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Giants fans have loved and hated the intentional walk

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The intentional walk isn’t going away, but the theater of it is.

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

That picture up there means something to Giants fans of a certain vintage. When Barry Bonds was issued an intentional walk, a rubber chicken was hung on the right-field wall of AT&T Park. It seems ridiculous in retrospect, probably because it was.

There was one deflated, scrawny chicken mixed in there, and Mike Krukow called it the “Neifi chicken.” That might have been his finest hour*.

* Krukow’s. Not Neifi Perez’s.

And when Bonds was issued an intentional walk, fans would boo. And boo and boo and boo and boo. Giants fans hated the intentional walk, but at least they got some fun theater out of it.

The intentional walk isn’t going away. The theater is. Welcome to pitch-free intentional walks. If Bonds were around today, there would be no booing the decision, at least not the sustained booing that Giants fans are used to. If you ask us, the only redeeming qualities of intentional walks have to do with a) the ability of the fan to wake up and register his or her disgust, and b) the slight potential for weird stuff.

Now, I’m at a disadvantage because I wasn’t around for the Jim Ray Hart intentional walk of ‘65, or when Steve Ontiveros was intentionally walked in ‘74, or when a different Steve Ontiveros intentionally walked someone during a Giants/A’s exhibition game. There might have been some very funny, exceptionally famous intentional walks back then. I cannot help you with those.

There was a famous intentional walk of a Giants hitter in 1944. And this is also applicable:

On May 7, 1959, with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth inning, the Dodgers’ Stan Williams tried to walk the Giants’ Willie Mays intentionally. Mays, perhaps inspired by the memory of his former teammate, took a cut at the 3–0 pitch. But unlike Mueller, Mays fouled out to the catcher and the Giants lost, 2–1.

But I can remember three intentional walks specifically. And they would all have been ruined by the elimination of the actual pitches. A quick recounting:

Tony Peña cheesing the Giants off

This happened in my super-rabid, hyper-pure baseball fan, where I would scream at players who bunted during active no-hitters, to the point where I was almost kicked out of a game because of Brian Hunter. I was not dating anyone at the time. And I was so, so, so, so, so, so mad. Yelling at the TV while my parents were asleep upstairs and everything.

The best part? That wasn’t the end of the inning. Peña went out there like the game was over, but the inning wasn’t even over. The next batter was Stan Javier, who actually was walked intentionally. The batter after that was Darryl Hamilton, rest in peace, who ripped an infield single that scored two runs to give the Giants the lead. The inning ended when Javier was thrown out stealing home, but the Giants would win the game.

I loved that inning.

Rob Manfred is the enemy of that inning.

Barry Bonds getting walked intentionally with the bases loaded

Technically, Buck Showalter’s decision wouldn’t have changed. Doesn’t matter if it was four balls thrown or a hand signal that let Bonds reach and the run score.

Except listen to the crowd:

Listen to the announcers. Look at Bonds’ face:

Listen to the cheers for Brent Mayne, who came up next. I was one of the 4,000 hardy souls who was still there, and the buildup of that intentional walk was part of the whole spectacle. Those four pitches got the crowd into the game way more than a simple hand signal would have.

It would have happened without the four pitches, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

2014 NLDS - Buster Posey thrown out at home plate (#478 of 3,392, collect them all)

Does Buster Posey already have the league record for getting thrown out at home plate? A research project for another time.

But when the Nationals were melting down (and their best relievers were being held back for save situations that never existed), this happened:

If he scores, does Matt Williams approach the eighth and ninth innings separately? Does Denard Span look to take a walk and set up the tying run, rather than swing as hard as he can to try for an extra-base hit? DO THE GIANTS EVEN WIN THE WORLD SERIES?

Probably! But I’ll take the championship in the hand over the same number of championships in the bush, thank you. Also, I remember being so very excited for that wild pitch for about two seconds. You’ll never take those two seconds away from me.

You want my opinion? Eliminate the intentional walk entirely. If you want to put a runner on, make the pitcher attempt to throw balls to a catcher in the normal position. Increase the potential for chaos. Don’t decrease it, you fools.

The intentional walk is stupid, and I’ll miss the way it used to be. We had some good times, alright. We had some good times. Except for those three examples up there that didn’t work out for the Giants.

Hey, wait a sec ...