What this title means to one Giants fan

To understand what this
title means to me, you have to understand my journey as a San Francisco Giants
fan. So as I watch the victory parade on the TV, I’ll share my parade as a
Giants fan. It’s lengthy, so indulge me.

 

While the Giants have been
in San Francisco for more than a half century, my allegiance to the team
reaches back 37 years, to a summer day in 1973 when I attended my first
professional sporting event during Helmet Day at Candlestick.

 

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I can remember sitting in
the upper deck at The Stick, eating a drumstick ice cream and watching little
people running around the field. I was five years old.

 

It was shortly after this
game that my brother, almost three years my senior, explained to me to be a
true sports fan, you had to have a favorite team. Linked to that day, to that
helmet, and to the fact that my brother rooted for the L.A. teams — Dodgers,
Rams, Lakers — the natural choice was for the San Francisco Giants.

 

A year later, my family
moved from Sacramento to Southern California, in the L.A. suburb of Simi
Valley.

 

It was not easy being a
Giants fan in the heart of Dodger Country.

 

My dad regularly took my
brother and I to Dodger Stadium. We were even made members of the Dodger Pepsi
Fan Club, which earned you six general admission tickets to games against
low-profile teams a season, as well as a cheap Dodger windbreaker (that I never
wore.)

 

Every time we went to Dodger
Stadium, someone would ask me “Who are you rooting for?” My reply
“Who are the Dodgers playing?”

 

My dad tried to get me to at
least one Dodgers-Giants game each season. I especially remember my dad taking
my brother and I out of school to attend a midweek Businessmen’s Special at The
Ravine.

 

These games rarely turned
out well for the Giants. It got so bad that I stopped wearing my Giants apparel
to the games, because I grew weary of being berated by Dodger fans in the
parking lot after the game.

 

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And so it went. Every year,
enduring fourth-place finishes, rumors of the team being moved to Denver or
Toronto, watching All-Star games and hoping to see Jack Clark get one at-bat or
Greg Minton one inning of relief.

 

But by the early to
mid-1980s, things began to change, at least for me. The Giants were still not
competing for division titles,  but they
were at least beating the Dodgers during games I attended. By 1986, the Giants
started winning more games than they lost.

 

Finally, in 1987, it
happened. A division title. I remember listening to the clinching game in San
Diego on the radio. I had to listen to the Padres broadcast because KNBR was
drowned out by a powerful Southern California station at 690 on the radio dial.
I remember Don Robinson pitching. I remember John Kruk hitting a deep ball to
the opposite field. Jeffrey Leonard making the catch at the wall, and the
Giants were NL West champions.

 

I remember thinking anything
that happened in the NLCS vs. the Cardinals was a bonus. I was just happy the
Giants were in the postseason. But as soon as the games started, I found myself
screaming at the TV set when something went against the Giants. My dad would
bark at me from the other room that he would turn off the TV if I couldn’t keep
my volume down. It was funny because my emotional-filled passion for sports was
inherited from him.

 

But after five games, the
Giants found themselves one win from the World Series. But then they went back
to St. Louis and forgot to pack their offense. The Giants were shut out in
Games 6 and 7, and the 1987 was over.

 

In 1988, I attended my first
Opening Day game. I got two tickets for the Giants vs. Dodgers at Dodger
Stadium, but then had trouble finding someone to go with me. So I took my
sister. Dave Dravecky beat Fernando Valenzuela. Another Giants win.

 

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In 1989, the Giants were
driving to another division title. They were six games up on the Padres with
six games to go, and opening a three-game set at Dodger Stadium. I wanted to go
to the games and watch the Giants clinch. But responsibilities at school and as
sports editor of my college newspaper kept that from happening. The Giants got
swept, and only clinched the division after the Reds beat the Padres in extra
innings after the Giants’ third loss to LA. The Giants celebrated in the
clubhouse.

 

Taking on the Cubs in the
NLCS, there was no satisfaction in simply making the playoffs. This time, the
Giants needed to get to the Series.

 

The thing I remember about
the 1989 postseason is that I could never seem to sit at home and watch any of
the games. Game 1 in Chicago I watched on a black-and-white TV in the newsroom
of my college newspaper. I watched Game 2 in the same way, interrupted by an
evening class that I had.

 

For Game 3, I was in Fresno
to attend the Fresno State-Oregon State football. My brother attended Fresno
State, and I had attended Oregon State the previous school year. I listened to
the game while sitting in the stands at Bulldog Stadium, while catching
glimpses from a portable TV being held by a fan sitting in front of me.

 

For Game 4, I had to work at
the part-time job I had at an ice cream shop. I hooked up a TV in the back, and
would run back between scooping ice cream to check on the game.

 

Game 5, I was back at
college, back at the student paper, trying to get out a sports section while
following the action. Late in the game, I headed down to the campus radio
station where they had a color TV and watched Will Clark lace a two-run single
off Mitch Williams. With that, the Giants were in the World Series.

