The funny thing is, we thought 2010 was “Torture.”
We could laugh about Torture when the Giants managed to win the World Series. But in 2011, we became re-acquainted with our old friend Torture when the Giants suddenly stopped winning all those walk-off, one-run ballgames. It seemed they just stopped scoring runs, period, and the challenge of stringing together three hits in a row became an insurmountable obstacle.
And 2011 truly defined Torture, Giants-style, with a seemingly endless array of injuries. None hurt more than Buster Posey’s season-ending loss in that eminently avoidable crash at home plate back in May. But it was equally painful to see rock-solid Brian Wilson go down, and Pablo Sandoval’s fabulous comeback momentarily derailed. And of course it turned out Freddy Sanchez never did vacate his room in the Hotel Disabled, moving right back in on schedule. (Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, those injuries I can forgive.)
I admire the way the Giants never gave up. I like that Brian Sabean brought in Carlos Beltran and Jeff Keppinger. (Orlando Cabrera, I was not so crazy about. I understand why Brandon Crawford couldn’t stay – you don’t want a rookie falling into a double digit batting average and thinking he will never hit big league pitching – but if you have to hire a shortstop who can’t hit, couldn’t you at least bring back Omar Vizquel?) I liked that the team stayed in the race til the final week.
Hey, I liked that the Atlanta Braves collapsed and the Diamondbacks never showed anything too dominant, enabling that race to linger.
But it sure has been Torture watching a postseason without the Giants, especially one in which the starting pitchers all seem highly inferior to Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong. I have to feel our guys would be giving any team in the playoffs a good run once again, if they’d only gotten there.
So now I’ve tossed this year’s Sporting Greens into the hot stove, and am ready to burnish my optimism for 2012. Re-sign Beltran. Get the Brandons – Belt and Crawford – into a big league boot camp all winter. Make Aubrey Huff and Brett Pill battle it out for first base in Spring Training. Sign Coco Crisp. (Let the A’s have San Jose in exchange for some Moneyball mojo.)
The Giants are not too far from putting together another run at the title. I cannot wait until Spring!
The champs, continued
Here we are, a month into the season, and the question keeps coming up: How do we feel about the Giants? They are not exactly sweeping through the National League the way they swept through the playoffs last year. Should we worry?
No. And yes. The Giants are doing everything just the way we remember, if not better. Nothing came easy to them last year. Remember torture? This season opened with more of that Torture (with a capital T and that rhymes with G and that stands for Giants). Losses in L.A., blown saves against St. Louis, narrow, late inning victories (and losses) and then a sweep at home by the hated Braves brought all of those memories back.
Of course, we have many reasons to feel this year would be better. The great young pitchers have another year experience under their belt, and keep improving. The lineup, in flux all of last season, appears settled – Brian Sabean won’t have to scramble to add every warm bat he can find, as he did last year with Messrs. Burrell, Guillen and Ross. Ditto the bullpen. Buster Posey should also get better with experience, and if unloading Bengie Molina last year to make room for Posey was addition by subtraction, the Giants took the concept even farther this year, with Pablo Sandoval shedding what, 50 pounds, and going from a sure first-pitch double-play to one of the most feared hitters in the league. And Brandon Belt could be the next Posey.
Then again, we’re Giants fans. We have many reasons to feel this year will be worse, too. The pitchers never had to work as hard as they did last year – could they be burned out? Miguel Tejada looks to be a serious liability at shortstop. Injuries are rearing their ugly head, striking Brian Wilson, Barry Zito, Cody Ross, Andres Torres.
And yet, so far this year as last, the misfits keep fitting in. Down goes Torres, up comes Rowand. Wilson isn’t laid low for long. Ross’s absence makes room for Belt, and Mark DeRosa makes the most of his at-bats. Even Tejada surprises with some heroics reminiscent of his Oakland days.
It’s a long season. It’s a great ride. Go ahead, torture me. I know I can take it.
I have just attended two of the greatest, most torturous Giants games of my life. To see these amazing ceremonies beforehand, with the flag going up and the rings going out, and then to see the Giants battle and grind, and take it to the last at-bat, night after night, just reminds me of all the things I love about baseball.
It’s a team without superstars. A team that’s never out of it. Pick it up when one guy struggles.
And keep the drama high, the fans on the edge of their seat, and never do anything the easy way.
I hope to write something more reflective, but I just needed to get that thought out now. I don’t know if I can take 154 more games like that!
