Willie Mays (Courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame)

October 1, 1962: Mays, Pierce lead Giants to win in Game 1 of NL tiebreaker series

This article was written by Brian Frank

Willie Mays’ strong play helped the Giants catch the Dodgers in the exciting 1962 NL pennant race. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Willie Mays’ strong play helped the Giants catch the Dodgers in the exciting 1962 NL pennant race. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)


The San Francisco Giants made a late-season charge to catch the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1962 National League pennant race. Leading the Giants by four games with only seven games left to play, the Dodgers lost six of seven games and didn’t score a run in their final 21 innings. San Francisco won five of its final seven games, including the one on the final day of the schedule, when Willie Mays hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to help defeat the Houston Colt .45s, 2-1. The Giants’ dramatic victory coupled with the Dodgers’ 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals brought the two rivals into a first-place tie and forced a best-of-three tiebreaker series to decide the NL pennant.

It was the first time the two teams had squared off in a tiebreaker game since 1951, when Bobby Thomson’s famed “Shot Heard ’Round the World” sent the Giants to the World Series. That was, of course, before both clubs relocated from New York City to the West Coast.

A pair of southpaws took the mound in the first game of the tiebreaker series. The Giants sent 35-year-old veteran Billy Pierce to the mound to face 26-year-old Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax. Pierce was 15-6 with a 3.72 ERA – but notably went 11-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 starts at Candlestick Park. Koufax came into the series 14-6 with a 2.41 ERA. However, despite his impressive numbers, he was in the process of battling back from an injury to his pitching hand that put him out of action from July 17 until September 21. Since returning from the disabled list, he’d uncharacteristically struggled, allowing seven earned runs in just 7⅔ innings pitched.

There was a bit of controversy before the first pitch when Giants manager Alvin Dark and umpire Jocko Conlan got into a heated discussion over whether the Giants had sanded and watered down the Candlestick Park infield in order to slow down the speedy Dodgers baserunners. The Oakland Tribune reported that “for a time it looked like the two men might come to blows.”1 As a result, the grounds crew, on Conlan’s orders, worked on the field for more than 20 minutes, “rolling down the soft spots around home plate and near the bases with small bulldozers.”2

After Pierce set down the Dodgers in order in the top of the first, Koufax retired the first two batters he faced before Felipe Alou “hit a scorcher down the left-field line” for a double to bring Mays to the plate.3 The Giants’ star hit a 2-and-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field to give San Francisco a 2-0 lead. It was Mays’ 48th home run of the season and his second homer in two at-bats, after his shot to help beat Houston the day before.

“I hit a fastball off Koufax,” Mays said, “but I’ve seen Sandy throw a lot harder.”4

Jim Davenport led off the Giants’ second inning by hitting a ball that “just barely cleared the left-field fence.”5 The next batter, Ed Bailey, singled to right and Dodgers manager Walter Alston sent coach Leo Durocher to the mound to take Koufax out after he’d faced just seven batters.

“I have an idea of what I want to do out there, but I can’t seem to do it,” Koufax told sportswriters. “I try to throw hard, but the ball doesn’t come out as hard as it used to, and my control is way off. Right now I’m in about the same stage as I would be in the third week of spring training.”6

Ed Roebuck came in from the Dodgers bullpen to try to stop the bleeding. He did a stellar job, allowing only one hit over four shutout innings before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.

Larry Sherry came in to work the bottom of the sixth for the Dodgers. He retired Alou on a popup before Mays blasted his second home run of the game – this one into the right-center-field bleachers. It was Mays’ 49th home run of the season, putting him one ahead of Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew for the major-league lead. (Statistics from the tiebreaker series counted as regular-season statistics.)

“I passed Killebrew’s 48 homers and lead both leagues?” a seemingly surprised Mays said after the game. “I don’t worry about what’s going on in the other league. Not ’til Thursday, anyway.”7

“The crowd hadn’t resettled itself” when the next batter, Orlando Cepeda, made it back-to-back home runs by driving a high fly ball over the left-field fence.8 It was the slugger’s 35th home run of the season and gave the Giants a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Pierce was having little trouble with the Dodgers’ struggling lineup and seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

“I never get tired,” Pierce said. “After Willie hit that first one, I got stronger. By the time I had five runs, I was like a tiger.”9

The Giants rallied for three insurance runs in the eighth inning. Phil Ortega walked Mays to start the frame. After Cepeda flied out, Mays stole second. (The Oakland Tribune’s George Ross commented that Mays stole “just to show Maury Wills and Walt Alston that the track isn’t so slow after all.”10) Davenport drew a walk, and after Ortega hurled three balls to Ed Bailey, Ron Perranoski was summoned from the Dodgers bullpen. Perranoski threw ball four to complete the walk and load the bases. José Pagán finished the scoring for the day by hitting “a sharp grounder into right-center.”11 Pagán raced around first as Frank Howard chased down the ball and fired to Wills covering second. The throw hit Wills in the face, breaking his sunglasses and leaving him with a bruised nose. Pagán was awarded a double on the play, but Howard was charged with an error on the throw, allowing Bailey to come home and make the score 8-0.