 

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I went into the 1989 World
Series with no illusions that the Giants would beat the powerful A’s. I was
hoping they could steal some games, and maybe catch some breaks.

 

For Game 1, I was in
Portland, Ore., to cover the Cal State Northridge-Portland State football game
for my college paper. Radio reception was impossible in Civic Stadium, with its
concrete roof over the grandstands. The PA announcer would give updates from
the Series game, but the sound system at Civic was so bad it sounded as if the
updates were being given by Charlie Brown’s teacher. It wasn’t until after the
football game ended, and I left the stadium that I learned that the Giants had
lost 5-0.

 

During Game 2, I had a
flight home to Southern California to catch. As luck would have it, I had to
make a connection in San Francisco. So I walked into a bar at the airport and
watched as the Giants scored their first run of the season, and cheer went up
in the bar. Then the A’s got out of the inning, and cheer went up in the bar.
“What the…?” was my reaction, until I remember the Giants were
playing Oakland. I got on my flight to Burbank, got off the plane in time to
hear the final out, and the Giants had lost 5-1.

 

The off day between Games 2
and 3 was my birthday. But there wasn’t any celebration. I had contracted food
poisoning from something I ate on the flight home, and spent the day violently
ill. But after taking a second day off from school and feeling better, I
thought at least I would be able to sit at home and watch a Giants game for the
first time in the postseason.

 

The pre-game show started,
then suddenly cut out. I looked over to my father and asked “Did he say
‘earthquake’?” Then I looked over at the weight on the cuckoo clock in our
living and it was swaying slowly. Nearly 400 miles away, I knew that earthquake
was a big one.

 

When TV reception came back,
there were reports of pancaked freeways, a collapsed section of the Bay Bridge
and fires in the Mission district. But my thoughts were singular: “Yes,
but are they going to play the game?”

 

Of course, they didn’t. And
the Series would be tabled for more than a week. There was talk of moving the
games to Southern California (a great idea, I thought) or even cancelling it
all together (even better idea).

 

But 10 days later, the
series started again. I had to cover a high school football game for the LA
Times that night. I walked the sideline, listening to the game on a transistor
radio as things went from bad to worse for the Giants.

 

The next night, I was at Cal
State Northridge home game, again with my radio, hoping against hope that the
Giants could win one game. They didn’t.

 

In the early 1990s, I had
relocated to the Pacific Northwest and things weren’t looking good for the
Giants. There was serious talk about the team moving to St. Petersburg. But
then a group led by Peter Magowan stepped and saved the Giants for San
Francisco.

 

Then came even more big
news. Barry Bonds had just signed the biggest free-agent contract in history
… with the Giants. The Giants?!? I never saw it coming and could hardly
believe it. But for the next 15 seasons, Barry would be the face of the Giants,
for better or worse.

 

In 1993, the face looked
pretty good as the Giants were running away with the NL West. But then the San
Diego Padres traded Fred McGriff to the Braves, and Atlanta made a fierce
charge.

 

The Giants headed into the
final weekend with 101 wins, but no division title. And three games against the
Dodgers.

 

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The Giants won on Friday
thanks to a pair of homers from Barry. They won Saturday thanks to another
clutch save from Rod Beck. On Sunday, the Braves won again, meaning the Giants
needed to win to force a tiebreaker game on Monday with Atlanta. With Bill
Swift set to pitch that game, I liked our chances. But first, they needed one
more win in LA.

 

But rookie Solomon Torres
wasn’t up to the task and things quickly deteriorated. Disappointment was
compounded by the glee the Dodgers displayed in ending the Giants’ season.

 

Then came the strike and
more Giants struggles. But by 1997, the Giants were back in the playoffs,
taking on the Marlins in their fifth year of existence. The Giants lost two
games in Florida on the Marlins’ final at-bat, then lost Game 3 in San
Francisco, and that was that.

 

The 2000 season brought a
new ballpark, Pacific Bell Park. The Giants lost their first game in the new
home — to the Dodgers — but rebounded to win the NL West again. Back in the
playoffs, the Giants opened with a win over the Mets.

 

In Game 2, JT Snow had a
huge 3-run home run in the ninth to push the game to extra innings, where
Edgardo Alfonso’s home run gave the Mets the win.

 

In Game 3, it was Benny
Agbayani’s home run in the 13th that beat the Giants. In Game 4, the Giants
were limited to one hit by Bobby Jones, of all people.

 

The 2001 season brought
Barry Bonds’ chase for the single-season home run record. But his 73 home runs
couldn’t get the Giants in the playoffs as they were eliminated in the final
weekend.

 

But a late-season push in
2002 got the Giants back into the playoffs as the wild-card. I remember just
hoping for two things: 1) the Giants could be the Braves so I wouldn’t have to
hear how Dusty Baker couldn’t win in the playoffs; 2) Barry hit, so I didn’t
have to hear how Bonds flops in the postseason. I got both as the Giants beat
the Braves in 5.

