The World Series is over and the San Francisco Giants have brought a championship to their half of the Bay for the first time ever.
Congratulations! Sincere and heartfelt. The Giants are the dark horse I had my money on since the last week in August. People I’d talk to would say, “Wow, the Phillies are strong. It’ll be a rematch of last year, probably.” Last year. UGH! Last year, when I was rooting for Endtimes, rather than see either the Phillies or the Yankees hoist that trophy with all the flags stuck in it. When anybody said that, I’d retort with, “Don’t go to sleep on the Giants. They can match the Phillies’ pitching, if it gets to that point. I don’t know if they can win the whole thing — they probably can’t match the Yanks — but the Giants will be fun to watch.”
It’s fun to be right, for once.
Historically and vocally, the Red Sox have been my second favorite team. Always a distant second, but they were my next stop once the Mets disappointed me/pissed me off. For ages, I had an affinity with our northern brethren and their hatred for all things Steinbrennerian. We were comrades under the skin. I enjoyed watching the Lynns, Rices, Fisks, Yastrzemskis and Torrezes fight valiantly, if futiley against superior forces: my own personal Light Brigade. 1986 did little to shift that. I thought it was cute that “we” were playing the Red Sox, as I had supreme confidence — with a couple of ripples, I’ll grant you — that the Mets would win. So even after a head-to-head conflict, the soft spot in my heart remained for the Sawx. When they finally broke their “Curse” in ’04, I was as happy as any Backbay stalwart.
Until the Red Sox became insufferable.
They almost immediately became “Yankees North.” All those put-upon New Englanders suddenly became the obnoxious front-runners we were used to in the Bronx. All the literary darlings became the sneering, smirking mob that demanded blood every October. The Sox was dead.
Enter the Giants.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Giants used to play in New York, up in Harlem in a mythical park called the Polo Grounds — at which polo was never played — across the River from Yankee Stadium. In fact, there only is a “Yankee Stadium” because of the New York Giants. The football Giants still have the word “Football” in their corporate name, so as to avoid any confusion. So I have the New York Baseball Giants in my bloodlines. My grandfather — a bootlegger when that profession was fairly commonplace: I keep listening for his name in Boardwalk Empire — lived and died with John McGraw’s squads of the ’10s and 20’s. Despite working for the brewery owned by the owner of the Yankees. He was a die-hard, for sure. My Dad — and most of his 10 siblings — were Yankee fans, probably just to be “different” from Pop. Well, no, I take that back: my aunts were Yankee fans because they thought Joe DiMaggio was cute. But my Dad went into the Army in ’43, came back at the end of the War and got himself a college degree and a bank position, which came with access to Giants/Yankees/Dodgers tickets. Many’s the summer afternoon that his desk phone would ring and the gravelly paternal voice on the other end would say, “Can you sneak uptown with your tickets and meet me at the game?” More often than not, than answer was “yes.”
Until 1957, of course. There has been enough ink and pixels spilled over the events that ripped National League baseball from New York to cover the Atlantic twice over, so I won’t add any more here. The Giants lit out for San Francisco as the Dodgers went to the southern end of the state. Pop was adrift and the Yankee fans had their long-desired metropolitan hegemony. Dad remained one.
Until the Yankees fired Casey Stengel after the 1960 season. That’s when my Dad finally saw the light and abandoned the Pinstripers forever. “Casey got a raw deal. Screw you, Topping,” was the sentiment directed at the Bronxian ownership of the day. The Mets were born, Dad went NL and 5 years later, I went with him. The rest is history.
But let’s say 1957 never happened. Let’s pretend the GiaOdgers stayed put and there were no “Mets”. Willie Mays never left the Polo Grounds and New York got to see McCovey, Marichal and Cepeda up close. Jack Clark made his mark in New York well before signing with the Yankees in ’87. Vida Blue landed in Harlem once the A’s couldn’t afford him. Will Clark, Matt Williams, and yes, Barry Bonds all launched missiles into the PG bleachers and the funny clubhouse in centerfield remained standing.
I’d like to think I’d have been a Giants fan. Seeing as I grew up in northern NJ, they’d certainly have been geographically desirable. I probably would have chosen them as mild form of rebellion against dear ol’ Dad. I would have been at home in the Polo Grounds with the pigeons.
I’d certainly like to think that, today.
But, things are what they are, so LET’S GO METS!