One of my first Giants-related memories was being at the Joe Morgan game, in which the 38-year-old second baseman hit a three-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning. The homer was the game-winning hit that knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs. According to Anecdotal-Reference.com, the attendance for that game was 1,398,109. It was quite the scene.
It really is one of my first memories. I didn't see it, as I was in the concourse of the upper deck at the time, probably ensnared by the partially chewed puddles of whatever it was that used to ensnare and dissolve four-year-olds at Candlestick Park. Lovely place, that Candlestick. But I remember being in the concourse, hearing the roar of the crowd, and rushing up through the stairwell to join the madness.
So growing up, that moment always stuck with me, and I'd always ask about it. Every few months or so, I'd bring it up to my mom, and she'd describe the scenario for me. It was the home run that knocked the Dodgers -- the defending World Champions -- out of the playoffs. That's why it was exciting, I was told. Made sense.
Later I'd read that it was a bit of a miracle season. The 1982 Giants weren't a team that was supposed to do much, yet they were fighting for their first playoff spot since 1971. On September 20th, 1982, the Giants were 5.5 games back in the NL West. They swept the Dodgers in Los Angeles later that week, moving to just a single game back. It was an amazing, improbable comeback by an improbable team.
Then the Dodgers eliminated the Giants on the day before the season ended, getting slaughtered 15-2. It was a soul-crushing defeat, I'd imagine, though I was busy fitting an IG-88 in each nostril at the time. The funny thing about that game would be that the two Dodgers pitchers would eventually be on the '89 A's. And by "funny," I mean "even more annoying." But the day before this celebrated home run, this vivid childhood memory of mine, the Dodgers had done the same damned thing to the Giants.
This really bothered me as a kid. The only reason the Joe Morgan homer was memorable was because it hosed another team. The Giants, after being told they couldn't have a slice of cake, then tinkled on the cake so no one else could have it. This memory was steeped in spite, and little else. It took a while to come to terms with.
Then I came to terms with it, and it was awesome.
Screwing with a rival's playoff hopes is one of the best parts of a rivalry. Even if a team is having a miserable season, they can still look forward to messing with a rival's playoff hopes. We remember Joe Morgan. They remember Salomon Torres. These games get the spite gland a-pumpin', which releases all sorts of endorphins and makes us forget what terrible people we are for reveling in the misery of fellow human beings. Then we take the misery and pour it over our heads, shaking it dry in slow-motion like some sort of beautiful and horrific Kubrick-directed shampoo commercial.
So the Dodgers haven't had a great year. They've had injuries, declining attendance, and an ownership circus. They could have the most miserable season by any team with an MVP and Cy Young in the history of baseball. But they could still mess with the Giants.
In the macro, I love that scenario. It's a symbol of a strong, fun rivarly.
In the micro, that scenario scares the absolute crap out of me, and I want to DVR these games just so I can watch them at 3x speed.
The important thing is that even when the Giants and Dodgers aren't in direct competition with each other, the rivalry is still something you shouldn't take for granted. The Indians beat the White Sox today. No one cares. Fausto Carmona got the win; if it were a fish, he'd throw it back. But Giants/Dodgers games should always be amazing. Because screw the Dodgers, that's why. And you know they feel the same about us, and it would be especially sweet for them if they could watch the Dodgers virtually eliminate the Giants from contention. It doesn't make a lot of sense from a purely logical perspective, this business of rivalries and schadenfreude. Maybe that's why it's so cool.
Pitcher to watch
Now that I've waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of baseball, please note that if Clayton Kershaw shuts out the Giants again tonight, I will take back everything I said about this horrid and repugnant sport.
Hitter to watch
Eugenio! Eugenio! He's at 0-for-34 now! One more to tie the single-season record for a non-pitcher! Who says the universe isn't just and fair?
Yeah, that Velez ruins us somehow. I'm on page 89 of the script, but I think I've figured out the ending. It's a horrible, tragic ending, but it sure does fit the tone of the whole piece.