What a day.
I am usually sort of low-key about my birthday. And yesterday, October 28, was indeed my 58th birthday. It was also the day I was assigned to work Game 2 of the World Series for MLB.com. What a magical combination.
So, around 1:30 in the afternoon, I toddled down to the BART station and made my way across the bay with all my scoring paraphernalia and a copy of Keith Richards’s autobiography Life, which is proving to be a fun and compelling, to read on the train. From where I live in the east bay, it is close enough to the end of the BART line that a seat was pretty easy to cop. But, by the time we hit Oakland--six stops later--it was standing room only with orange and black being the predominant colors.
I got off at third street, about a mile from the yard, and walked, partially to walk among the crowd that was surely pushing its way to the park, but also because I not only love walking in San Francisco, but I find the pre-game walk a nice way to decompress and relax before I have to sit focused for several hours, tracking everything that happens.
And the walk was fun. People were truly joyous in town and loving their Giants in a different way than I had ever seen before. Businesses all had "Go Giants" signs in their windows and restaurants were advertising "black and orange specials." But mostly folks were just hanging out, talking, excited, and anticipating the game ahead.
On the way there were a few other things that cracked me up. Such as:
- A guy dressed up in a complete Giants uniform; with face paint on making him look like Frankenstein – Was it a tribute to Pablo Sandoval’s free-swinging ways?
- The line to get into the Giants’ Store snaked almost all around the park--maybe at any given time 300 or so people--so I guess it was a good day to sell Buster Posey t-shirts.
- Best of all, in an effort to support Proposition 19, California's decriminalize marijuana initiative, there were a lot of vendors selling "Let Timmy Smoke" t-shirts.
- There were also folks hawking blank orange t-shirts that simply had a dark black beard, a la, Brian Wilson. In fact the beards and wigs, so folks could look like either Lincecum or Wilson--and the best of course were the little kids who insisted on wearing both--were everywhere.
And all that reminded me just how much I love where I live. We do march to the tune of a different drummer here in the bay area. And, we are proud of it. We have a lot of fun and don't take ourselves too seriously. It is simply just a great place to live.
Anyway, I ambled my way into the booth, found my seat, and got set up in plenty of time to rush back down to the field, find Ron Washington and offer him my congratulations for a great season, and the best of luck in the Series. I sighed, telling him, "I'm conflicted. I want the Giants to win, and I want you to win." Wash smiled, and I said, "Just give me seven exciting games, would ya?"
That done I went back to my post and yakked with my friends--and saw some people I wasn't expecting, like MLB.com's Mike Siano and Hank Greenwald's son, Doug. That was fun, I don't see them that often.
Then the game began and for five innings it was very tight. As I might have said to Wash, “a one-pitch game," the pitch being a fastball that Edgar Renteria sent into the stands.
Which prompted one of the Official Scorers (for there are three at each series game, one from each team plus a third neutral scorer), Chuck Dyball to ask, "There are four shortstops in major league history with a batting average in the World Series over .300. Can you name them? And, two are very obscure? Renteria is one. Who are the other three?"
"Buddy Biancalana" was my first guess, and Chuck said, "no, but you are on the right path with a guess like that." I did get Derek Jeter correct, but the other two are Alvin Dark and David Eckstein (who knew?).
In the sixth inning, C.J. Wilson had to come out of the game with a blister, and in the seventh the Giants picked up an insurance run, but the atmosphere was still that this was a very tight game. It was also clear that Giants starter Matt Cain was dominating and he ran his post-season string to 23-plus innings without allowing a run.
In the eighth inning, Cain ran out of gas and Javier Lopez came and made short work of Josh Hamilton. While this was happening, Brian Wilson and his beard were getting loose, for this was indeed a close game--2-0--and there was no question he was going to come in and finish things off.
Playing into the scenario, the Rangers quickly recorded a couple of outs--Andres Torres and Freddie Sanchez went quickly--and Chuck Dybdall and I agreed that the Giants defense and pitching was so efficient, that maybe they just wanted to get back on field and close things out.
As we agreed, Buster Posey sliced a soft lined single, and that sent Wash to the hill where he summoned Derek Holland.
Alas, poor Derek Holland, who might indeed be scarred for life as a result of the three batters he faced, failed to get out, all of whom scored. Poor Derek, who tossed a total of 13 pitches, 12 of which were balls, 11 of which came in a row and not only resulted in the bags being juiced, but he walked a run in.
Then another walk. Then a single. Then another single by Juan Uribe, and then Aaron Rowand, hitting for Mike Fontenot, who was hitting for Javier Lopez, drilled a triple into the deepest part of the park, and Andres Torres followed with a double before Sanchez whiffed for the second time in the inning.
Suddenly, the one-pitch game was a laugher at 9-0. The Rangers were listless. The Giants pumped their fans ecstatic. And, with such a lead, Brian Wilson, beard and all, were tucked away for another day, and Guiliermo Mota came in to finish things off, which he did and then the pandemonium really began. And, that is not a reference to Sandoval, known affectionately and locally as "The Kung Fu Panda."
I finished off my work and walked back to the BART. There were police sirens and lights everywhere. Streets were blocked off in every direction because, well, the Giants minions were simply everywhere. People were high fiving each other sight unseen. At one point the Giants’ two team buses pulled out of the parking lot--with a police escort of motorcycles and cars, lights flashing, sirens ringing--and the fans waved and bowed in a lovely homage.
I have never been in a town when a local championship was won, but, if this was a harbinger--and the energy was pushing towards yesterday's game was the last of the season to be held at wonderful ATT Park--the town will go crazy if the Giants win.
Somewhere in my heart I still want seven games. I want my friend to do well. But I guess I am a Giants fan now. This is where I live, and the rag-tag mix of vets and kids that make up the Giants are just so much fun to root for, well, what can I say.
As I noted earlier, this year is different. The Giants no longer play at the Stick. The shackles of no Series title locally are close to being shaken (the last time the Giants won was 1954, three years before they moved to San Francisco).
You could feel it in the air. This year is different.