 

The NLCS against the
Cardinals started out well, with the Giants winning two in St. Louis. Now,
suddenly the World Series was within reach. Benito Santiago hit a huge home run
in the eighth inning of Game 4 after the Cardinals walked Bonds (again!). Then
in Game 5, there was Kenny Lofton singling home David Bell from second in the
bottom of the ninth for the pennant. I can remember yelling at the TV
“Run! David! Run!” And just like that, the Giants were back in the Series.

 

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I went into the Series
thinking the Giants could beat the Angels. But my first goal was for the Giants
to win a game — one game — after watching get swept in 1989. The Giants got
that win in Game 1. But after losing in Games 2 and 3, I started to think they
wouldn’t win the Series.

 

But Kirk Rueter had a big
game in Game 4, and then Giants poured it on in Game 5. Just like that, the
Giants were one win from a World Series title.

 

On the night of Game 6, my
wife and I had a standing invitation for dinner at the house of my church’s
pastor. I wanted to cancel, but my pastor and his wife told us to come over and
we’d all watch the game together. Greaaaaaaat.

 

But things started out well
enough for the Giants. Shawon Dunston homered. Kenny Lofton doubled, stole
third and scored on a wild pitch. Barry took Angels heralded rookie Francisco
Rodriguez deep. In the seventh, Jeff Kent singled home another run and the
Giants were 5-0.

 

Russ Ortiz was sailing,
limited the Angels to a pair of singles. But in the seventh, Ortiz gave up
back-to-back one-out singles, and Dusty Baker took Ortiz out after 98 pitches.

 

Felix Rodriguez came in to
face Scott Spiezio, who kept fouling off pitch after pitch, working the count
full. Then he got pitch he could pull and dropped into the seats in right just
inside the foul pole and beyond the reach of RF Reggie Sanders. That made it
5-3 Giants.

 

In the eighth, Tim Worrell
came in and could not get anyone out. It started with a home run to Darin
Erstad. Then a single to Tim Salmon, a single to Garret Anderson on a flare to
left. And error by Barry Bonds allowed runners to move to second and third.
Robb Nen was called on to face Troy Glaus. And even though Glaus had been the
Angels biggest hitter in the series and there was an open base, the Giants
pitched to him. Glaus raked a double to left-center and the Angels led 6-5.

And there I was in my pastor’s house. I couldn’t swear (though I wanted to). I couldn’t throw something across the room (though I wanted to). I just sat and simmered, muttering “Why were we even pitching to him?”

After the game was over, I quietly got up and went to the bathroom. And sat for a couple of minutes. When I emerged, Melanie, the pastor’s wife, said “I’m impressed, Tim. If that had been the Padres, Scott (the pastor) would have been yelling and screaming.” (My pastor grew up in San Diego).

My wife said “I’m actually surprised Tim didn’t.”

I did my best to be pleasant the rest of the evening. When I got home, I took the videotape that I was using to record the game out of the VCR (yeah, 2002 was a long time ago), and threw it in the garbage. I didn’t sleep well that night.

 

The next day, Game 7 went bad quickly. The
Giants got a run in the second, but the Angels answered back with one of their
own. Then Livan Hernandez couldn’t get anyone out in the third, giving up a
single, single, hitting Tim Salmon with a pitch, then giving up a
bases-clearing double to Anderson and that was
enough. The Angels won 4-1.

I watched Game 7 at my brother’s house. You know, the Dodger fan. When it was over, I looked over at my niece, who was almost 3 at the time, and just said “Uncle Tim needs a hug.”

She obliged.

 

In the offseason, Dusty
Baker left. Jeff Kent left. But the Giants made good moves to replace them and
went on to win 100 games in 2003.

 

Again, the Giants faced the
Marlins. Jason Schmidt pitched the Giants to a Game 1 win, but the Marlins
bounced back to take Game 2. In Florida, the Giants pushed across a run in the
top of the 11th. But in the bottom of the 11th, sure-handed Jose Cruz Jr.
dropped a pop fly by Jeff Conine, setting the stage for Ivan Rodriguez’s
two-out, two-run single to win it, 3-2.

 

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In Game 4, the Giants fell
behind 5-1, but scored four in the sixth to tie. But the Marlins tallied two in
the eight to take a 7-5 lead. The Giants scraped across a run in the ninth. But
then JT Snow was thrown out at the plate to end the series.

 

That was the last postseason
appearance until this season as the team plunged over the next few years. They
won 91 games in 2004, but were eliminated by the Dodgers on the final weekend.
Then the losses mounted: 87 in 2005, 85 in 2006, 91 in 2007 when Barry Bonds
completed his pursuit of the all-time home run record. Then the Giants turned
the page and began building for the future: 72-90 in 2008, and 88-74 in 2009.

 

That brings us to this
season…

 

1 Comment

Willie Davis, Tommy Davis & Frank Howard…Aaah the good ol’ days! Mays, Alou & Alou!!!

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