Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Redeeming '89, '02

I know the Giants haven't won since moving to San Francisco in 1958, their last championship being the Willie Mays-led 1954 NY team.  And I know they lost the 1962 World Series in a 7 game series to the Yankees.  And I know that the Dodgers had won 3 championships from '59-'65 and another 2 in the 80s while the Giants sat idly by.  But for me, my baseball consciousness started in the mid '80s.


The Bay Area Series in 1989 was the watershed moment for me when it came to baseball allegiances.  After all the success of the 49ers in the 80s, I was not really feeling deprived of sports championships.  So the A's loss to the Dodgers in '88 was memorably upsetting, but for whatever reason didn't lead me to automatically root for the feel good story of the A's in '89 Series.  In fact, highlights of that Gibson HR probably irks me more now in my 13 years of living in LA than it did at the time, mostly because I hate seeing Dodgers do well.

(By the way, I think Dodger Stadium is a dump.  The park holds no appeal to me at all.  It doesn't have the classic history of a 20s or 30s park but is too old to be interesting now.  I dislike that the outfield pavilion is completely separate from the rest of the park, but its definitely a welcome feature since its filled nightly with degenerate and violent Dodger fans.  Most baseball parks have family friendly outfield sections, Dodger stadium uses its as a penitentiary to keep away from the general public.  Oh, and Dodger dogs suck too.  Try the food at AT&T park and talk to me then.)

Anyway, I can only think of 3 reasons why I was a Giants fan instead of and A's fan back then:

1) I hate green.  To me it just looked ugly, probably because my childhood soccer club teams always wore green and yellow.  Come to think of it, my high school colors were green and gold too.  Comparatively, the classic black/white/gray with a dash of orange was infinitely cooler.

2) I was born in SF.  Since I grew up in Sacramento, this fact was a deep source of pride for me.  Plus, I was already a huge 49ers fan.

3)  Will Clark.
 Yeah, McGwire, Canseco, Steinbach, Henderson and Dave Stewart were huge heroes back then - especially Dave Stewart - but there was just something about the way Will Clark quietly and confidently went about his business.  He had the sweetest swing too.
Kevin Williams, Brett Butler, and Matt Williams were other key players that I remember.  Interestingly, I don't recall any of the pitchers that well.

So, all that to say, losing the Bay Bridge Series to the A's was a shock to the system.  SF teams weren't SUPPOSED to lose.


In the 90s, Matt Williams took over as my favorite Giant after Will Clark left.  Of course the Barry Bonds era which began in '93 really took over the national limelight during the 2001 HR season.  But it seemed like just about every time I went to Dodger Stadium for a Giants game from 98-04, Barry would hit a bomb.  He was the most reliable performer I had ever seen.  Maybe not the nicest, but definitely the most reliable.  I'm pretty sure I saw at least 2 or 3 of his 73 HRs in 2001.

Anyway, when the Giants finally got past the NLCS again to advance to the Series vs the Angels, I dreamed of going to see my team at the World Series.  Imagine my surprise when I didn't even have to go through a broker or scalp for tix.  Nope.  Got them from Ticketmaster at face value.  Only clicked away on the site for an hour or so before scoring paper gold.

Center field, just left of the waterfall/rock design at Angel Stadium, near the top of the section - that's where I saw my first (and maybe only) World Series game.  Having been to Dodger stadium and barely escaped with my life every time, my wife (then gf) and I were expecting a hostile reception.  Angel fans couldn't be nicer.  I think I got tapped with a thunder stick a couple times, thats about it.  Bonds hit a towering HR to right field that game and my Giants were off to a great start.  At least I saw a win.  Remember how that Series ended?  A 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of the clinching 6th game was not enough.  We choked away that game, we lost the next game, we lost the freakin World Series.

Still, my favorite player from that Giants era also provided the best moment - JT Snow alertly grabbing Dusty Baker's toddler out of the way of a home plate collision in Game 5 of the Series.


Its fitting that this is the team that won instead of the Bonds/Kent squad.  This team is devoid of big hitters and the big egos that accompany them.  The offense on this team are a collection of "misfits and cast-offs" - guys like Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria and Andrew Torres, who don't light the league on fire with their bats (aside from Games 1 and 2) but took turns getting clutch hits and scoring just enough to win.  Our cleanup hitter, Buster Posey, is a rookie catcher with exuberance and earnestness to spare.  The team spirit in this crew made them so likable and easy to root for.

But the true stars in this Series are obviously the pitchers led by 2 time CY Young winner Tim Lincecum, another ace in Matt Cain, youngster Madison Bumgarner, and the intense black-bearded closer, Brian Wilson.  The most amazing thing about this staff is that they are home-grown (drafted and developed by the Giants farm system), not purchased or rented off the market.

Basically, we won it the right way and for me, erased the bitterness of '89 and '02.  Giants fans may never have such a perfect championship team again in our lifetime.

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