Thursday, March 3, 2011

Epilogue


I stayed away for almost four months. After the Giants' improbable run I wanted to allow the "Holy Crap!" moment to subside, to allow some time to pass so that I could gain some real perspective on the 2010 season. After all, it's only appropriate that something so monumental be given the opportunity to simmer; the ingredients blending into a fine stew.

Only with proper distance can you look at something unemotionally and then truly evaluate and appreciate what you saw. Once you've allowed yourself to...

HOLY CRAP!!!!


THE GIANTS WON IT ALL!!!

Forget perspective. Forget unemotional evaluation. This is the time to bask in the improbable. It's months after the fact and just saying "World Champion San Francisco Giants" leaves my face stretched with a smile that makes The Joker (the Jack Nicholson version) look like he OD’d on thorzine.

As players file into Arizona and the Giants prepare for their first title defense in 56 years (there's that smile again), I'm filled with hope. Still, I find it hard to let go of 2010.

Dusting off the 2010 World Series Blu-Ray for approximately the 143rd viewing, I found myself once again enthralled in the action. How sick is that? I knew who was going to win. Heck, I've got pitch sequences memorized. There's no drama, and yet the hair (what little there is) stands up on the back of my heck when Renteria connects. By the time Brian Wilson sends Nelson Cruz and the Rangers home for the winter, I'm a blubbering idiot again.

Okay, some of my friends will tell you that's a constant state.

Honestly, let 'em bag on me all they want. I have friends who root for the Twins, Yankees, Reds, Angels, Red Sox and yes, even the Hated Dodgers. They all had felt the joy of a World Series win. Finally, I got mine. So pile on the grief. I can take it. In fact, I'm more than willing to sign up for another helping in 2011.

You gotta wonder what kind of sickness causes a man to watch sports highlights on DVD, knowing the outcome yet still gripping like every pitch was life or death. I had struggled to understand it, not realizing that the answer was right in front of me. And then, there it was in a comment from Buster Posey, who admitted that even while the players danced on the mound in celebration "it didn't seem real."

I know the feeling. I put in about 10 hours on the road and stood for hours at the Civic Center as we welcomed home our heroes.I saw the trophy with my own eyes, and yet still it seems a bit mystical. What do you say when something you've waited for your whole life, something that had eluded you to the point where you thought achieving it was just a pipe dream, suddenly comes true?

In the case of the Giants, the natural instinct is to start looking for the trap doors and land mines.

I half expected the World Series trophy to be guarded like the golden idol in the opening sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Try to take it, and the cave comes crashing down around you like a 401-K filled with Enron stock. Heck, even at the end of that movie the ultimate prize gets snatched away from our hero (I could have warned him, if only I spoke Hovitos).

But this time the Giants got the prize, the girl, her sister, and the phone number of the hottie next door. It just doesn't get any better than this.

So now we go into uncharted territory: a title defense for the San Francisco Giants. A year ago that phrase would have been cause for psychiatric evaluation. Today, Giants fans can go into the campaign knowing that winning the World Series has gone from pipe dream to possibility.

It's hard to explain why this fan was so emotionally invested in a team, so I won't even try. I do know that this year will still be filled with highs and lows, with excitement and disappointment. Hey, that's baseball.

I also know that the "I just want to see them win once before I die" kind of obsession is gone, replaced with anticipation.

I'll still agonize over every pitch. You don't stop desiring the hot blonde after she finally puts out. You want that experience again. But now it's different. The object of desire is attainable, and somehow more tangible. And in this case, definitely worth a second helping. Heck, I'm now to a point where I don't cringe at the name Barry Zito (although Aaron Rowand still gives me the shakes.)

So one final congratulatory nod to the 2010 San Francisco Giants. May this be only the start of something grand.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ich bin Ein Giants Fans

The rally at San Francisco's City Hall wasn't exactly the fall of the Berlin Wall, but there was no shortage of emotion. Thousands upon thousands of smiling faces, all there sharing a common thought. There was no talk of race or gender or religion. On this day, we were all Giants Fans.




And what a party it was. There was an excitement permeating the air -- along with enough of another substance to make me think Prop 19 had actually passed. Jeez, I hadn't been in a crowd like this since I went to see The Who.

After 40 years of personal torture, I had to see this for myself. There are certain marvels you simply have to observe with your own eyes -- the birth of your child, an eclipse, or Angelina Jolie.