When the Giants won the World Series (yes!), the Record, the newspaper in Troy, NY, went on a crusade to bring the trophy to Troy, arguing that the Giants had their start as the Troy City Trojans in 1879.
Troy is getting its way: It’s close enough to Cooperstown so I guess the Giants capitulated, and will bring the trophy there on its national tour in the spring. But it’s a pretty thin connection.
I don’t know the sources that Troy Record writer Kevin Moran used — particularly in his pivotal assertion that John B. Day and Jim Mutrie bought the Troy franchise and moved it to New York. In the excellent book, “The Giants of the Polo Grounds” (Doubleday, 1988), author Noel Hynd lays out the history of the National League, including how after the first year, 1876, the cash-strapped New York and Philadelphia teams were booted out of the league.
In 1881, Day, a wealthy businessman, and Mutrie, a baseball enthusiast, formed an independent team, the New York Metropolitans, or Mets, and then in 1882 applied to be in the National League , along with a team from Philly. The NL pressed Worcester and Troy to resign from the league – the two last place teams; Troy drew 25 fans to its last game, and the year before had drawn TWELVE to its last game!
According to Hynd, the NL gave Day the New York franchise – and he then put the Mets in the rival American Association, and decided to start a new team for his National League venture. Hynd writes: “With the Troy club conveniently disbanded, its roster – even those players under ‘reserve’ – was free to be pillaged. Day promptly signed the best of them,” Roger Connor, Buck Ewing and Smiling Mickey Welch. Other players went elsewhere, including some to the Mets, and other players came from elsewhere.
I think it’s nice that the Giants are doing it for Troy – but it’s not quite historically accurate to say they started in Troy. They started in New York as the Gothams, winning their opener in 1883 at fields that actually had been used for polo (and which were owned by New York Herald founder and publisher James Gordon Bennett), before a crowd that included former President Ulysses Grant.
I must admit, I am feeling a little bit lost now that the baseball season is over. I did not want that to end!
But luckily, it ended in such a fantastic, unlikely fashion that I plan to keep re-living the highlights all winter long. And as my son said, at least the Giants gave us an extra month, so the wait for spring training is that much shorter than usual.
Dan Pera, who blogs as The DodgerHater, has assembled a fantastic video of the Giants’ October highlights. Watching it helps me hold onto that feeling.
It’s great to see old fans of the New York Giants — the baseball Giants, who played in Gotham from 1883-1957 — get a little moment of sunshine now that the team they’ve stuck with for all these years has finally won its first World Series since 1954.
I had the pleasure of meeting about 50 of them tonight at the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society’s meeting. Steve Steinberg, co-author of “1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York,” and I gave talks to this group, which meets occasionally in a conference room in the Church of the Mediator on 231st Street in the Bronx. Group organizer Bill Kent orders pizza, collects money, and tosses cans of soda like a vendor pitching peanuts.
I learned a lot from these guys, most notably that one legend has it that Blanche McGraw — widow of the great Giants manager John McGraw, and reportedly the very last fan to leave the Polo Grounds in 1957 — placed a curse on the team that it would never win a World Series in San Francisco. The gentleman telling the story said it may remain intact, noting the Giants clinched each playoff series on the road, in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Arlington, Texas.
I’m ready for more: Steve and I have a second New York event planned for Wednesday night, Nov. 10, at 7 pm at a really special place, the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, at 67 East 11th Street, New York, near Union Square and around the corner from the marvelous Strand bookstore.
Bergino is run by Jay Goldberg, who has built a sweet business selling artfully designed handcrafted baseballs. Steve and I will be telling stories, and selling and signing books. (I offer mine for $20, which is $5 off the cover price.) I hope to see you there!
The San Francisco Giants’ whole improbable, ridiculous, joyful, torturous ride through the 2010 baseball season has ended in the most improbable, ridiculous, joyful but definitely not torturous fashion. The Giants are World Champions and San Francisco is celebrating like never before.
The rings that the players will get are more than just symbols of this incredible season. They are pure redemption for all the incredible players who came through here before, all the close calls, near-misses, heartaches and yes, Torture, that the Giants and their fans have endured for more than a half-century in San Francisco.
It’s redemption for Dusty Baker and Russ Ortiz and that exhausted, overworked bullpen of 2002. It’s redemption for Robb Nen who was so clutch yet couldn’t stop little Neifi Perez in 1998. It’s redemption for Saloman Torres and the 103-win team of 1993. It’s redemption for Candy Maldonado and the sliding-catch-that-wasn’t in 1987. It’s redemption for Juan Marichal, blowing his top in 1965 and blowing a pennant in the process. It’s redemption for Barry Bonds, who thrilled us on the field, but left us in the humiliating position of defending his behavior. It’s redemption for Horace Stoneham, who gave us frigid Candlestick Park, and for Bob Lurie, who tried and failed to get rid of it.