Pierce completed the shutout by retiring the Dodgers in order in the ninth inning, fanning Howard for the final out. The veteran southpaw ended up allowing just three hits and a walk, while striking out six, to improve his record at Candlestick Park to 12-0.

“My control on the corners was good,” Pierce said. “I was getting it in and out on the batters real well, and my fastball was working good.”12

Giants catcher Bailey gave a glowing assessment of his hurler’s performance.

“I’ve been in the major leagues nine years,” Bailey said, “and I’ve never caught a better pitched game. I’ve caught two-hitters and one-hitters, but I never before saw anybody get as much out of his stuff as Pierce. The way he was moving the ball in and out, hitting spots and keeping the batters off balance was really something.”13

A veteran of 16 seasons, who’d pitched over 3,000 innings, won 205 games, made seven All-Star games, and pitched in the 1959 World Series with the White Sox, Pierce ranked his performance against the Giants high on his list of impressive achievements.

“But all in all,” Pierce said, “this had to be my most satisfying win. It’s got to be. It meant so much to me, the ballclub, and was so important in general.”14

Pierce’s performance helped hand the Dodgers their fifth consecutive loss and extended their scoreless streak to an astounding 30 innings.

San Francisco’s offense was led by Mays. After his home run the previous day helped force the playoff series, the Giants slugger went 3-for-3 with two home runs, a single, walk, three RBIs, three runs scored, and a stolen base.

The amazing performances by Pierce and Mays brought the Giants to within one victory of securing their first pennant since moving to San Francisco and earning the right to face the New York Yankees in the World Series. However, Mays wasn’t ready to count out the slumping Dodgers. When asked if he thought the Dodgers looked bad, the Giants superstar responded: “Any club looks bad when it’s not hittin’. But I’m not countin’ my Series cut yet. We could lose the next two easy.”15

As for his own play, Mays ranked it as one of his best games ever. “I’ve had some big days, like when I hit those four homers in one game at Milwaukee last year,” he said, “but this game today meant a lot more.”16

Dark agreed with his star player’s assessment.

“He’s the greatest all-around player I’ve ever seen,” Dark said. “Was this his greatest day? I can’t compare. He has great days so often. But over 12 years, how can you pick out a best? This one certainly meant more than many others.”17



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.org and Retrosheet.org.





1  “Ump, Dark Battle over Sandy Field,” Oakland Tribune, October 2, 1962: 36.

2  “Ump, Dark Battle Over Sandy Field.”

3  Paul Zimmerman, “Pierce Flips 3-Hitter, as Willie Hits Two; Koufax Knocked Out,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1962: Part 3, 1.

4  Leo Peterson (Associated Press), “Mays, Pierce Lead SF to 8-0 Win in Opener,” Fresno Bee, October 2, 1962: 22-A.

5  Zimmerman.

6  “We’re Beat if We Don’t Go on a Two Game Winning Streak,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1962: Part 3, 1.

7  George Ross, “Giants Banking on Mays Red-Hot Bat,” Oakland Tribune, October 2, 1962: 38.

8  Harry Jupiter, “Dodgers Blasted, 8-0; Mays, Pierce Brilliant,” San Francisco Examiner, October 2, 1962: 56.

9  Curley Grieve, “If I’m Going to Smile, Says Billy, It’s Today,” San Francisco Examiner, October 2, 1962: 56.

10 Ross, “Giants Banking on Mays Red-Hot Bat.”

11 Zimmerman: Part 3, 3.

12 Ross.

13 Emmons Byrne, “Giants Win on Homers,” Oakland Tribune, October 2, 1962: 38.

14 Grieve.

15 Frank Finch, “Mays Tired but Keeps Wearing Out Pitchers,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1962: Part 3, 1. The Giants lost the next day at Los Angeles, 8-7, before winning the series’ decisive game at Dodger Stadium, 6-4, to advance to the World Series, where they fell to the Yankees in seven games.

16 Finch.

17  Curley Grieve, “Fun Day for Plain Tired Willie Mays,” San Francisco Examiner, October 2, 1962: 54.

Additional Stats

San Francisco Giants 8
Los Angeles Dodgers 0
Game 1, NL tiebreaker series

Candlestick Park
San Francisco, CA


Box Score + PBP:

Corrections? Additions?

If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.