Wednesday, October 27, 2010


As someone who had a peripatetic childhood there are very few constants that I clung to and that remained with me until adulthood.  But perhaps the one true constant was, and is, the San Francisco Giants.  Born, and raised until I was 11, on the peninsula just south of San Francisco, I spent many a frozen evening at Candlestick Park watching the fog pour into the stadium through the breezeways in the upper deck while the likes of Willie McCovey, Jack Clark, Bill Madlock, Vida Blue and my personal favorite (for no real reason - I was a kid after all) Mike Ivey plied their trade below.

Later, I would develop a fondness for Milwaukee's County Stadium and the Brewers and Civic Stadium and the Beavers (I tried the Mariners but the Kingdome, even with a young Griffey, Jr., was just depressing), as my family split and went different directions. But I would continue to return to the nest thanks to return trips to visit relatives in SF and always carried the Giants as my birthright.  Recently, visits to my in-laws who live in Marin County are highlighted by ferryboat rides to McCovey cove to see the Giants play in the spectacular PacBell SBC AT&T Park, which (by any name) is by far the best in baseball.

I was in my apartment in Portland when I was in college for the 1989 World Series. My roommate was from the East Bay, but a Giants fan nonetheless, and when the earthquake hit we both ended up trying to contact our families to make sure all were okay and accounted for. Alas, the Giants did not put up much of a fight in that series, but frankly it didn't really matter.

I was alone in a hotel room in Williamstown, Massachusetts during game 6 of the 2002 world series - hiding out and blowing off a dinner banquet for the conference I was attending.  I was beside myself with excitement and anxiety until the bottom of the seventh inning of game 6 when Dusty Baker took out Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead.  I had a bad feeling and when it all unraveled I knew it was all over.  I couldn't hardly watch game 7.  

But it was hard to feel sorry for myself as my father, a Boston native, was still suffering each and every season with his beloved Red Sox.  He was an early adopter of satellite radio when he discovered that it meant he could listen to each and every Red Sox game in Portland.  He grew up across from a park in a nice neighborhood a short walk from the Fenway and used to tell me of Red Sox players who, while walking home from games and practices, would stop and play catch with the boys playing in the park - including the great Ted Williams.  The intimacy I have with the Giants can't compare to those more innocent times, but still, the Giants were an anchor to a kid without a geographic center.

But now the Red Sox have won twice since the 2002 World Series and I can start to feel like maybe it is my time - even though I am about 20 years ahead of my father when his dream was finally realized.  Still, I have a feeling of dread, the Texas Rangers seem like an offensive juggernaut and I think it could all end quickly and badly.  At least the National League finally won the All-Star Game.  So I protect myself with a healthy dose of pessimism (this too learned from my dad over my lifetime).

Anyway, tonight starts what might end up being a fortnight of tortuous suffering. But nevertheless I say: Go Giants!

Addendum. Despite my love for the Giants, this is a stupid statement:

"People on the East Coast think of the West Coast as this new place, but San Francisco is a really old American city," said Brian Murphy, the dulcet morning drive-time sports voice on KNBR radio. "This city has a thriving history that goes all the way back to 1860. … So whereas L.A., and Seattle, and Portland, and Phoenix are all sort of post-World War II towns, this town's history runs way deeper than most of America realizes."

Portland, a post-WWII city? Say what? Oregon City is the oldest city in the West. Portland was incorporated in 1851. Revel in the glory of the Giants, but don't be condescending or vainglorious.

And actually the modern history of the city goes all the way back to the Presidio and the San Francisco Mission in 1776 (see, I attended grade school in California!) so the 1860 date is pretty arbitrary.


Sarah W. Sugarman said...

I grew up in San Francisco like you, but I do agree with KNBR that San Francisco is a very old city for the West and Portland, LA, and Seattle are much younger communities. Portland's social institutions and most of its infrastructure date to the 1910s to 1920s. San Francisco's social institutions mostly predate the 1870s, especially institutions like social clubs and religious institutions. San Francisco's Olympic Club was established in 1860, the Multnomah Athletic Club in 1891. The comparisons go on and on. San Francisco was a major city with a massive physical and social infrastructure by 1870 (despite being destroyed a few times by fire and earthquake). Portland, no offense to its current livability and character, was not a true city until the 1890s or later.

Patrick Emerson said...

I take you point - SF does 'feel' older than any other west coast city. But I wonder how much of that is due to these old institutions associated with wealth. Portland had timber wealth early but never to the same degree as SF wealth and the institutions went along with this.

Anyway, go Giants!

Patrick Emerson said...

I should also note that another aspect of a peripatetic childhood is how I have accumulated a melange of attachments to little kernels of my personal history: an affection for a London soccer club, a Wisconsin football team and a Portland basketball team.

It all gets very confusing...

Chuck said...

Nice post. While I am not a big basefall fan other than during the Series, and while I tend to favor the Red Sox, reflecting my New England upbringing and the first pro game I saw, or the Cardinals, because my grandfather was on the team for part of one season, I must say I have a number of die hard SF fans, so my two questions to you all this evening: (1) did you wear your hat AND your beard during the game? and (2) What was that symbol ending with the crossed arms and pointed finger that Brian Wilson did after the last out?

Patrick Emerson said...

Absolutely wearing my hat - how do you think the Giants found so much offense. I am the key to their success.

As for the beard, that'll have to wait until they need an extra-boost.

Wilson's gesture is apparently a not to his christian faith and his deceased father. Today's New York times has a nice profile on him.