These and so many other people have given Giant fans so many great memories, so many winning seasons, so many pennant races and playoffs that we have no right to complain. But like Chris “Mad Dog” Russo declared so plaintively after that punch to the gut from the Florida Marlins in 2003 — and yes, this is also redemption for Jose Cruz Jr., as hard as that is to write — we wanted to know what it would be like for the Giants to win just one time. Just one lousy goddamn time!
Now we know.
It’s amazing. Gratifying. Stupendous. Mind-boggling.
I am soaking it all in. We screamed til we were hoarse. We leapt off chairs at Paragon, a block from the ballpark. We high-fived and hugged friends and strangers. We honked our horn all the way through the city, with every landmark – the Ferry Building, Coit Tower, City Hall – bathed in orange light.
I heard Mike Krukow quoting J.T. Snow on the radio last night, saying this was closure for 2002. Kruk clearly felt closure for 1987/1989, and he cited all those same players who were all pulling for this Giants team to finally exorcise those ghosts.
“It’s crazy to think with all the great baseball players who have come through San Francisco, there hasn’t been a World Series championship. The beautiful thing about the organization is, you’ve got guys like Will Clark here. You’ve got J.T. Snow here. You’ve got Shawon Dunston here. When we get back to San Francisco, we’ll have Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry. The list goes on and on. It’s so humbling to have won the first World Series in San Francisco. It’s unbelievable.”
Thank you, Buster, for saying that. And thank you, Matt Cain, the longest serving Giant, who has known such hard luck and come through like such a pro. And thank you, Brian Wilson, who has defined this team and this city, from torture to the whole bearded freaky orange-and-black Halloween championship. (Neither Wilson nor Cain gave up an earned run in the playoffs!) And thank you, Bill Neukom, Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Edgar Renteria – what is redemption if not Renteria (and Bochy and Sabean), vilified by fans, turning heroic on the biggest stage of all? – thank you to all the Giants past and present for making this moment possible. Thank you Aubrey Huff, for the thong, the quotes, the home runs and most of all, the first sacrifice bunt of your career. What a sacrifice! Thank you, too, to Duane Kuiper, for giving us Torture, and to Mike Krukow, Jon Miller and Dave Flemming, for unparalleled insight and enthusiasm. Thank you to the great middle relievers, the incredible untold story of this team, and to Barry Zito, a class act and hard-luck, hard-working pitcher. Is there any Giant we don’t just love today?
I can’t wait to see those Hall of Famers participating in the parade they long-deserved. hope the great Willie Mays, who was in the parade that welcomed the Giants to San Francisco in 1958, will be well enough to ride in this one. I look forward to Willie McCovey, a fearsome slugger best remembered for his line drive out in 1962, getting that round of cheers from the fans who love him so much.
Our Giant fandom has been torture at times. We reveled in the torture. How sweet it is to revel in victory instead.
With the World Series that opened in San Francisco tonight, the Giants started battling some old ghosts. The team had been greeted with a ticker tape parade on its arrival in The City in 1958, but it hasn’t had one since, as it’s always come up just shy of winning it all.
But this year feels different. I know, I know, we should not get ahead of ourselves and predict a Giant victory – but I can’t help but feel that this team has what it takes for that ultimate Champagne shower. And believe me, I am one of those fans who is reminding everyone that, even as the Giants were romping in Game One, the Rangers had lost Game One to the Yankees, too.
But the tension at the end of tonight’s game – tension that should not exist in a game where you have an ace pitcher and score 11 runs – reminded me of the essential difference between this Giant team and all the other San Francisco squads that fell short is: Torture.
Yes, that word. Giant fans know it all too well. But we kept it in our closets. It lurked underneath our orange jerseys, the ones with Mays or McCovey or Clark or Bonds on the back – all those Giants who never won World Series in San Francisco (Mays won one in New York). We did not wear it on our sleeves, like Red Sox fans. We did not have a Curse that we could curse, like the Cubs and the Red Sox and the White Sox.
Yet this year, Duane Kuiper – he of the one career home run – put a stamp on the Giants early, recognizing a team that would win or lose its games by one Torturous run. “Giants baseball!” he would declare after such a finish. “Torture!”
