Thursday, October 30, 2014


According to family lore my father, at about age ten, was in a park when a fellow approached him and asked who he rooted for in baseball.  At the time my dad did not follow major league baseball, but a team he had heard about was the New York Giants.  So, in response to the question he said he was a Giants fan.

And that is how my clan became Giant fans. We lived in Brooklyn surrounded by Dodger fans, but we were clearly Giant fans.  My first game was at the Polo Grounds and my first arguments were with Gregory who lived on the first floor and, of course, rooted for the Dodgers.  My father and Gregory's father, Eddie, would go to the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field to watch the Giant Dodger tilts and root for their different teams.

My father (and mother--who was hardly a sports fan) told me--when I was barely old enough to comprehend words--about the 1951 pennant race.  In that race (I could have told you this when I was 8 because of the repeated review of the events in my home) the Giants were 13 games behind the Dodgers in the middle of August, but tied the Dodgers on the last game of the season.  In a thrilling playoff series, the Giants defeated the Dodgers when Bobby Thomson hit a three run home run in the bottom of the ninth.  On his 80th birthday, my brother presented my dad with a signed baseball from Bobby Thomson which the three of us--dad, my brother and me--stared at as a child might look at a picture of something out of this world.

When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 the whole neighborhood was crushed because the Dodgers that same year moved to Los Angeles.  We still rooted for the Giants. A guy named Les Keiter would "recreate" the Giant games from the west coast. It is tough to imagine in 2014, but in the late fifties and early sixties, it was possible for a follower not to know the score of a game that was played and completed four hours previously on the west coast. So Keiter would literally recreate what had taken place to east coasters still famished for news of the Giants, and we would listen to the games rapt as if the contests had not already taken place. Many a night at 11:15 I put a transistor radio under my pillow and listened like a sneak, since this was way past my bedtime, to Les Keiter telling me how the likes of Jim Davenport, Jose Pagan, and the greatest player of all time, Willie Mays, were faring in California.

In 1962 the Giants were again in a playoff with the Dodgers. And again the Dodgers were ahead going into the ninth. And again the Giants came back with a rally to defeat the Dodgers.  I was watching the game with my dad and brother. In the ninth, Dad got into a routine where he would hit the ping pong table, tap the bar, and dance back to a chair because this dance seemed to be bringing luck to the Giants. I am smiling now as I recount that moment.  It is clear that I come by my fondness for sports honestly.

In 1971, again, the Giants and Dodgers were engaged in a tight pennant race. This time it was the Giants who were in the process of blowing a substantial lead as the Dodgers kept winning. On the last game of the season the Giants had to win in order to avoid a playoff with the Dodgers. Juan Marichal, nicknamed the Dominican Dandy, pitched a brilliant game for the Giants to avoid the playoff.  I had met a woman a month before who watched with amusement my attention to that playoff race. On the day of Marichal's clinching victory when I was nearly maniacal, her gaze at me ceased to be one of amusement and became more like someone who began to wonder what kind of crazy person she had decided to spend some time with. I can still see her face on the day after the Giants clinched, looking at me like she might be dating a lunatic.

In his later years, Dad became disengaged from the Giants.  He would say that he did not know who the players were anymore. When my Uncle Max came east for a visit after a Giant championship run, he was stunned when he heard my father say that he was indifferent to the Giant successes. "Incredible" he muttered.  And he went on for some time about how my dad was a true fan of the Giants when he and my Dad had been dating the sisters who became their wives.

As for me, I also have lost my enthusiasm for the Giants.  Last night and throughout the week I found myself rooting for the Royals.  I have become a rabid Red Sox fan and now follow the American League almost exclusively. On the rare occasions when I watch a National League game it takes a spell for me to get adjusted to the pitchers batting.  So I was pulling for the American League Royals last night right up until the last out.

I think my dad would have enjoyed the series and enjoyed following the Giants during the playoffs--even though he had become just a general fan in his last years.  This series may have brought him joy and might have spurred recollections of his enthusiasm for the Giants.  By the seventh game I believe he would have been rooting hard and I wish he could have had the joy of watching the team celebrate exuberantly.

I remember one time towards the end. He was in the hospital and we were engaged in a long discussion about the current state of his health and his distress.  At one point he paused and then asked me how the Miami Heat were doing.

Can't tell you about the Heat, Dad.  Basketball season is too young. But the Giants won the World Series last night.

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