Departing my Bakersfield home at 4 am, I made my way downtown just in time for the start of festivities thanks to the glorious wonder that is BART (by the way, if you were trying to get into town from the Pleasanton station, SUCKERS! Castro Valley made for a much better option).
The Ranter went to San Francisco, and all he got was
a lousy trophy!

I can't explain the need to travel 300-plus miles just to stand in a crowd any more than I can explain my rather insane craving for Twix bars. I do know it wasn't about basking in the reflected glory of a long-awaited victory. I think when you investigate the psychology of it, the answer was something much more simple.
 
Until I saw that trophy with my own eyes, it wasn't real.

I'm not sure words can do justice to the moment. I know what the Market Street is supposed to look like when you pop out of the Civic Center BART station, and I've been caught in the midst of a human throng before. But this? It was just a mass of happy people who picked today to get along.

On the BART I was visiting with some guys from Modesto who made the trip and a gentleman from Richmond also making the pilgramage. I'd spoke to a man who was bringing his 11-year-old to witness history (11? I had to wait 40 years for this and he sees it at age 11? Spoiled little brat!).

I'd never met any of them before and likely won't again, but on this day we were long lost buddies united in our love for the Giants and sharing the sheer amazement that the "torture" had come to a glorious end. Brothers in arms.

I figured "the moment" for me would come upon seeing the trophy, but my biggest reaction was brought about by stepping into Civic Center Plaza and seeing City Hall decked out in banners celebrating the World Series Champions. I'd seen banners like these before, but never in Giants colors. I paused and caught my breath, and it finally hit me.

The Giants are the champs. The event I'd awaited for 40 years had come, seemingly out of the blue. Screw you, George Bush. THIS is what I call "Mission Accomplished."


Channel 2 estimated one million fans in attendance. It seemed there were that many jammed into my BART car -- half of them teenage girls with signs indicating they wanted to "Get Cozy with Posey".  At the plaza there were easily 100,000. They went back beyond Larkin Street. They were in the trees, on top of buildings, climbing the statues (despite fencing intended to deter such an occurance), climbing street poles -- you name it. Two Jumbotrons were erected so those in the plaza could watch the parade drawing ever closer. And when the players arrived, the excitement was palpable.

By now anyone interested has seen video of the speeches -- and Aubrey Huff's pseudo strip (how sick is it that the biggest cheers were reserved for two inanimate objects: the trophy and the rally thong?). You can find clips everywhere (including below) so I won't waste time with a re-cap. I will say that the trip was worth it, the fitting culmination to a grand a glorious quest.

Now the real question: Can they do it again?





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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Next Year" Has Finally Arrived

Statement of fact: The best collection of players did not win the 2010 World Series. The best TEAM did.

Led by a stringy-haired hippy hurler and an aging vet who found one final drop in the fountain of youth, the San Francisco Giants did the unthinkable. Fifty-six years of frustration ended with an absolute destruction of the Texas Rangers, and the Giants laid claim the ultimate prize.


The San Francisco Giants are (pause for dramatic effect) the WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL!


I've waited 40 long years to say that.

I'll leave the analysis to others. We all saw what happened. Tim Lincecum simply was not going to lose that game. Aubrey Huff was going to do whatever it took, personal glory be damned. And, if Andres Torres can be believed,  Edgar Renteria literally called his shot. We'll relive it to the nth degree over the next few days (weeks, months, years, millenia). But this blog is personal. This is the blow-by-blow account of what happened at my house.

Generally I'm a nervous wreck watching the Giants play, but on this night I was having way too much fun watching The Freak at the top of his game. It's amazing what you can feel through a high-def television. Every pitch exuded 100 percent badassedness. The message was clear: "Get me some runs and I'll take it home." Timmy was a joy to watch.

Then Cliff Lee, Mr. Unbeatable until the Giants got ahold of him, faltered. Cody Ross got a two-strike hit. Juan Uribe got a two-strike hit. Lee doesn't give those up very often, so you knew something was afoot. When Huff laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his career (and it was magnificent), I started to get that "something has gotta happen here" vibe. The Giants' power leader throughout the season had given himself up for the good of the team.

He knew what all of us felt -- one run might well be enough.

Huff's bunt set up his longtime buddy to be the hero. Pat Burrell, God bless him, had the series from Hell. It would have been a great story had he come through, but Lee fanned him to leave the Giants still needing that elusive two-out hit. Except two-out RBIs were what this postseason has been all about. Lee fell behind Renteria, and his cutter found way too much plate.

