Local

Steve Cameron: C'mon, Giants, win one for a long-suffering fan

Steve Cameron

Yes, I was alive when Giants last won a World Series.

Sooo...

You're thinking: "Oh, that was 1954, then, when the Giants were still in New York. How sad that the little tyke didn't know anything about it back then."

Aha, but the little tyke in question (me) actually DID know plenty about it in '54.

See, our neighbors across the street in the San Francisco suburb of Millbrae were friends Mike Garcia, one of the starters on an awesome Cleveland Indians staff that led the way to 111 wins in 1954.

In our little corner of town, the kids all wore Tribe hats, Cleveland pennants and stuff -- because we'd all flock down to Bill Aragona's house whenever Garcia would come to visit.

The Indians were big favorites in the '54 World Series, by the way, but a journeyman outfielder name Dusty Rhodes hit a couple of amazing -- and slightly fluky -- home runs as the Giants completed a stunning sweep.

I cried when the fourth and final game played to its to inevitable conclusion.

It would not be the last time the Giants would cause me heartache, matter of fact.

Only the reasons have changed.

Just four years after that fiasco in '54, the Giants suddenly became MY major league team.

And I guess I kind of assumed, in a kid sort of way, that they'd go on to win fairly regular World Series titles.

Umm, not so much.

They've been to the Fall Classic three times since moving to California -- 1962, 1989 and 2002 -- and lost each time.

Each of those defeats has its own unique, horrific quality. None is even remotely like the other two -- except that they all hurt.

Two of those losses came at the hands of in-state teams (Oakland in 1989, Anaheim in 2002). What are the odds?

Oakland?

That was a four-game sweep, by a city that isn't better than San Francisco at anything -- and a bizarre bonus, in a cruel sort of way, is that the Series was totally overshadowed by that 7.1 earthquake.

Honestly, it's hard to whine about losing baseball games when bridges and interstate highways have collapsed, so that even the World Series becomes a bit frivolous.

The loss to the Angels in '02 was dispiriting simply because the Giants had the Series firmly in their pocket.

When Barry Bonds put an extra dollop of steroids into a massive home run to make it 5-0 after six innings in Game Six, we were there -- because remember, the Giants bullpen was the best in baseball.

Then came that damnable Rally Monkey, this stupid cartoon character jumping around on the scoreboard, and all the "Disneyfans" made monkey sounds and some clown hit a pop fly, three-run homer that landed one inch fair and one row back from the right-field foul pole.

Aunt Bea could have caught it barehanded.

After that, the Rally Monkey ruled the world.

For baseball purists, though, the World Series loss in 1962 always will be the most heartbreaking, the most discouraging, the most unfair -- because Yankee manager Ralph Houk made perhaps the WORST key decision in the history of the sport.

And wound up swilling champagne like some genius.

This Series was ALL about the ninth inning of Game Seven -- at Candlestick.

Yanks right hander Ralph Terry took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but pinch-hitter Matty Alou singled.

With two out, Willie Mays doubled down the right-field line, but Roger Maris made a great play to hold Alou at third. So it was still 1-0 and the Giants had an out left.

That brought Willie McCovey to the plate and what SEEMED like an easy decision.

Willie Mac had owned Terry throughout the Series, and in Game Seven itself, he'd tripled in his previous at-bat and hit a ball about 600 feet over top of the right-field foul pole that missed being a home run by sheer guesswork.

First base open now, and behind McCovey was right-handed hitting Orlando Cepeda, who had been in a horrible slump (2 for 23) the entire Series.

And yet Houk, in a move that must have had baseball people tumbling slack-jawed out of their chairs from Youngstown to Yokohama, decided to let Terry challenge McCovey.

"Dumbest thing I ever did," Houk said later.

So...

McCovey had Terry completely measured. He picked on the first pitch and slaughtered it. The ball took off about at a thousand miles an hour toward right field.

A nanosecond later, it smacked with the sound of a gunshot into the glove of second baseman Bobby Richardson, who was playing about 50 feet behind the infield dirt.

After the game, Richardson said, "If it had been six inches in any other direction, we lose the Series, because I couldn't have moved. I never in my life imagined a baseball could be hit that hard."

As a Giants fan -- and as a guy who has spent decades covering major league baseball -- I still resent that Yankees victory in '62, mostly because they got away with being so galactically stupid.

Doggone it, don't WE deserve something in return for 48 years of remembering that foolishness?

Don't we deserve one while Willie Mays and Willie Mac and Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda and so many of those guys are still here to enjoy it?

I say yes.

Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at stevecameron1000@gmail.com.

  Comments