Giant steps

I’ve been a Giant-hater for 51 years. Why? Because my dad was a Giants fan. Which should have been a tip-off to the old man right there that I was gonna be somewhat of a problem in later years. So, for disturbing reasons that are too complex to touch upon here, I chose the Milwaukee (now Atlanta) Braves as my team, and thus set the stage for a lifetime of friendly, and occasionally unfriendly, banter between my father and I.

What really sealed the deal and my fate was that weekend in ’63, when the old man took the family to Candlestick Park. The four of us (Mom, Dad, Tom and me) saw a pair of epic Brave/Giant battles. The opener was a Friday night Candlestick classic—fog rolling in during the game, and colder than an eskimo’s antipathy. My guys did well. I got to see the heroic Hank Aaron and my all-time fave, Eddie Mathews. Both hit homers. We won the game in the 11th, on a homerun by a fellow named Lee Maye, whom I’ve loved ever since. I was giddy with the victory. My dad and brother steamed in defeat. Mom could not have cared less. Life was great.

The following afternoon, the Giants got their revenge. Again, the great Aaron and Mathews each hit homers—I was out of my mind with unabashed glee!—and the Braves took a quick and seemingly insurmountable lead. Then, the wretched spawn of Satan known as Willie Mays proceeded to ruin my wicked joy. First, he hit a two-run homer to bring the Giants uncomfortably close. Then, he won the game with nothing less than a grand slam, a towering bomb to left field that sent all the slobbering Giant fans into delirium, and me into my first-ever mini-depression. That was my first horrific encounter with the accursed Mays. Alas, it would not be my last.

But this year. This year, I found myself actually pulling for Los Gigantes. Even after they got rid of us in the first round of the playoffs (due to the Braves’ unfortunate decision to station a human croquet wicket at second base, thereby sealing our doom), I was feeling surprisingly unhateful toward my old nemesis. I must be getting reasonable in my old age. Or maybe it was just my good old California roots taking hold. Because in the Series, it was a total no-brainer. Giants versus Rangers? Puh-leeze. The free-wheeling, hairy hempists led by the Freak and the Beard against the confederate fascists of Nolan Ryan and Dubya? It was quite easy to have both head and heart aligned properly in this contest.

So congrats, Giant fans. Decades of teeth-gnashing frustration (Snoopy’s endless agony over Willie McCovey’s line drive for the final out in game 7 of ’62!) are over. The monkey has jumped off your back. Enjoy it while you can, because you and I both know—next year, you’re gonna suck.