“We did it!”
These three simple words echoed around the state and beyond on Monday night. They resonated from the shores of McCovey Cove in San Francisco to the ballpark in Arlington, Texas and wound their way through the bars and boulevards of Santa Cruz. The improbable had at long last become a reality: The San Francisco Giants had won the 2010 World Series.
I found myself repeating that three-word phrase over and over to myself as I stood in a deserted downtown parking garage with my friend Michelle around 10 o’clock that evening. We had sought out this spot of seclusion to celebrate a victory over half a century in the making by passing a bottle of $6 champagne back and forth, taking turns toasting the players who performed best in the Giants’ postseason run. We gave kudos to Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria, lovingly lauded the pitching staff, and heaped accolades on the coaching staff and front office management.
As our joyous voices bounced off the concrete walls and into the quiet solitude of this early November night, I found myself thinking back over a span of eight years, to the point in my life where my orange-and-black fanaticism first began until now, and about all the people along the way who encouraged — and tolerated — my passionate and sometimes dysfunctional love affair with this baseball team. They deserve a toast as much as these players do, I thought. Because, as silly as it may sound to the casual fan, this championship means as much to the players as it does to the diehard fans like me, the hundreds of thousands of people who stood by their team amidst all the heartache and torture of the last several decades of Giants baseball.
For those of you who may not be privy to the Giants’ history since the team moved to the Bay Area from New York in 1958, it can be summarized rather succinctly with one word: zero. That’s because, despite fielding some of the best players in the history of baseball — Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds, just to name a few — this franchise just couldn’t win a national title on the West Coast. The few times the Giants did manage to make the World Series since the westward relocation, they were always sent home empty-handed, thanks to some cruel twist of fate — a ball that was hit six inches too low, an unprecedented bullpen collapse, a tragic earthquake that delayed the World Series for over a week.
But, despite all the so-close-but-no-championship seasons, as well as the multitude of losing years, so many fans stayed true to the Giants franchise. The slogan “Wait till next year” became a mantra of the loyal and diehard spectators.
These are fans like my ninth-grade biology teacher Owen Lucey, who stuck with the team since the Giants first came out west when he was in middle school. I spent countless afternoons in his classroom discussing the previous night’s game or evaluating an offseason acquisition, and when he retired at the end of my junior year of high school, his parting words to me were, “I’ll be thinking of you when [the Giants] finally win it all.”
Sure enough, I received an e-mail from him on Monday night that read: “The agony began when I was in sixth grade and finally ended tonight. [It was] certainly an emotional evening for me — I truly believed the Giants would never win a World Championship in my lifetime.”
But, if a lifetime of loyalty deserves a toast, so does the development of fandom as a means of getting closer to people you care about. So here’s a toast to my parents, who at first tolerated my obsession with baseball and eventually got caught up in the craze themselves. I loved seeing how emotionally invested my parents became in every game this postseason as they went along for the ride with me. My dad suddenly began texting me in-game commentary as he watched from home, while my mom started high-fiving fellow orange-and-black-clad fans in the grocery store after a win. It felt great that they started to support the team as a way to support me as their daughter, then fell in love with the scrappy Giants themselves.
Speaking of how baseball can bring people together, here’s a toast to my older brother Ryan, who has accompanied me to roughly 20 Giants games over the past few years, including the first game of this year’s World Series in San Francisco. AT&T Park was the backdrop for the start of our sibling relationship back in 2007 after more than 30 years’ estrangement (see the previous column “For the Love of the Game”). Our mutual love of baseball proved to be a stepping stone to help build the sibling relationship we have today, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to help me navigate through the ups and downs of a baseball season and to celebrate a championship with.
All these thoughts continued to ruminate in my mind as Michelle and I wound up the evening on the front patio of 99 Bottles, tipping the remnants of champagne into paper cups that she snagged from the restaurant. As Giants fans began to trickle out of bars at closing time, we leaned back in our chairs for one parting toast.
“Here’s a toast to all the San Francisco Giants fans in Santa Cruz and around the nation who endured half a century of torture and stuck by this team through it all,” I crowed.
Because, when it came down to it, this championship wasn’t merely about obtaining bragging rights over the rest of the baseball world for a year. Rather, it was a testament to all the diehard fans of the team who took decades of ridicule from other spectators of the sport who told them that their team was cursed, a hopeless abomination, a train wreck waiting to happen. This was for all the lovers, the dreamers and me.
“To the World Series!” Michelle called out, clinking her cup of bubbly with mine.
I’ll drink to that.