Friday, November 5, 2010

Welcome to the Show

The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series.  Despite being a Giants fan my entire life (to varying degrees of intensity), despite always pulling for this team, defending it against the naysayers, I never thought I would be able to write that sentence.  The Curse of Coogan's Bluff was something etched into Giants-lore, much like the Curse of the Bambino for the Red Sox, that honestly left me thinking and fearful that the Giants would never win a championship outside of New York. 

The story is pretty simple.  When the Giants played in New York their home was the Polo Grounds in Harlem.  Overlooking the stadium was a rock formation the locals called Coogan's Bluff.  While in New York, the Giants were one of the most successful franchises in the sport: they won 5 World Series (7 if you count the two that predated the modern championship format, and perhaps they would have won in 1904 against the Red Sox if they had not boycotted the championship to snub the American League) and won 17 National League Pennants.  Some of the greatest names in baseball were known for their time with the Giants: Christie Mathewson was probably the greatest pitcher of the dead ball era, John McGraw is still one of the most successful managers of all time, and no one could forget Bobby Thompson's "shot heard 'round the world" in 1951. 

Despite being a powerhouse throughout their early history, the Giants' success and popularity waned in the 1940s and 1950s.  First of all, they stopped winning.  The Giants won 13 pennants between 1904 and 1937.  They won zero in the 1940s.  Additionally, the Yankees moved to town.  The Yankees had a nicer stadium in a whiter part of town.  The Giants played in Harlem.  White fans, i.e. wealthy fans, did not want to spend their money on a team that played in a black part of town.  Moreover, the Yankees had the Bambino, they had Dimaggio, they had Mantle.  New York became a Yankee town and there wasn't enough room for the Jints. 

So began the westward expansion, spearheaded by the Giants and the Dodgers.  Incensed Giants fans in New York decried that the once proud Giants would never win a World Series so long as they did not play at Coogan's Bluff.  For 52 years that curse was true.

The Giants moved to San Francisco.  Instead of finding a pristine location for their new stadium, as the Dodgers did with Chavez Ravine, Giants-owner Horace Stoneham picked perhaps the worst location in the United States to build a baseball park: Candlestick Point.  In the four decades the Giants would play at the 'stick they would win a measly two pennants and zero World Series championships.  The reason was pretty clear: fans did not want to freeze watching their team and players did not want to play there.  The once proud Giants, a franchise that had the most wins in baseball history, a healthy number of World Series championships, and an army of pennants simply became a joke.  The Curse of Coogan's Bluff could not have been any truer. 

Luckily for the Giants and their fans, brighter shores were in store for the team.  The Giants went from playing in the worst stadium in the majors to playing in the best one in 2000 when what is now known as AT&T Park opened in downtown San Francisco.  Since the opening of the new stadium the dynamic of the team completely changed.  Whereas before Giants fans were mostly considered hooligans from South San Francisco and Daly City, the new location drew in a wealthier crowd with more appeal to middle class people in the Bay Area.  More free agents were willing to sign with the Giants, as the new stadium is a gem to play in.  From 2000 to 2010 the Giants won 2 pennants, 3 Western Division Titles, 1 wild card berth, and most importantly, 1 World Series Championship.  The curse of Coogan's Bluff has been broken and the Giants have restored pride to the franchise.

Being a fan of this team in its San Francisco era was nothing short of masochism up until now.  The history of the Giants in San Francisco was one of always coming short: in 1962 the Giants lost game 7 of the World Series with men on first and second, when Willie McCovey hit the would-be series winning ball straight to a Yankee Glove.  In 1989 an earthquake was the most eventful occurrence when the Oakland A's swept the Giants in the World Series.  In 2002, the Giants led by Bonds and Kent, lost game 6 of the World Series despite having a 5-run lead.  The Angels would go on to win the whole thing the next day.  In 1993 the Giants had a 100+ win season and still failed to make the playoffs.  It just seemed part of a Giants fan that you would be constantly disappointed. 

And it was something that was shocking to Giants fans who had come to love a team that seemed to have it all.  The Giants are a team with a historic pedigree, a great fanbase, a beautiful ball park, and the best announcing team in the game.  The only thing they lacked is that one damn championship. 

Well now we have it.  All is right in the world.  Being a Giants fan is awesome again. 

Let's do it next year.