The Giants adopted the phrase. It even started turning up in manager Bruce Bochy’s postgame interviews. Kuiper told me in September that the Giants organization wanted him to tone it down, but even if he stopped, his partner Mike Krukow – sunny Kruk, who always predicts the possibility of a pennant – picked up on the theme. And Torture was too true not to stick.
Anyway, these Giants have barely been in town long enough to know the Tortured history. The entire starting lineup basically arrived either this year or last. Matt Cain is the longest tenured Giant, and he just turned 26 and made his debut in 2005. No one knows 2002, to say nothing of 2003 (Jose Cruz!), or 2000, or the other epic choke jobs that long defined Torture for the fans.
But now we are buying Torture T-shirts and laughing in the face of Torture — at least, when it isn’t Torturing us, with Brian Wilson walking the go-ahead run in the ninth inning and then getting a 3-2 count on the Phillies most dangerous hitter.
Of course, if they don’t win, I anticipate it’ll be in pretty Torturous fashion as well. The people who proclaimed the Torture to be over after the Giants won the division learned the hard way that it doesn’t end; as Ashkon sings in the YouTube video that defines this playoff run, “it goes on and on and on and on.”
Torturous Giant losses are nothing new. They go back to the team’s earliest days. Fred Merkle failed to touch second base on a game-winning hit, costing the Giants a pennant. Fred Snodgrass muffed a fly ball, costing the team the 1912 World Series. There are botched rundowns at home plate, bad hop grounders in the ninth inning of seventh games, and years of devastating defeats to the Yankees, who taunted them from right across the Harlem River.
And that was nothing. Once the Giants got to San Francisco, they raised Torture to an art form.
They lost their first West Coast Series to, yes, the Yankees, in a heartbreaker that still stings: a 1-0 Game 7 loss to the Yankees defined by the final pitch, which resulted a smash off the bat of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey that somehow landed in Bobby Richardson’s glove, instead of scoring the tying and winning runs from second and third bases. A team full of Hall of Famers never made it back, instead taking five straight second place finishes, often to the hated Dodgers.
And never mind other ignominies, like 1987 (Candy Maldonado! Jose Oquendo!) – the Giants’ World Series experience has always been an exercise in creative Torture, as if devised by some Folsom Street dominatrix: a four-game sweep in the earthquake marred 1989 Series; and a horrific meltdown in the 2002 Series when – up 3 games to 2, and with a 5-0 lead and eight outs to go in Game 6, the Giants managed to cough up the lead, the game, and the whole World Series.
That sort of wrenching loss has long been a Giants hallmark, even when they were based in New York, but the San Francisco iteration has turned it into an art form.
Yet along came the 2010 Giants, and we are believers all over again. And with the team back in the Fall Classic, I thought it prudent to look for historical comparisons and calculate the reasons why the Giants will – or won’t – win the Series this year.
Here – in honor of Cody Ross, and the most superstitious of sports, are 13 reasons why the Giants will win:
- It’s Magic Inside. Corny? Yes. Silly marketing-speak? You bet. But how else to explain how this ragtag group – these so-called knuckleheads, the so-called Dirty Dozen – could actually come from so far back to win the National League pennant? Whoever came up with the Magic campaign must have known something. Baseball is the most superstitious of sports. Why else would Aubrey Huff of the Giants parade around in a red thong?
- It’s Torture Inside. This team has embraced the Torture. For years, the Giants have denied their cursed position, unlike the Red Sox or Cubs. (I have a t-shirt purchased at Wrigley Field that reads: Chicago Cubs, World Champions, 1908.) But once you take ownership of something, you can start to use it. Owning the Torture means knowing that Brian Wilson can walk two guys in the ninth inning, because even though our ulcers start screaming, he’s going to get the called third strike and save the game.
- Curse-busters. If you’re going to end a curse, it helps to have people who have done it before. Like Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand, veterans of the 2005 White Sox, which lifted the cloud of the 1919 Black Sox scandal in winning the club’s first Series in 86 years. (Javier Lopez pitched for the 2007 world champion Red Sox, but that was a second title for Boston, which broke its curse in 2004.)
- Curse opponents. If the Giants are cursed, the Rangers have it even worse. This squad has never even been to the World Series, either in its first incarnation as the Washington Senators (the second team with that name, established in 1961 after the original Senators became the Minnesota Twins), or in its many years trying to convince Texas football fans to brave 100 degree temperatures and watch baseball. Sorry, Rangers. It’s football season now.
