I was born in San Francisco and lived there for my first 2 1/2 years, so by birthright I’m a Giants fan. My parents met and married there, and the family is pretty locked into all things SF.
The locale of one’s birth and early life doesn’t always play out in loyalty to the local team though. One of my friends is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, even though he and his family are from the Bay Area. How did that happen?? Well, when he was in 4th or 5th grade and just learning the game, his best friend Tommy (not his real name) was a Cardinals fan. So Kevin (his real name) didn’t know any better, and started following that team. Years later, when Kevin became one of my great baseball mentors, we had some tense moments at Giants/Cardinals games at Candlestick depending on whose team was in the lead. There were a few innings where we didn’t speak to each other.
When I was young, LA was the wonderful land of Disney and my favorite kissing cousins. Those are the kind of relatives who are there through marriage and not blood, so it’s ok to have huge crushes on them. Which I did. They were cute, so I forgave them later for being Dodger fans.
Soon after our first trip to Disneyland, baseball came to the West Coast. My father and his 4 brothers had followed the Pacific Coast League, so I’d heard about the SF Seals and great players like the DiMaggio brothers. My mother had moved to The City, as we always called it, when she was 14 and although she didn’t know as much about baseball, she knew and loved her town.
It didn’t take long for an intense rivalry to start between the Giants and Dodgers. Separated by 400 miles of either farm land or coastal beaches, depending on the route, these 2 teams were the only game in town. When the Dodgers came to SF, with the likes of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills and Duke Snider, fans turned out to watch great baseball. The Giants matched their line-up with players like Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and the great Willie Mays. Even the ground crew was involved — they famously watered down the dirt next to first base to slow down Maury Wills, one of the best base-stealers of his time.
On weekends during those early days, families worked and played in their yards with the game blasting from radios all around the neighborhood. My father and I discussed the standings every morning at breakfast, based on what happened the previous evening. I was always happy to check the paper to see my Giants listed at the top. They weren’t always there, but they were always close.
As I got older, I realized that many people in LA didn’t care much about San Francisco and the rivalry, but we did and that’s what mattered. Yelling ‘Beat LA!’ at a game is still fun. I hope to do it often in a couple of weeks when the Dodgers come into town.
In the meantime, I’m watching this weekend’s games with utter delight. The Giants/Dodgers games are always intense, but more so this year when the LA payroll is soooo high and many people think that’s the reason they’ll take the division. The Giants have some expensive players too and they’re showing that they can hit, especially on a 2-out count. But they also have great chemistry and a lot of heart, something the Dodgers seem to be lacking. This may be a year when we’ll look at those intangibles that make up a team and say, ‘Money can’t buy a championship.’ Stay tuned — it should be a fun ride.