California and baseball, they were made for each other. They go together like hot dogs & mustard, guacamole & chips, politics & debate. Kismet.
Long before Walter O’Malley (Dodgers) and Horace Stoneham (Giants) moved their New York business interests cross-country to the Golden State (‘58), the game of baseball was already well-situated on the Pacific Coast, producing such gems as Joe DiMaggio (SF / Martinez) and Ted Williams (San Diego).
But a major league presence? That’s a whole ‘nother ball-game. Big doings.
And when the franchise moves were being planned in 1957, there was no question the Los Angeles team would have the bigger impact on the State and baseball. LA was three-times the size of San Francisco and since WW2 had been fast displacing the Bay area as the undeniable epicenter for the State’s burgeoning commerce and entertainment industry.
While the Giants fielded an impressive roster at their new digs with names like Mays, Cepeda, Perry, McCovey & Marichal, they would reach but one World Series before 1989, losing the memorable 1962 fall classic to long-time rival the Yankees, 4-3.
Down South the Dodgers hit the ground running. In only their second season in Chavez Ravine, the boys in blue hosted a World Series (‘59) and broke with tradition by taking it. Then they did it again in ‘63 and ‘65. Transplanted Brooklynites Walter Alston, Duke Snider, Koufax, Drysdale and LA original Maury Wills all became the talk of the nation.
Soon thereafter, three more teams would call California home: the Angels in 1961 (Anaheim ‘66); Charlie Finley’s Kansas City Athletics (Oakland ’68) and the fledgling San Diego Padres (‘69), owned today by Peter O‘Malley, son of Walter.
Though fan support has fluctuated, the As have been a stalwart organization, hoisting six pennants in Oakland, three times that of its NL rival across the Bay. The Padres have made two Series (‘84 / ‘98) and the Angels took their lone title in 2002.
It’s always been the Dodgers who’ve held a special place in the hearts of most Californians. A second wave of success in the 70s & 80s secured this spot as they appeared in five more Series, capturing crowns in ‘81 & ‘88.
But since those halcyon days of Garvey, Valenzuela, Hershiser, Gibson & Lasorda, there have been no more pennants unfurled over Dodger Stadium. Only broadcast legend Vin Scully, planning on a return in 2013, gives the grounds its championship feel.
You can‘t live off the past forever.
Even with some plucky mid-season moves in 2012 (Ramirez / Boston cast-offs) and new investor Earvin “Magic” Johnson joining the ownership group, the Dodgers again missed the post-season, forcing their fandom to watch arch-rival San Francisco bask in the glow of a playoffs spotlight to which they’re growing quite accustomed.
With the San Francisco Giants winning their second championship in three seasons (2010) by besting the heavily-favored Detroit Tigers 4-0 in World Series 2012, baseball aficionados are left scratching their heads in befuddlement.
Explanations for the surprising result range from the sensible (Giants’ pitching), to the whiney (DH fans), to my own guess (homer-happy AL can‘t adjust) and finally the strange (“funky spin” on the ball / ESPN’s Aaron Boone). That last one sounds like a “Dirk Diggler” dance move (Boogie Nights / ‘97).
To say the Giants’ victory is an upset rings as trite as saying ‘Have a nice day.’ I don’t know what an upset is anymore. Basketball excepted, the watch-words in today’s sporting world are ‘expect the unexpected.’ Exactly when & where the upset occurs, that’s the conundrum for prognosticators, week in, week out.
Can’t say the same for politics, unless you go back to 1948 and Harry “The buck stops here” Truman. That’s bad news for Mr. Romney, though he does have Diebold on his side (vote machines). And then there’s his ace in the hole, that GOP stand-by (10x) and vestige of our powder-wigged forefathers, the one, the only, tah-dah: Electoral College.
Tonight I'm sensing seismic waves emanating from the West Coast. But don’t be alarmed, California folk. I don’t mean the plate tectonic variety. What I sense is a major shifting in the balance of baseball power in your grand State.
The Giants 2012 World Series title moves the center of California’s baseball universe upstate to San Francisco, leaving the Dodgers, Angels, Padres and neighboring Athletics as mere satellites orbiting the bright star that has become the Giants.
And yes, stars can fade, just like the Dodgers did by way of a lackadaisical ownership that dates back to the early 90s. But this a big leap for the Bay area G-Men. Multiple titles will start the dynasty discussion and can be the first serious step towards becoming a standard-bearer organization, i.e., the Yankees, Red Wings, Lakers, Packers, Patriots.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) took one doozey of a step back in 1969 when he left the safety of Apollo 11 and became the first Earthling to venture forth onto the meteor maligned surface of the Moon. The San Francisco Giants’ hope the historical step they took in Detroit this October 28, 2012 proves to be just as memorable to baseball fans as Mr. Armstrong’s famous step has been to the world.
Can o' Corn