- Players with no sense of history. Look at the heroes who joined the team this year: Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Cody Ross, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez. Last year brought Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, and Andres Torres. No one on this team was here for Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. They don’t know that they can’t win.
- Revenge for 2002. The Giants are one-by-one erasing the memory of 2002 by dashing the latest dreams of former Angels David Eckstein (2010 Padres), Troy Glaus (2010x Braves) and now old teammate Bengie Molina (2010 Rangers).
- Will Clark. Will the Thrill – in many ways, the ultimate Giant – hit a home run off Nolan Ryan in his first major league at bat, and Ryan now owns the Texas Rangers.
- The Giants have some unfinished business with the Washington Senators. Okay, maybe a stretch – I mean, the Giants never played the Rangers’ actual precursors. But the last time the Giants played the original Senators, when John McGraw managed the “Jints” and Walter Johnson pitched for Washington, the Senators won their only Series when a routine grounder hit a pebble and skipped over Giants Hall of Fame third baseman Freddie Lindstrom, knotting the score and setting the stage for another bad-hop grounder that won the game and the Series in the 12th inning.
- The Yankee factor. The Rangers beat the Yankees – just like the 2004 Red Sox and 2002 Angels did in overcoming their curses. But the 2005 White Sox didn’t need to beat the Yankees. And the 2007 Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees and still managed to lose to the Phillies.
- The Texas factor. The 2005 White Sox won the Series by beating a team from Texas as cursed then as the Rangers are now – the Houston Astros.
- George Bush used to own the Rangers. ‘Nuff said.
- Ex-Cub factor: This rule of baseball, nearly immutable, decrees that the team with more ex-Cubs will lose. The Giants have Mike Fontenot, and Mark DeRosa has been out all year with an injury. The Rangers, though, have Andres Blanco and Clay Rapada – and the Cubs originally drafted Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ best player.
- The underdog factor. The last time the Giants won the World Series, of course, no one gave them a chance against the Indians who destroyed the American League in 1954. And the Giants won four straight.
But of course, don’t take my word for any of this. That’s why they play the games. Which will, of course, be Torture.
OK, I’ll admit it: I am desperate.
I’ve lived and died all year with the Giants, and now they are in the World Series, and I do not have tickets. Ouch!
So I have an idea. A modest proposal. An offer that I hope somebody can’t refuse.
Here’s the pitch: Take me out to the ballgame! Give me a seat at the Series. Let me sit in your box. In return, I will give you a copy of my book, with a special inscription just for you, and I will entertain you throughout the game with stories from the Giants’ history. (Feel free to make me a counter-offer as well – I’m all ears!)
I have a full proposal up on Craigslist, which caught the attention of NBC Bay Area, who will have me and my son Harry making our pitch on the news tonight at 11 pm. (Harry is hoping you will have two tickets, and he’ll keep score for you, and he knows quite a bit about Giants history as well!)
And if you decide you want to do it, you know where to find me – danfost (at) gmail (dot) com. Or call 347-338-8106.
OK, time for some shameless self-promotion. The American Bookseller Association Web site reports:
With the Major League Baseball post-season now underway, we present the Indie October Baseball Bestseller List, based on sales in independent bookstores nationwide for the eight-week period ending October 10, 2010.
and Giants Past and Present is no. 19!
I know a fair amount of the credit for that success goes first to the Giants, who are keeping fans interested in all aspects of their amazing history with their phenomenal run through the post-season.
I also have to thank the folks at my publisher, MVP Books, who have been incredibly supportive, as well as my publicists — Diana Parker at Spoken Media early in the season, and more recently Susan MacTavish Best and Beth Cook at Best Public Relations.
Since that memorable Oct. 3 game, when the Giants beat the Padres and catapulted into the playoffs, I’ve done at least 10 radio interviews. Interest in the Giants is soaring around the country! Here’s all the places I’ve been talking Giants baseball:
FOX Sports New Mexico, AM1340, with Steve Borstein
ESPN Radio Hawaii, KHLO AM 850 Hilo, KKON AM 790 Kona, , with Josh Pacheco
Wednesday Oct. 6
Gainesville, Florida WRUF 850 AM with host Steve Russell
Johnson City, TN, WXSM 640 AM, WXSM with host Bobby Rader
Portland, OR, 95.5 FM “The Game,” twice in one day:
Little Rock, AR, KABZ-FM/103.7 The Buzz/Buzz Radio Network
Nashville, Tenn, WNSR 560 AM with host Jeff Thurn