Giants are still my passion, though they break my heart
My dad would have worn out his pencil and finished at least 35 unfiltered Camel cigarettes last Thursday night at PacBell Park and Game 5 of the World Series. In between, he would have reminded me to get my mitt ready for a home run that would never arrive.
I’ve been a San Francisco Giants fan since we moved West together from New York (for me it was a Burbank-to-New York-to-San Francisco journey) in 1958. My first ball cap had a New York Yankees emblem on the front. My dad bought it for me to cover my stitches after a squirrel jumped or fell (we never knew for certain) from a tree in Central Park and landed on my head. Squirrels have large claws, hence their ability to climb trees better than dogs.
By 1962, when the Yankees and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Clete Boyer and Whitey Ford and a host of other superheroes came out to play the Giants and Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal and Jimmy Davenport and Chuck Hiller and a host of superheroes, I was madly in love with San Francisco.
In “those days,” (God, I hate writing that. It sounds so … so … gray), they played World Series games in daylight. The television networks had not yet taken control of professional sports. I didn’t get to go, but I listened on my transistor radio as Bobby Richardson speared a vicious line drive off the bat of McCovey in Game 7 to seal the Series for New York.
It broke my heart.
But not my love. My dad would take me to many more Giants games in the seasons to come until his death. We’d sit in the “cheap seats” out in left field, somewhere between Mays in center and whoever happened to be playing to his right at the time.
My dad would sit with his program and pencil, keeping score, not trusting the official scorekeeper to do his job. The ash from his cigarette would grow, defying gravity, before eventually falling onto his program.
It would be 27 years before the Giants would see another Series game. And that was spoiled by an earthquake, putting a footnote on an Oakland A’s sweep in 1989.
Just a few seasons later, my younger sister Chris, who loved the Giants even more than I, found out she was dying of cancer. The Giants granted her wish to visit the dugout and say hello to her favorite player, Will Clark. I took her to the game, and they put her name up on the Giants Candlestick scoreboard and made her cry. She died the next season.
So when a friend called last week with an offer of a ticket to Game 5 of the 2002 World Series, I thought about it for maybe a second. I hadn’t been to PacBell Park and this was a chance to see one of the biggest games in Giants’ history.
The new stadium is simply spectacular, built the way baseball parks used to be built before they started sharing space with football teams.
It’s cozy. It’s accessible. It’s historic – this one paying homage to some of the great Giants of years gone by. Years that don’t seem that long ago to a guy whose hair is gray, but whose memory is fairly strong.
I say “fairly” strong because I forgot my mitt. I pulled it out of my closet, but left it on the dresser, significantly reducing my chances of snagging a souvenir World Series baseball.
No matter. The Giants crushed the Angels 16-4 that night to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven Series. Except for the red uniforms, the Angels really aren’t much different than the Dodgers, whom I was raised to despise. It never really mattered where the Giants finished, so long as they beat L.A.
Unfortunately, the Giants broke my heart once again Sunday night, losing in seven games in a Series that should have been over in six. They do that, those Giants. I had a girlfriend like that once. She’d break my heart, take it back, and break it again. I finally learned her game and left her behind.
But the Giants have stolen my heart forever, I’m afraid. I’m too old to go looking for another love, and there are none out there who offer the beauty and the charm of San Francisco and its Giants.
Maybe next year, eh?
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. Contact him at 477-4299,
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