|Another Giant disappointment|
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
The Cooler, my friends, is empty.
Dixie cup frivolity? Sorry. I'm as bereft of laughs as Jackie Mason doing 20 minutes in front of the Iraqi National Guard.
You've all felt it, dwellers. You're a Cubs fan, replete with historic failure. You're a Red Sox fan, counting the innumerable heartbreaks. Hell, you're an Astros fan, or a Rangers fan, or a Mariners fan, never even getting to the Series.
Or you're a Giants fan, still waiting.
You grow up with this team, you don't grow up with much, except historical pedigree and a hell of a town in which to moan and wonder when that pedigree will translate to modern-day Giants ball. Your first-ever baseball game is at the single-worst ballpark in America, but only you can say that. Somebody else tries to say that? Fighting words. Candlestick, by that definition, was like family.
Your childhood birthday parties are in front of games on AstroTurf, rooting for teams in black polyester pullovers and orange sanitary socks. Your teenage years of ballgames with your pals are spent wearing parkas and ski caps on summer nights, en route to losing 100 in 1985. Your extremely rare bouts with contention -- 1987, 1989 -- come even after your teenage years, and end in scoreless despair in St. Louis, or as an utter pancake under an Oakland steamroller.
All of which is by way of saying: The Angels won the World Series on Sunday night, and fair play to them.
The Giants lost the World Series last night, and did so by blowing a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 6, by stranding 10 runners in Game 7, and by witnessing one last absence of moxie from the formerly moxie-laden Livan Hernandez.
As Tony Soprano said upon his mother's death: Hey, what are ya gonna do?
Here's what I did.
I had to cover the 49ers-Cardinals game Sunday. At Candlestick.
Driving to the yard through San Francisco's unglamorous Hunter's Point neighborhood, I felt a powerful rush of nostalgia as the old gray lady came into view.
How many lonely, cold, miserable, windy nights had I spent at this place?
How many nights with 8,104 of my closest friends on Tuesdays against the Expos?
How many frozen malts did I mistakenly order when the wind chill was 29?
Meanwhile, I wheeled into the sacred old lot. At Candlestick this year, my parking spot for 49ers games is numbered "74."
I got out of the rig, stepped back, and looked at the yellow, stenciled parking spaces around me.
The memories came rushing back, year-by-year.
75: Didn't Ed Halicki throw a no-hitter that year? I was 7 that summer, and barely remember.
76: Didn't my Grandpa come back from Opening Day with his Elks Club, and tell me about how much he liked this pitcher, John "The Count" Montefusco? That's how Grandpa Murphy always said it -- "John The Count Montefusco" -- like that was his whole name.
77: Didn't Gary Thomasson lead off the season with a home run at Dodger Stadium?
78: The eternal summer of my youth. The Giants, in contention all summer, with Jack Clark's hitting streak and Vida Blue joining the rotation and Mike Ivie's pinch-hit grand slam off Don Sutton, and me, old enough to finally bask in it all, remembering every detail.
79, 80, 81 -- The names came pouring over me: Bill Madlock, Rennie Stennett, Terry Whitfield, Greg Minton.
Well, you know the rest.
The rest of the night was defined by the pit in the stomach, and the sinking, too-familiar despair of a Giants loss when it mattered most. Damndest thing: They had crushing, season-ending losses in 1987 (at St. Louis, NLCS Game 7); 1993 (at Dodger Stadium, ending a 103-win season); in 1998 (a wild-card playoff at Chicago); and in 2000 (at Shea Stadium, in an NLDS Game 4) and yet, this one didn't feel any differently from all of those, even though it was the big, bad World Series.
Hey, when your team goes down, your team goes down. Bottom line.
All of which brings up the point: Why do we care? Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent don't give a rat's ass about me, why should I care about them?
But sports fans know. We care because of our buddies. And because of our childhood birthday parties. And because of our Grandpas talking about "John The Count Montefusco." And because if you're going to pass the time in this trail of tears we call life, you might as well do it on a thrill ride. I've dusted off these words before, but they bear repeating. Nick Hornby, the English author, penned them in his epic tome "Fever Pitch," an homage to his fandom of the Arsenal soccer team, and they might as well be skywritten across the dark San Francisco night:
With that, to the Weekend List of Five:
1. First off, a salute to the champions
Krukow pointed out that the Giants' first two series featured games against the Braves, the soulless corporation of the National League, and against the Cardinals, a longtime Giants rival who featured the added layer of Tony La Russa's unpalatable act. But with the Angels?
"Hell," Krukow said, "they're just like the Giants. They're dirt dogs. They're ballplayers."
Exactly. There wasn't an easy out in the lineup, nor was there a reason to do anything but respect the way Mike Scioscia had those guys play ball.
Dammit. Would have been a lot easier to play against a team you hate.
Where have you gone, Tony La Russa? A Bay Area turns its Styx-hating eyes to you.
2. All that said, there is the Thunder Stix issue
This week, I'm calling for contraction -- of the freaking Thunder Stix.
My problem is twofold:
1. When those things are banging, it just doesn't sound like a ballgame. A ballgame has ebbs and flows, and a crowd that knows when to exhort and roar, and when to settle in for a stretch of ball. In other words, a crowd like Yankee Stadium in October. The scene in Anaheim, where the fans came out in full force and were good fans, for the most part -- see Item 2, below -- sounded like a World Cup game in South Korea, where the Korean government paid off 40,000 state employees to fill the stadium for the Cameroon-Denmark tilt. Come on, MLB. Ban the Thunder Stix, before it's too late!
2. Meanwhile, there's the bird who whacked Reggie Sanders with one when he fielded Garret Anderson's double. Philosophical question: Should a World Series title reside in a town where a fan clubs an opposing player with a Thunder Stick when he is doing his job? Something to chew on, dwellers. Something to chew on.
Meanwhile, I want that bird's mug shot posted at ballparks across America.
3. Game 6
But if there ever was a team that could come back from the crusher that was Game 6, it was the Benito Santiago-Dusty Baker-Kirk Rueter Giants. So what do I hear all Sunday night throughout the city? "Giants lost it all in Game 6." Or, "Last night was when they lost it, man." Or, "It was all over on Saturday night, pal."
Hey, somebody should have called Bud Selig! Apparently, he did not know the Series was over! Could have saved the Giants a day of travel, and we could have bagged the whole thing!
Holy mother of Abner Doubleday. Did we not learn, ever, in the history of this game that, as Joaquin Andujar once said, channeling Winston Churchill, "Youneverknow"? That momentum does not exist in baseball? That momentum, only, is the next day's starting pitcher?
John Lackey pitched great; Livan Hernandez was the turd in the punch bowl.
That's how the Giants lost the Series.
Am I on an island on this one? Am I just whistling through a graveyard like it's the start of the "Andy Griffith Show"?
4. Oh, yeah. Emmitt!
Sweetness fans, join me in saluting Emmitt. No matter how you want to decry the man because the great Payton has been passed, he has been passed by a worthy ballcarrier. Few players exhibited more guts than Emmitt, year in, year out, and throughout most of the 1990s, you wanted no part of that guy if your squad had a big game against Dallas.
The "Lead Draw" used to give 49ers fans cold night sweats in those NFC championship battles from 1992-94.
Besides, any man who can outcry Dick Vermeil is worthy of some sort of honor. Damn, Emmitt has turned into "Waterworld" in shoulder pads. I hope that turf at Texas Stadium is waterproof.
5. In the end, you turn to your boys
"Come meet me and Roberts," my boy T.C. said. "We need to hang out now, more than ever."
I was low, and didn't know if I could muster the taxi ride over to Shanghai Kelly's on Polk and Broadway, where they took in the game.
Me, I don't take in big games in public. Lifelong rule: Big game for your squad? Stay inside. Last thing I need is some tool at a bar telling me, excitedly, "I go all the way back to the Shawn Estes days with the Giants!" Or proffering any opinion, on anything, at any time.
But let me advise you, dwellers: Sometimes, in the depths of despair, you need your boys.
Rolling out to see T.C. and Roberts was the perfect antidote. Embraces were exchanged, steak dinners were ordered, and the season was hashed out, among true believers. At one point, I lamented the Giants' lack of a strong bench, and Roberts, his anti-DH blood boiling, countered with venom: "Oh, you mean they didn't have a DH? Yeah, I'm really bummed they didn't have Jose Canseco on the bench this Series."
As usual, he's right. The Series proved, for the 3 millionth time, how hilariously bad the DH is. Give me nine gloves, nine bats, same guys. End of story.
Later, the topic fell to Lou Piniella's fate in Tampa Bay. T.C. piped up: "Hey, Lou. Way to show us you're interested in winning."
Fired Roberts: "Oh, he wants to turn it around, all right ... between bone fishing trips."
Between bone fishing trips.
See? You need your boys on your darkest nights. We bid farewell on Lombard Street, as I crawled into a cab for the ride home. But not before issuing my last words to my boys, thoughts of spring training already dancing in my head:
"Hey! See you in Scottsdale."
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.