The San Francisco Giants
a kate west reflection
I became a real San Francisco Giants fan in about 1993. Before that, I became mildly interested in the sport itself after re-watching "Field of Dreams" (originally released in 1989). I asked my Dad why we had never played catch. Because I'm a girl? So I had to go out and buy a baseball and glove. And a Louisville Slugger bat, for good measure. One of the only times I visited a sporting goods store back then. (Before I tried hiking, rock climbing, martial arts, yoga and now marathon running, of course!)
Anyway, baseball to me now symbolizes old Americana, the simple perfection of a game played in a sacred circle. I love it. And home runs are spectacular, but not the heart of the game. It's really about strategy, inching your way around the circle with bunts, line drives, doubles and triples. Just don't ask me to explain the infield fly rule. Baseball is good when it's heroic, when a team member sacrifices himself for the good of the win, when fans cry their hearts out over losses and lose their minds in ecstasy when they win. Peanuts, popcorn and cracker jack, hot dogs and now burritos, nachos and gourmet coffee. Opening Day used to be as exciting as a theatrical Opening Night. It used to be that die hard loyal fans were rewarded with playoff tickets and maybe getting to see their team make it all the way to the World Series. Then you know you're really in the "Show" (the big leagues). In "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy" by W. P. Kinsella ("Shoeless Joe" a.k.a. "Field of Dreams" author) said that theoretically baseball could go on forever. You could just tie it up in extra innings and have the quintessential existential game. Theoretically. Now that's poetry.
Back then the Giants played in Candlestick Park. (I sound like New York old timers who lamented their team moving to the west coast decades ago.) It got so cold with the wind from the bay that you could earn a Croix de Candlestick pin for sticking out extra innings. I remember Will Clark, Robby Thompson, steadfast Matt Williams, J.T. Snow, Jeff Kent, Rod Beck, Willie McGee, John Burkett, Kirt Manwaring, Robb Nen and of course, Barry Bonds (pictured below). Remember Robby Thompson out with a busted cheekbone in '93? Wasn't that against the Padres? We saw our guys come so close and do battle against the hated Braves, Cardinals and most notoriously the stupid Los Angeles Dodgers. Sorry, but as a Giants fan, I'm practically obligated to hate the Blue Team.
Dusty Baker was my first manager - I saw him all the way to the Series against the Anaheim Angels in 2002. I was out of town camping during that time and left secure in the knowledge they had it wrapped up. I had no electricity (or water) for three days and on October 27 driving back home I innocently turned on the radio thinking I could catch the wrap up. Imagine my surprise when it was Game 7 and the Giants were (yikes!) losing. I think that was the beginning of the end for me. Not because of the loss, although that really hurt (not as disillusioning as my Dad's heartbreak over JFK, Bobby, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but still). No, it was mostly because from 1993 to 2007, the Giants ended up with a brand new ballpark, two new managers and a whole new team except for the ever-controversial Barry Bonds. I'm pretty loyal in general, but in this case whom am I really following anymore? It's not that I don't like baseball anymore; I will forever love the game (it can be so glorious), but I just can't get into following a team, getting my heart broken and then having to learn a whole new lineup.
So now I enjoy my baseball in cinematic tributes and in enjoying countless retellings of people's first times. The green ballpark, the crack of the bat, the call of the vendors, endless renditions of our national anthem and of course, "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". I once made a bet with my brother that baseball was probably the sport most recreated on film. He named all the football movies he could think of and I named all the baseball films. I won. I could be wrong, but it was a pretty casual bet. And there are a lot of baseball movies. And novels. Small wonder - it's a great sport and so suprisingly lyrical, if you know where to look. All is well now with my brother, by the way, as he did take me to Cooperstown, Yankee Stadium AND the 2005 All Star Game. So I won't give up going to a game once in a while, I just need a little break. Or maybe some time in the Minors (as long as I still get to sit behind home plate).
Total Baseball, Completely Revised and Updated: The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia (Total Baseball)
The Baseball Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Major League Baseball (Baseball Encyclopedia)
Great Baseball Films:
Field of Dreams (Widescreen Two-Disc Anniversary Edition)
The Natural (Director's Cut)
A League of Their Own (Special Edition)
The Rookie (Widescreen Edition)
The Bad News Bears
Famous Red Sox Fan: