I’ve been flying the Giants and Red Sox banners this year, pursuing some old, unfinished business as well as some new, unfinished business, but make no mistake, I’m ultimately a Nationals/Orioles man. All baseball, like politics, is local, and MASN owns me. But since I have been following the Giants this year, it is especially gratifying to watch the Nats beat the **** out of the Dodgers tonight. Church just went yard to seal the deal.
I haven’t watched any of the Giants (this year’s team) versus the Mets (last year’s team). I suppose I win either way. But then, again, I lose either way.
So I’ll just enjoy…did I mention the Nats were beating the **** out of the Dodgers?
— Michael Norton
Not too terribly long ago someone who used to be on MLBlogs questioned my credentials as a San Francisco Giants fan. I suppose that is fair enough. I have written on a number of occassions on the subject of transient fandom. It seems to be a consequence of modern society, in which anyone to amount to anything must follow opportunities hither and yon, creating a rootlessness which our forebears could not imagine. We have our Extra Innings and our MLB TV, but what we have lost is of some consequence.
Still, I take exception to the entire idea that somehow flying a Giants banner is beyond my right. You see my father is buried in San Francisco. I cannot know, since both my parents have passed, but I suspect he moved there from Texas, where I was born, in some part because of the Giants, who had moved there the year before from where he grew up. My brother, a year younger, was born in San Francisco–and now lives deep in the heart of Texas. Funny how things work out.
The night my father passed away I wasn’t speaking to him. He didn’t buy me a promised catcher’s mitt, which shows you what kind of baseball fan he was that he was even considering such a thing for a seven year old. I suspect he laughed about it as I now laugh at my grandson’s pouting, but there is some truth that a man like me bothers with something as trivial as baseball at all as a form of penance.
I think I’ve earned the right to be a Giants fan.
And I think my father would be proud of what his son has become, just as I am proud of what my son has become. I think it would especially tickle him that his son is writing a Giants blog, no matter how transient he might be. And I hope that by writing that his life and his service to his country is remembered on this Memorial Day.
— Michael Norton
The Giants won in the 12th inning off a wierd bounce off first base on a hit by Randy Winn. The victory showed some character after losing a heartbreaker in extra innings the night before on a walk off by Carlos Lee. The win allowed them to avoid the sweep in Houston before returning to the bay area to play Oakland in the rivalry series this weekend, where Barry Zito will face his former team in the opener. Rookie Tim Linecum pitched another outstanding game and is looking like another bright spot in the rotation.
Having been a lifelong Sooner fan, I know a little of rivalries. There may be rivalries as intense, but none more so than that between Oklahoma and Texas. Yankees/Red Sox? Not even close to the passions both North and South of the Red River on a crisp weekend in October, much less in the Cotton Bowl or on the State Fair of Texas fairgrounds.
Indeed baseball rivalries simply don’t compare to those in college football. Perhaps it is because it is a professional sport; or maybe because teams play each other so often. There would probably be fatalities if OU-Texas (or as the bad guys call it, Texas-OU) happened more than once a year. The pandemonium is barely controlled as it is.
I grew up despising the Dodgers. I really didn’t know why, I just had a pronounced dislike for anything wearing Blue. It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that I had been raised a Giant fan by my father, who grew up in New Jersey following the then New York Giants and died in San Francisco having passed on his passion to his seven year old son.
Irrational hatreds trouble that son, who is now almost as old as his father was then and has a son and grandson of his own. Passing on such a thing…is worrisome. It is the same process by which racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and a whole host of other isms are passed. On the other hand, rivalries may be cathartic and allow us to vent and manage necessary and natural emotions that would otherwise be expressed in negative ways.
Or perhaps that is a Dodge(r).
Editor’s Note: No, you’re not seeing double. I inadvertantly posted this in all the excitement last week. It obviously chronologically belongs during rivalry week, so I’m moving it here. I immediately trailed it with this morning’s post so as not to unfairly bump anyone from the Recently Updated List.
Los Angeles. San Francisco. With the names of these cities you would think it would be a holy war, and you would be right, except both of these franchises were New York’s, with storied histories which stretched back longer than Babe Ruth held the home run record. Before there was The Babe and the New York Yankees, there was John McGraw and the New York Giants. One of the legacies of Ruth was the exodus of the senior circuit of America’s largest city. The Babe was big enough **** all the air out of a city as large as New York City.
Neither the Dodgers nor the Giants could draw like the Yankees, and both were having difficulties negotiating with the city for new stadiums. Walter O’Malley, owner of the Dodgers, was offered a city financed and owned stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens: the current location of Shea Stadium. What happened next depends on who you talk to. O’Malley, a real estate magnate who wanted a piece of the stadium deal, would claim New York politicians forced him to move. Others believe O’Malley manipulated the situation to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by the wide open baseball market on the west coast. In either case O’Malley needed a team to play against, and he convinced archrival New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to join the Dodgers moving west. On April 18, 1958, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants at the Coliseum.
Dodger Stadium was the last publicly financed stadium for forty years as cities, shocked by the example of the Dodgers and Giants, caved to the demands of owners for new stadiums. Ironically San Francisco refused to subsidize a new stadium for the Giants to replace Candlestick, so Peter Macgowan privately financed Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park. To pull it off, he needed a superstar to pack the seats. Thus begins the saga of Barry Bonds. — Michael Norton
Willie Mays turned 75 yesterday. I’m old enough to actually remember Willie Mays playing, as a Giant and as a Met. Like any other child of the Bay area, my first heroes were Giants.
I remember reading about the chase for Ruth’s homerun record in baseball magazines of the time, and finding it shocking that Aaron was thought to be more likely to break the record than Mays or Mantle. Hammerin’ Hank never had the appeal of The Mick or Say Hey Willie.
Oddly, by his own account, Willie didn’t seem destined to be a home run hitter. He was too small, and took as much delight in robbing another player of a homerun as he did hitting one himself. The Twins Tori Hunter said something to that effect on a commercial. I’ve often wondered why climbing the fence and snatching a sure dinger isn’t as appreciated as a homerun itself. It has as profound of an effect on the outcome of the game as a homer, only in reverse. If there were statistics for that there would be a history, and records to be broken, and baseball itself might be viewed differently. We forget that we view baseball through a glass, a filter of perceptions based on the story that is being sold.
It is fitting that Mays is remembered as much for a defensive play as his offensive prowess. The Catch in the 1954 World Series will live on forever in baseball lore.
Willie might have passed the Babe himself if he had not played much of his career in San Francisco. But the answer to that question was consigned long ago consumed to the swirling winds of Candlestick Park.
Defense to me is the key to playing baseball. I know people say, "Well, you’ve got to score runs," but you’ve got to stop them before you can score runs. And I used to love to run every fly ball. — Willie Mays