I cannot pretend the 53-year drought of World Series titles the Giants bore until last night compares with the Red Sox and the Curse of the Bambino, or the inconceivable frustration of Cubs fans. Certainly, as a Dodger fan when I was a kid, I was happy the Giants failed as many times as they did, and my team won some titles, because, well, that is how kids are.
The Giants did make the Series a number of times but simply never could convert and please their fans, and the local frustration one time led to a "What If" replication of the 1962 Series, with the "What If" asking "What if Bobby Richardson did not catch Willie McCovey's line drive to end the Series?
Pretty fanciful stuff, but the reality is there has been a kind of curse that the Giants, and Candlestick Park bore since the Giants moved west prior to the 1958 Season.
In 1957, then SF Mayor George Christopher convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham that Candlestick Point, named for the Candlestick bird, was a perfect locale for a park, and in reality, in the day time, the location was somewhat picturesque. A few miles north of San Francisco airport, with home plate facing the slough of water the bay pushed down the peninsula, there were always rumors about the deals Christopher and his city hall cronies made to essentially unload the territory, generate some profit, and make the new professional baseball team happy.
Because, pretty or not, the wind and weather and fog in the late afternoon at Candlestick point generally proved unbearable to anyone in the area, let alone a professional sports team trying to put their best game on the field under theoretically ideal circumstances.
Perhaps no single moment at the Stick better represents this than during the 1961 All Star game, when ironically Giants reliever Stu Miller was literally blown off the mound mid-wind up, showing a national audience was a miserable spit of land Candlestick Point really was to host our National Pastime. Even the Beatles final public appearance at the Stick, in August 1966 was not enough to make the venue a plus.
Of course, the cosmic forces displayed their wrath at the park prior to Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, when, at 5:17 pm, on October 17, the Loma Prieta earthquake sent bay area--and the Stick which was the focal point of the baseball universe as the Athletics and Giants prepared to play--into spasm, forcing cancellation of the game. The results of the Series are subject to interpretation, but the Athletics mowed past the Giants in four straight games, thus adding to their humiliation. Worse, the championship cupboard was still bare.
Finally, in 2000, the Giants did indeed move to their present lovely downtown venue of ATT Park (nee Pacific Bell Park, then SBC Park), a locale so lovely it shames the former home of the Giants.
Still, the Giants and the city of San Francisco still seemed to have some cosmic dues to pay as witnessed by the team's 2002 meltdown in Game 6 to the Angels.
As the Giants moved closer to their 2010 Championship this week, I got a number of emails asking how this team, essentially a rag tag mix of savvy vets and talented rookies could be so close when teams with names like Mays and Marichal and McCovey and Perry and Bonds simply could not get it done.
"The Curse of the Stick" has been my response. A confluence of karma, weather, arrogance, mismanagement and a number of other factors in my view simply kept the Giants from plucking the pearl of a title.
But, as magically, driven by Aubrey Huff, future star Buster Posey, the brilliant pitching troika of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, and just the right spare parts somehow fell into place and the team just coalesced. But, with playing that team came some tough decisions.
Locally beloved third sacker Pablo Sandoval lost his starting hold on the hot corner, as did center fielder Aaron Rowand, who is among the highest paid players on the team. And, though the Giants did keep Barry Zito, their most expensive player, signed to what everyone knew at the time was a ridiculous contract, in the rotation all season, and though Zito did pitch well the first few months of the year, he did not make the post season roster. And, expensive free agent outfielder/infielder Mark DeRosa pretty much missed the entire season.
And that pushed Andres Torres into the spotlight, and forced the signing of Pat Burrell and late season miracle maker Cody Ross, and the Giants kept pace with the Padres, sneaking ahead towards the end of the season rooted largely on the strength of their team. That is a team where one day Burrell is the star, the next it is Uribe, the next it was Torres, then Huff, then Posey and on and on.
Of course there was also that brilliant pitching, and I remember saying more than a few times during the season that the Giants simply needed a key to the playoffs because once in, in a short series, their pitching was strong enough to put the team on par with any team.
If you saw Tim Lincecum pitch the final game. Or fourth starter Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, or Matt Cain Thursday, you know this is true. In fact Jonathan Sanchez, the only ineffective Giants pitcher in the post-season was their strongest starter during the final two months of the season showing indeed what a true group effort the whole season was.
No single player exemplifies this more than Edgar Renteria, who simply did not have the range of a few years back when he was viable, and like many of his mates spent more than half the season on the bench, watching, patiently waiting to be called upon to contribute. And, when the call came, is it seemed to for all the Giants, Edgar, the World Series MVP with two go ahead homers to his credit, delivered.
That was the essence of the team. That is why they won. That is why the shackles of the Stick have been broken.