Tonight I witnessed an event I honestly never thought I’d see in my lifetime: the San Francisco Giants defeating the Texas Rangers 3-1 to capture the 2010 World Series Championship 4 games to 1.
While football and the San Francisco 49ers were my first love, baseball and the Giants were never far behind. I was truly a fan of the team of the season. During Spring and Summer I was a passionate Giants fan. As Summer waned and Fall began, football took over. And given the history of the Giants during my lifetime this made sense as they rarely made an appearance in the postseason and only occasionally stayed in playoff chase throughout September.
But make no mistake: I was a huge Giants fan growing up (just ask my family).
I vaguely remember the first Giants game I attended with my Dad and older brother. It was the 1973 season so I was almost 8 years old. The Giants played at windy Candlestick Park in those days and I remember how vast the stadium and field looked when we emerged through the tunnel and sought our seats. I don’t remember much about the game other than Bobby Bonds climbing the cyclone fence in Right Field to make an incredible catch, Willie Mays playing and Dave Kingman pitching. Yes baseball fans, you read that right – Dave Kingman actually pitched for the Giants. The game must have been a blowout for them to bring him in – I have no idea. But I remember always wondering later why they never let him pitch again.
But as was usually the case when it came to me and sports, I became instantly hooked on the Giants. I would listen to their games and read their box scores in the Contra Costa Times while eating my morning cereal for breakfast. And just like the 49ers of those days, the San Francisco Giants of the 1970s were not very good teams. They didn’t draw very well and it seemed they were almost always on the verge of moving to another city. I remember when it was announced they were going to be sold and moved to Toronto – when local businessman/real estate magnate Bob Lurie stepped in to buy the club and kept them in San Francisco.
As a true native Bay Area kid, I hated any and all sports teams related to Los Angeles. This was mostly due to the fact that LA teams in that era really dominated each sport. USC and UCLA consistently beat up Cal while the Rams seemed to beat the 49ers nearly every time they played. And the Dodgers were the model franchise of the National League during that time – featuring an all-star infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey and Bill Russell. They owned the Giants and beat them consistently – only fueling my hatred of them.
The Giants served an important role for me in 1978 especially. That Spring I encountered a series of health issues that kept me out of school as a 7th grader for nearly 2 months. I can’t even remember all that was wrong – just that one thing led to another and I was really sick (and miserable) consistently. I threw up a lot – even in the morning when there was nothing in my system (my first experience with dry heaves). It was not a fun time. But fortunately the Giants were having one of their best seasons in years and I embraced them even more. They provided me with the escape I needed and they were winning and competing for the NL West title. My favorite player on the team was Jack Clark – a slugging outfielder who had a knack for big, timely hits. I remember going grocery shopping with my mom and at the check out line asking if we could buy a pack of baseball cards. I think she felt sorry for me since I’d been so sick so she said sure. I couldn’t believe my luck when I opened the pack and found a Jack Clark baseball card among the 10 or so cards (and stale stick of gum). I was convinced it was an omen the Giants would win the West but alas, they faded that year (as they often did) and left me an other fans disappointed.
In high school my love for the Giants continued – and I was able to attend more games since my friends and I now had our drivers license. One time we thought we were being sneaky by going to a day game (instead of school) and sitting in the bleachers (tickets were $2 I think). Naturally we didn’t have sun screen so we got baked. That night at dinner my mom calmly asked “who won the Giants game?” Busted. My friends and I had lots of other fun experiences at games – we loved sitting in the bleachers and heckling the outfielders.
The Giants teased fans in 1987 when they finally won a division championship and went to the playoffs for the first time since the early 70s. Fans were thrilled as the Giants took on the St. Louis Cardinals in the league championship. They were even more excited when the Giants took the first 2 games of the series in St. Louis and grabbed a 2-0 lead – with the series heading back to San Francisco and Candlestick Park. The Cardinals managed to win 2 out of 3 in SF to send the series by to St. Louis – but the Giants only needed to win one more game to make it to the World Series. They choked and got shut out in back to back games and the Cardinals took the series.
In 1989 the Giants returned to the playoffs and faced the Chicago Cubs in the League Championship Series that featured two franchises with incredibly long World Series championship droughts. The Giants took care of the Cubs in an exciting series – and moved on to play the Oakland A’s in the first-ever Bay Bridge World Series. I was living in Portland at this time and was meeting my brother and mom to watch the game when Paul greeted me to tell me the game was knocked off the air because of an earthquake. Of course, this was the famous Loma Prieta earthquake and the Series was postponed. During the break, my friend Don called me and
told me he had an extra ticket to Game 1 – all I had to do was get down there by the next day. I asked my boss at work if I could skip work the next day (after explaining the situation) and she said to go for it. That night I swung by my apartment long enough to grab a change of clothes and headed south on I-5 for an all night drive to the Bay Area. I eventually made it (after running out of gas once and receiving a speeding ticket later) and blurry eyed watched my Giants get trounced by the A’s – and eventually get swept 4 games to none.
Giants fans had to endure another decade long drought before returning to the World Series before finally doing so in 2002 – led by polarizing Barry Bonds. Again the Giants toyed with fans and ended up breaking their hearts. The team led the Angels 3 games to 2 and were 5 outs away from winning its first World Series since 2002. I was watching the game with friends in Portland following a Ducks football game. I could barely contain my excitement as the Giants had a 3 run lead in the 7th inning. I remember telling my friend “I can’t believe they’re finally going to do it.” And he responded, “well, it’s not over yet.” And he was right. The Angels rallied in the 7th – capped by a 3 run homerun and ended up winning the game to tie the series 3-3. Giants fans knew the series was over too – and it was. They went down with barely a wimper in Game 7 as the Angels got to celebrate their first World Championship.
This season I admit I have not been following the Giants as closely as I used to as a kid, teen and twentysomething. As most people know and understand, adulthood, work and parenthood consume most of the time and energy throughout the year. But I did track them on a regular basis as they pursued the San Diego Padres during most of the season and hoped they would catch them and sneak off with the NL West again. And that they did – albeit on the last day of the regular season. And at that moment they began the magical ride through this most recent post-season. And what a ride it has been. Unbelievable pitching, clutch hitting and way-too-many one-run nail-biting victories. But they did it – and did it with force and conviction.
It’s now been a few hours since the final strikeout and the Giants officially winning the World Series. It feels surreal and hasn’t quite sunk in yet. A friend who is a Red Sox fan said he experience a similar feeling when Boston finally ended their World Series drought a few years ago – he said it didn’t really hit until they raised the championship flag on opening day the following year. Maybe that’s how it’ll be for me – and other Giants fans – as well.