When the ball was struck I thought, "Damn, fly ball." Then Murphy turned his back and I started rooting foor the ball to  get down. I was thinking maybe double and two runs. When it disappeared over the wall, I was dumbfounded.

My hands shot into the air. "Oh, (bleep)" I gasped, prompting a stern glare from my wife and an "are you nuts?" look from my 19-month old twin boys.

For me, the enduring image of this series will be the look on Burrell's face and the hug with which he greeted Renteria upon his return to the bench. The baseball term is "you picked me up" but that doesn't do the moment justice. Everyone watching knew what that look meant.

That's when it hit me. The Giants were nine outs away from winning it all.

My iPhone started to buzz. One friend wanted me to wake up my boys so they could witness the finale, like my shouting hadn't already made sleep impossible for the entire neighborhood. Friends and family started chiming in. They knew how I felt about the Giants, how long I had waited for the moment that finally seemed to be at hand, and what this meant.

And still, there were nine outs to go.

Timmy made me nervous when he gave up the jack to Cruz. I'm sure he was roped on adrenaline, but he quickly got back under control.  Then Fox put up that stinking killjoy of a graphic. The last time a team had overcome a three-run deficit in a World Series elimination game, it had happened to the Giants. Effing Game Six.

I was at that hideous game in 2002. It killed me. The best man at my wedding (an Angels fan who sat with my wife-to-be and I through that awful night -- Game Six, not the wedding ) even acknowledged it in his wedding toast, adding "may you finally get your last six outs."

At that moment, he sent me a text: "May u get the last 6 outs."

Funny how the mind works. The big out for me was the first out of the eighth.  They'd passed the six-out threshhold. With two gone I started going through the possibilities. Get Young out, I thought, and Hamilton leads off the ninth. He can hit one to Fort Worth and it just won't matter. Or if Young gets on, do you pull Lincecum in favor of Javier Lopez? Fortunately Timmy Franchise took care of business, and Young. Would Timmy take the hill for the ninth?

I wanted Brian Wilson. I know Timmy was dealing, but they pay Wilson millions for a reason. They needed three outs. Call on The Beard, The Machine, the US Marine Corps, whatever. A complete game would have been a nice story, but Lincecum had done his job. In a campaign where "Fear the Beard" had become a rallying cry, this was how it had to be. But was I confident?

I was literally shaking as Brian Wilson took the hill.

Why is it that, in a season of torture, the one guy who decided not to torture us at the end was this nut case? After dancing in a mine field all season, his outings in Game Four and Game Five were the cleanest he'd thrown all year. Hamilton? Caught looking. Guerrero? Routine ground out. Then Cruz was facing a 3-2 cutter.

video


From me, there was no shouting and no screaming. I'll admit to a few tears. Honestly, I had bigger reactions to winning the division and the NLCS. This was different. Magically different. The family gathered. I hugged kissed my boys. I know they won't remember it, but I wanted them to share the moment. Then I tried to let it sink in.

The Giants are the champs.

After the presentations were done, after the talking heads took over the airwaves, and long after everyone else in our humble abode had retired for the evening, I spent about two hours wandering the house. I didn't know how to feel.

Giants seasons always end in heartbreak. Always. I thought about the earthquake. I thought about Game Six. I thought about JT Snow, Solmon Torres and all of the other near misses. I even flashed on Bobby Richardson, an episode that took place a year before I was born and that I only know from grainy video. The demons of the past -- all finally exorcised.

There was no Barry Bonds and no Jeff Kent, no Will Clark or Matt Williams. The player carrying the team's biggest salary wasn't on the post-season roster. The next guy on the money chart ended up a bench player.  Nobody wanted Aubrey Huff. Pat Burrell got cut midseason. Cody Ross was waived at the deadline. Andres Torres has had more professional addresses that Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show. Kelly Leak makes this team. They were the Bad News Bears come to life.

I never saw it coming. And for some reason, that made it all the more sweet.

Funny how a team that tortured fans all season put down than moniker for the finale. They didn't just beat the Rangers, they destroyed them. The offensive juggernaut that led all of baseball in hitting batted .190 against the Giants. Toss out that weird Game One and the Rangers scored five runs. The Giants tallied 29 runs in five games, the Rangers had 29 hits. Cliff Lee was perfect in the postseason until the Giants got him...twice. This wasn't close.

Torture never felt so good.


The Rangers arguably had the best personnel. They got beat by a unit. Wait 'til next year? Not any more.

The rally monkey is dead. Long Live "The Beard."



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