To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Giants’ 2012 World Series, KNBR will release a series of stories highlighting that special run leading up to Aug. 13’s reunion at Oracle Park.
Bruce Bochy hoisted the World Series trophy from the back of a chrome Rolls Royce. Pablo Sandoval tossed Halloween candy to throngs of fans. Sergio Romo donned a t-shirt that read “I just look illegal.” Madison Bumgarner, Jeremy Affeldt and Matt Cain sat on the backs of Lexus Convertibles. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal celebrated on Market Street.
Ryan Theriot was nowhere to be found.
Theriot remembers the LSU-Alabama game being the same day as the parade. Really, it was three days later. No matter, there was no way the infielder was going to miss his Tigers. So instead of parading through San Francisco, he went back home to Death Valley to live and die by every Zach Mettenberger pass.
Skipping the parade wasn’t a slight at the Giants. Theriot just felt like his work was done. He’d already helped SF win the championship; what more could he give?
What Theriot didn’t know at the time, though, was that the parade was his last chance at being with a baseball team. He didn’t know sliding into home plate for the go-ahead run in Game 4 of the World Series would be his final act on an MLB diamond.
Those possibilities didn’t cross Theriot’s mind because he was at peace. With what he accomplished in his career, with his contributions to 2012, with the relationships he formed with his teammates. He doesn’t really look at the way his career ended as overdramatic. And 10 years later, back home in Baton Rouge, he still doesn’t regret the way he went out.
“To say that was my last act is pretty cool,” Theriot told KNBR in a February call. “It’s honestly something I’ve never really thought about or put a lot of stock into, and it’s certainly not the reason why I decided to retire. But that’s pretty cool. It beats the hell out of striking out or making an error.”
Theriot won the World Series with the Cardinals in 2011, but he authored his chapter of Giants history in the top of the 10th inning of Game 4 in frigid Detroit.
The night before, Bruce Bochy called the infielder to tell him he’d be in the lineup for Game 4. He figured he’d be at second base like usual, but Marco Scutaro — SF’s 36-year-old trade deadline acquisition — was mashing all playoffs. Turns out, Bochy wanted him to make his first ever start as designated hitter. Theriot, 17 career home runs to his name, couldn’t believe it. “I was thinking, ‘What happened to Scutaro?’” he said.
“I’m probably the worst DH in Major League history,” Theriot said. “I don’t know how many DHs have ever batted eighth, but that happened.”
The peculiar decision looked even stranger as the game wore on. Theriot left Brandon Belt stranded at third in the top of the second, then went down quietly again in his next two plate appearances. He was 0-for-3, hands freezing in Detroit’s late-October misty miserableness.
Between at-bats, Theriot packed on extra layers and tried sitting next to the heater in the dugout to stay warm. But he needed to keep moving, occasionally walking down the tunnel to take some quick swings in the batting cage. Theriot sipped coffee in the tunnel with Will Clark, his childhood idol and a fellow Louisiana native. Clark, a special assistant since 2009, would look at video and try to keep everyone “locked in,” Theriot said.
Despite his 0-for-3 start, Theriot stayed in the game as the Giants and Tigers remained deadlocked into extra innings. He was due to lead off the 10th inning against Phil Coke, who hadn’t given up a run all postseason and had struck out the side in the ninth.
“I was like, ‘Oh crap, here we go,’” Theriot said.
But Theriot had the platoon matchup advantage and poked Coke’s 1-0 outside fastball into shallow right-center. The Giants had their go-ahead run on first.
Brandon Crawford moved Theriot to second with a sacrifice bunt down the first base line. Angel Pagan struck out for the second out of the inning. Then Scutaro, who displaced Theriot from the starting lineup, struck a 3-1 offering into right. Theriot, running on contact, scored from second to give SF a 4-3 lead.
“You knew that Marco was going to get it done when he had the opportunity,” Theriot said. “I can’t say enough about his second half and the way that he played. Really was just such a catalyst for us.”
San Francisco still had to hold off Detroit in the bottom half of the inning, but the Giants’ bullpen had been so strong at holding leads all playoffs. “It felt like when I crossed home plate, that was it,” Theriot said. Romo fanned Austin Jackson, Don Kelly and Miguel Cabrera in order to secure the series sweep.
The Giants had their second title in three years. And Theriot had his moment. He felt fulfilled. Complete enough to be done. Next stop: Tiger Stadium.
When spring training rolled around for the 2013 season, Theriot remained unsigned. Giants general manager Brian Sabean said “we’ve lost contact” with the veteran infielder.
Theriot had offers to continue his career, but reportedly none that guaranteed him a starting role. More than anything, he decided to retire — officially in 2014 — because his three kids were growing up. He wanted to be there to raise them. He doesn’t understand how some players can have such long careers and be away from their family for so long.
“I didn’t want to miss those moments anymore,” Theriot said.
So Theriot moved full-time back to Baton Rouge, where he grew up and led LSU to the 2000 national title. There’s a beautiful symmetry in his baseball career, sliding into home for the winning run for the Tigers and then ending the same way with the Giants.
Theriot started a roofing company and opened up a sports performance facility down the street from LSU campus. Many pros from the area, including Kevin Gausman and Alex Bregman, train there — along with LSU athletes. Michael Papierski, a brief 2022 Giant, has trained with Theriot for years and considers him a “father figure.”
On the wall in Theriot’s facility, right when you walk in, are two photos: him throwing his helmet after scoring the winning run of the College World Series and another of his World Series-clinching run.
He’s kept in touch with many of his 2012 Giants teammates. There were never any hard feelings, Theriot said.
“That guy, once he slid into home plate, I never saw him again,” Jeremy Affeldt said. “I didn’t even know what happened there. He didn’t show up to the parade, nothing. He just kind of disappeared. You can’t write a better script than that. He just slid into home plate, gave high fives and rolled out.”
Though he hoped to attend the planned reunion in August, Theriot again won’t make it. The third act of his perfect script already had its climax.