“The triumph of this team allows us to flash back and connect to our past, to experience the beauty of our memories and shared experiences with unbridled joy. This day is a blessed reminder of a dream fulfilled for all of us” – Larry Baer, Giants President speaking at the San Francisco City celebration of the Giants championship
“You close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nostrils and savor it” – Duane Kuiper (former Giant 2nd Baseman and current radio broadcaster)
Game 1 and 2 are over. The Giants were victorious in a game 1 that was labeled a pitcher’s duel and turned out to be a slugfest. A crazy day as I got stuck in a meeting as the first pitch was tossed. Others in the meeting had one eye on their iPhones and the other on the presentation. Coughing and mumbling occurred when the Giants went down 2-0 but smiles broke out as the game was tied at 2-2. it wasn’t a pretty victory, but at this time of year you take wins any way they will come. Game 2 was more traditional..at least from the Giants way of thinking. Something else went wrong for the Rangers.
“There’s __________ inside” is the tagline of the Giants marketing department. Nicknames and other terms were inserted. Magic, Freak, Panda, Orange and other fun terms were used over and over again. Recently the word Torture was added to reflect the closeness of the Giant’s style of victory, as in “There’s Torture Inside”.
As a long suffering Giants fan, I know those Cubs and Indians fans must be rooting for the Giants. There are those who might say that given the Rangers are in their first World Series ever while the Giants are in their 4th since they moved to San Francisco, the Rangers should be an underdog too. Well the experts were all picking the Rangers. This made the Giants the clear underdog. Not so fast! Don’t those people know about Particles and Magic? They are better than stats and scouting reports.
Now that Game 2 is over and the Giants have darkened the hopes of Rangers fans, there is an optimism that this team just might erase the ghosts of 1962, 1989 and 2002. Two of those series, ended on fateful mistakes and great plays while the other (1989) was marred by an Act of Mother nature which made baseball seem very small in the greater scheme of things.
One of the morning talk show hosts on the Giants flagship radio station calls it “particles”. The force by which all things come together and create destiny. Was it particles that interfered and suddenly gave the Braves a case of the dropsies? Was it particles that put a hole in the bat of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard when he had a chance to do something big? Was it particles in Game 2 of the World Series that caused the Rangers pitchers to lose the strike zone and allow 8 straight batters to reach base? I’m not sure, but the catch phrases are everywhere. From “Believe” (mantra sung to Don’t Stop Believin by ex-Journey lead singer Steve Perry who is a season ticket holder and attends games waving his towel) to “Torture” to “Magic” the team has captured the imagination of the City.
As a long time Giants fan who has been through all the ups and downs, seeing the baseball team I grew up watching on the brink of it’s first World Championship is a bit of an end game. And this time it feels right. I normally never count my chickens before they are hatched, but the particles just seem aligned now that I see it coming. San Francisco has won championships in basketball and football in my lifetime and if you look back at the first championships of those teams it makes perfect sense why this baseball team should be the first.
San Francisco has always been the City that does it with style, with a bit of a twist, and in a new way with a dash of the old. It’s businesses such as the Gap, Levi’s, Williams-Sonoma, Zynga, Twitter, etc. are model examples and their Championship teams are no different.
The 1974-75 Golden State Warriors won with the first black coach (Al Attles) who had a fading superstar (Rick Barry) that he taught to be a team player and a cast of young players (Keith Wilkes), local heroes (Phil Smith) and other outcasts both young and old. Attles was the first coach to use all the players on his bench such that I can still name them all by heart 35 years later. The team was a heavy underdog to the team many thought to be the next big powerhouse in the NBA, the Washington Bullets, a team led by Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, and Phil Chenier. The Warriors used team chemistry, smarts and a great defense to win that series 4-0 for their first and only championship.
The 1981 49er Championship team was made up of a young scatter-gunned armed QB named Joe Montana and 3 rookie DBs (including Ronnie Lott) coached by a man they call the Genius, Bill Walsh. Walsh would show the NFL the power of the short passing game. Very few can even tell you the names of the starting RBs for the 49ers that year (Lenvil Elliot and Earl Cooper). Walsh changed the way football would be played for the next 15 years. The 49ers beat their long time roadblock, Dallas, in the NFC Championship game with a famous play known only as “The Catch”. In the Super Bowl, the 49ers were again the underdog to another team making its mark, the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, it has often been said the jeweler had to change the etching in the MVP trophy to remove Ken Anderson (QB of the Bengals) from the trophy and put on Joe Montana’s name. The 49ers went on to win the first of 5 Super Bowls with a 20-16 win.
Now to these Giants. Here we are again. Underdogs. Historic names have played for this franchise. McCovey, Mays, Marichal, Perry, Alou, Cepeda, Kent, Bonds…and yet no trophy. 52 years of futility (3rd longest in baseball). Some might say the Giants do have superstars as they have a 2-time reigning Cy Young winner on their squad. Yet in Game 1 it was the Rangers pitcher, Cliff Lee, who had never lost a post-season game that everyone was enamored with. The thunderous power of Texas (where everything is big) is supposed to overwhelm the Team of Misfit Boys, the Little Train that Could, the San Francisco Giants. I venture to guess if the Giants go on to win the World Series, there will be some tough decisions to pick the MVP. This team is truly a team and everyone will have contributed largely in their own way. No superstars. The pitcher who makes $18MM/year was even left off the playoff roster (Barry Zito). A team has no room for superstars. Maybe that is the message this team will send around baseball
Oh yes, particles or magic. Was it particles or magic that Joe Montana introduced the Giants starting lineup on National TV before Game 2? Was it particles or Magic that has all that crazy electronic trance music stopped between innings and put the 45,000 people into a happy calmness by singing Lights by Journey with Steve Perry conducting from his seat? Was it particles or magic that MLB told the Giants to leave RF Jose Guillen off the post-season roster because he is being investigated for drug -trafficking, forcing the Giants to use Cody Ross (the eventual NLCS MVP)? Maybe its the particles from the aroma (which was definitely present at a baseball game that made it smell like a rock concert) brought on by the old hippies attending the game: Neil Young (CSNY), Jonathan Cain (Journey), David Crosby (CSNY), Lars Ullrich (Metallica), or Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) that prevented Ian Kinsler’s 5th inning hit from going over the fence.
I’m not sure what it is, but I am living in the moment thinking it is destiny. It just feels right. As I sat there singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with my arm around my son right before the Giants would start their big rally in the 7th inning of Game 2, I remembered the NBA Basketball Championship I shared with my father, the Super Bowls with my dad, and the World Series championship we never got to have. I’ll share it with my son instead and it will be just as sweet. I know I’m not the only dad in San Francisco who feels this way.