Giants close to scratching 50-year itch

October 26, 2010


— It was eight years and two days ago that the World Series last visited San Francisco.

The Giants throttled the Angels, 16-4. The first World Series championship parade in San Francisco was one victory away. Civic delirium erupted.

“An hour after the game, it was still like New Year’s Eve,” said Jon Miller, the Giants’ Hall of Fame broadcaster. “It was like a war had just ended.”

It was eight years ago, to the day, that Scott Spiezio happened. The parade never did.

The sad refrain in Los Angeles is that a kid could have graduated from college by now without seeing the Dodgers win the World Series. But no one in San Francisco — kids, parents, grandparents — has seen the Giants win the World Series.

The Dodgers and Giants migrated to California in 1958. The Dodgers won the World Series the next year, five times in 30 years.

The Giants are 0-for-3.

In 1962, there was New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, who speared Willie McCovey’s line drive to end the Series, prompting Charlie Brown — as drawn in “Peanuts” by Bay Area resident Charles Schulz — to cry, “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?”

In 1989, there was the earthquake.

In 2002, there was Spiezio.

“You almost get a sense from the fans around here,” said J.T. Snow, the first baseman on the 2002 team and now a Giants adviser, “that we’re snakebit.”

That is an upgrade from irrelevant. In between Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, the Giants nearly fled twice — once to Toronto, once to Tampa Bay. They asked taxpayers to build them a stadium four times. They went 0-for-4.

They toiled at Candlestick Park, a dump so cold and windy that the Giants awarded fans at extra-inning night games a “Croix de Candlestick” pin with the inscription “Veni, Vidi, Vixi,” loosely translated as “I came, I saw, I survived.”

Miller grew up a Giants fan. He was 10 when he saw his first game at Candlestick. The Giants whipped the Dodgers, which he would have enjoyed more had his fingers thawed.

“I was trying to use my binoculars,” he said. “I couldn’t even feel my fingertips.”

In 1985, the Giants lost 100 games, the first and only time in franchise history, typified by a shortstop named Johnnie LeMaster, who played for three 100-loss teams that year. By the end of the season, the Giants’ attendance had plummeted to minor-league levels.

The Giants have descended to depths to which the rival Dodgers never have sunk. That would make that long-awaited parade all the sweeter, all the jollier, all the more insane.

“This place would go crazy,” Snow said. “It could get out of control.”

Already is. Tim Lincecum is “The Freak.” Brian Wilson is “The Beard.” Aubrey Huff is the guy who wears a lucky red thong under his uniform.

These are the heirs to Mays and Bonds, and to McCovey.

These are your NL champions.

Mays, Bonds and McCovey all have thrown out ceremonial first pitches during the playoffs, and a World Series encore certainly would be appropriate.

Dusty Baker would be better, though. Remember what Snow said about the Giants fans feeling snakebit?

The Giants were eight outs from heaven in 2002 when Baker removed Russ Ortiz but let him keep the game ball. The baseball gods frowned, and Spiezio happened.

So let Ortiz give that ball back to Baker, and let Baker use it to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Giants are four victories away from a parade 53 years in the making. Might as well get the karma right. Half a century is a long time to wait.


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