting an opportunity to coach under Roger -- who I probably have more respect for than any man I've ever been around in the game of baseball -- I thought, ‘This is a good way to see if this is something I really want to do.’ I think in the back of my mind I always thought coaching and managing might be something to do, but here was an open door -- a chance to actually get in there and see if it was something I enjoyed.

“So, I left the booth in Chicago, came back to the Giants, one year with Roger -- of course, everything that happened in '93 [the Giants’ 103-59 season], and Dusty [Baker] took over, and I'm very grateful he kept me on his staff. There was a possibility of some changes, but Dusty insisted that I stay on his staff, and I'll forever be grateful for that.”

So, all I had to do was throw out the date -- Sept. 14, 1986 -- and …

“Nobody will ever let me forget that day, but it's one of the best comeback stories of all time.”

I said: “You're just trying to help out and play third base that day, right? You weren't even a third baseman.”

“I was already in the dugout with my catcher's gear on, ready to start the game, and Bob Lillis, I believe it was, came up to me and said, 'You're going to have to play third base today. Chris Brown injured himself in batting practice.’ So, I took the gear off, I borrowed a glove from Brad Wellman, one of our utility infielders, and I went down to play third base that day, which wasn't that unusual. I had played quite a bit at third. I was a third baseman in the minor leagues for the better part of three or four full seasons, so it wasn't a big deal -- it happened all the time.

“But that particular day, Mike LaCoss was on the mound pitching against the Braves, and it just seemed like every ball that was put in play was coming my direction, and I just kept kicking one after another. Made one error on one play, made two errors on one ball when I booted it, and then picked it up and threw it away. Then I made another error, and I think there was even a line drive hit just over my head that hit my glove and went into left field, and the entire ballpark was waiting and watching the board to see, 'Hit or an error? Hit or an error?' Well, fortunately, they called it a hit, so I had the four errors in one inning to allow four runs to score, and as Kruk and Kuip and all my teammates back then would tell you, usually in those situations, I destroyed the dugout. I threw bats, I broke helmets, I kicked the restroom door, but for some unknown reason that day, I had this incredible sense of calm came over to me.

"I just sat down in the dugout, and guys were trying to run to the other side [of the dugout] to get out of the line of fire. But it just all of a sudden slowed down. My next at-bat, the ball looked like a beach ball. I felt like I had minutes to make up my mind to swing or not, and I hit a home run and put us on the board. Came up later with the bases loaded and got a hit to drive in a couple more, and then with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, I hit the home run to win it against Paul Assenmacher. To this day, it almost felt like somebody else was doing it and I was just watching and was just going along with whatever was happening on the field.

"My teammates met me at home plate, and Roger had this big grin on his face and later said in the postgame interview, 'He should win Comeback Player of the Year for that one game.’ It was just one of those days that's hard to describe, and there's no way you can predict anything like that happening. It just seemed like I was always around when weird things happened.

“I get snail-mail letters, and emails from time to time, from ministers all over the country that use it as motivation, and use it in their sermons on Sunday mornings. So, I guess that game's going to live on forever.”

Seems appropriate that we wrap up the interview back where we started, with Brenly’s relationship with the Giants and two of his best Giants friends, Kruk and Kuip.

Our Toyota Fan Question comes from @natsmom77 on Twitter:

“Well, there was no doubt it was Kruk that was in more trouble. He was sneaky. Duane would go over to somebody else and say, 'Hey ...' and you know, he was always in the corner wiping his hands saying, 'I had nothing to do with it,' when you know darn well that it was Kuip that started the whole thing, that Kruk would end up taking the heat for a lot of them.

“I don’t know if I could remember a specific [offense], you know? We had so much fun with that stuff, and so much of it was just ridiculous, but it was all about camaraderie and being able not only to dish it out to your teammates but also take it from your teammates, and there were too many with Krukow to single out one. But Kuip was the sneaky one -- he was.

“I'll tell you one quick Kuiper story. We had a pitching coach by the name of Herm Starrette, and Herm was a very agreeable gentleman. And Kuip one day, I was sitting on a bench next to him, and he says, ‘Watch this.’ And he went down to Herm, and he says, ‘Herm’ -- we were, I believe, playing the Phillies’ Greg Gross, one of their good left-handed pinch-hitters -- ‘Herm, that Greg Gross, boy I liked that guy. He always comes up with big base hits late in the game,’ and Herm just [said], 'By golly, Kuip, I like him a lot, too.’

"And then Kuip came back to me and says, ‘Now you go down there and tell him you hate Greg Gross.’ So, then I would walk down and very casually [say], ‘You know, Herm, I can't stand that Greg Gross. He’s always up there taking his time between pitches, and he acts like he owns the field.’ ... [Herm says] ‘I know, Bobby. I never have liked him.’

"So, we used to have a lot of fun with Herm, kind of playing ping pong with him, but then you know, once again, Kuip was always behind all of it, stirring it up.”

Follow Amy G on Twitter @AmyGGiants, on Instagram @amygon Facebook, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Giants coverage all season.