(Reuters) - Travis Ishikawa, mired in a slump in the minors, nearly gave up his Major League Baseball career this summer before adding his name to Giants’ lore with a home run that put his club in the World Series.
Ishikawa’s three-run homer Thursday in the bottom of the ninth gave San Francisco a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League pennant, and his euphoric trip around the bases recalled one of baseball’s most famed playoff moments.
Scotland-born Bobby Thomson slugged a 1951 home run for the New York Giants that beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in a playoff for a World Series berth that came to be known as baseball’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
Journeyman Ishikawa, a first baseman turned outfielder to plug an injury hole in San Francisco’s lineup, delivered his own shot with a towering fly over the right-field wall that won the Giants the 2014 National League pennant.
”I just thought it was going to be a walk-off hit...and then I just heard. I remember hearing the crowd just going crazy, and my thought was OK, if this gets out, it’s going to be fantastic.
“I don’t remember touching third. I don’t remember touching home. The next thing I remember was being thrown down with my jersey ripped off and then finally I was just so out of breath from yelling and screaming, and I had to have guys help me stand back up to finish celebrating.”
The 31-year-old’s trip around the bases at AT&T Park seemed light years from his dark days at Triple A Fresno.
“You get to a point where you’re still in the minor leagues (and) you’re struggling in the minor leagues,” said Ishikawa, who began his career with the Giants but played last year with the Orioles and the Yankees before being cut this year by the Pirates.
“You wonder if God is continuing to put me through this trial or if it’s him telling me that it’s time to hang ‘em up and do something else,” added the third generation Japanese-American.
He was thinking retirement until he talked to a friend.
“I just remember calling a buddy of mine, halfway through the year, crying...,” he said. “I was putting every effort I possibly could into the hitting (and) didn’t look like I could hit a ball on a tee if you put it there.”
The friend encouraged him, and Ishikawa chose to persevere.
He rallied enough that the Giants brought him up late in the season.
”I came up, thinking I was just going to be a pinch-hitter...and obviously Boch (manager Bruce Bochy) with his mastermind of intuition, throwing me out in the outfield and giving me this opportunity.
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry