(K.T. Hastings is a writer who has been a Giants fan since … forever … he lives and dies with the Giants like fans do. How do his experiences and feelings compare to how feel looking back and looking forward to the 2012 World Series moving to Detroit? Enjoy. — Ted Sillanpaa)
By K.T. HASTINGS
I’ve been a Giants fan since 1964. My little brother and I used to schedule our Wiffle ball games around the sound of Lon Simmons saying,” The Golden West Radio Network is on the air.” When I was very young I used to hope that, when my voice changed, it would sound like Lon Simmons. It didn’t, but no one else grew up to have Simmons’ pipes either.
Each year, May 6 was a sort of holiday for me. It was Willie Mays’ birthday. The season was young. I could see summer vacation on the horizon. Best of all we. my Giants. were in, or near, first place. My 2 older brothers would mock me about “June swoon” but they were Dodger and A’s fans respectively, and didn’t need to be heard. After all, they couldn’t name the utility infielders on their Triple A teams like I could, so “Pfffffffffttt …”
Avis Rental Cars used to use the slogan “We’re in Second so We Try Harder”. That slogan applied to my Giants in the 1960′s. Loaded with power and good starting pitching, but never enough. Back then there were no wild card teams…or second wild card teams. Nobody had to stress about beating the fifth best team in the league in the playoffs like we just had to with St. Louis. Heck, there weren’t even divisions. The Giants were really good, but not good enough.
I was only six when the Giants went to the World Series in ’62, and I didn’t move to California until 1964. Still, when I saw grainy footage of Willie McCovey flattening the ball only to have Bobby Richardson catch it, it brought a mist to my eyes. It was an example of being oh so close.
We were oh so close in 1971. The division system had only been in place since 1969 so winning the division meant a preliminary round of playoffs before getting to the World Series, which was our destiny. No one could stop us! We were loaded. Willie McCovey at first, Tito Fuentes at second, Chris Speier (still my all-time favorite Giants shortstop. I was 15 by this time, and was properly impressed by his beautiful wife Aleta) at short, and Dirty Al Gallagher at third (has there ever been a better nickname?).
The outfield had Willie, Bobby Bonds, and Ken Henderson. Dick Dietz was the regular catcher.
Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, lefty Ron Bryant and a young Steve Stone were the starters. Who could be better than this? To my mind, great players were great players until they retired. The fact that Willie Mays and Juan Marichal were shells of their former selves was mostly lost on me.
Who could be better than this? No one was better, but the Pirates won the NLCS three games to one. The Giants took the opener. We took a 5-1 lead in the top of the second, but the Pirates rallied and a rookie by the name of Bruce Kison shut us down completely in the deciding game. A cold bitter rain poured out of the sky outside my economics class that October day. Suitable that.
I moved out of California to go to college (Go Ducks! Go Oregon!). Back then, moving away from your home team meant a certain disconnect. Today I could live in Nome, Alaska and watch every Miami Marlins game if I wanted to do such a thing. Not so in 1979. While I always identified myself as a Giant fan to anyone who would ask, the fervor faded a bit. I needed something to rekindle the juices of my youth.
Two things rekindled the juices of my youth. Internet radio and the building of the beautiful ballpark in China Basin. I could listen to every game again, and those games were being played in the finest yard in the world! Truth told, I had gotten tired of having to defend Candlestick Park. My friends who were Dodger fans had always been so damned superior with their place. Dodger Stadium even had a cool secondary name. “Chavez Ravine”. Sounded like wine. I spent some of the most fun summer nights of my life at Candlestick…bundled up against the Arctic blast…with 1,999 other hardy souls. No more! Downtown in the most beautiful city ever built! McCovey Cove! The smell of garlic fries wafting halfway down the Embarcadero toward the Wharf! And every game available to me even living in the Pacific Northwest. I was back!
And so were the Giants! The willingness to spend what it took to attract Barry Bonds meant that we intended to be players. Very shortly we would be in the World Series and holding up the trophy and flying the first of many banners!
2002! I’m sitting in a Eugene, Ore. restaurant called Gee Willikers. Game Six of the World Series is on every television in the place. My brother (childhood Wiffle ball competition) and I are talking, late in the game, about how nice it it to be World Series champions at last.
Scott Freaking Spiezio! What Bucky Dent is to the Red Sox fans, Scott Freaking Spiezio is to me! Sigh…
As time went on, I realized something that chilled me to the bone. The Giants were pretty close to entering the Cubs zone. Think about it. We wound up more than 50 years since a World Series win. Worse yet, that 2002 Series win was in a city 3,000 miles from our beloved Baghdad by the Bay (the New York Giants, remember?). We were in that last handful of teams that hadn’t won it all in the longest period of time. All we needed was a billy goat and Steve Bartman to complete the picture.
And that, right there, is what separates the 2010 World Series from this year. Oh, I am watching every pitch we throw with a pain in the pit of my stomach. I am anticipating that every pitch they throw is going to be belted up the gap into triples alley. I would be grimacing over the breaks that they are getting that we aren’t … if there were any such breaks favoring the Tigers so far. (When did we become such awesome bunting fools anyway?) I happy dance in my living room after wins. I may well happy dance in the middle of my street if we finish the job over the next week … maybe even in Detroit.
But what is different is that the sense of desperation isn’t there. The very real sense that I may die without ever seeing my team win the World Series unless they do it THIS YEAR was very much with me in 2010. Clear up until the time that Brian Wilson threw a riding fast ball that Vladimir Guerrero couldn’t catch up to because my team is awesome and your team bites.
There are so many compelling stories on this year’s team. Is anyone more humble, more appreciative, or more like someone you want to root for than Sergio Romo? There is a picture floating around the internet of a five-year-old Brandon Crawford at the last game ever played at Candlestick. What is better than that? Angel Pagan with the glower that turns into what my wife says is the best smile ever. Marco Scutaro. The redemption of Barry Zito. It goes on and on.
Two games up. Two wins to go. Let’s bring this bad boy home and party down Market Street like it’s…just two years ago.