I wasn't born when the Bobby Thomson home run happened, obviously. I was three years old when Joe Morgan beat the Dodgers. I wasn't watching when Brian Johnson became a hero. The J.T. Snow home run happened when I was walking from the car to my grandmother's house and I barely had time to process the heroics on replays before the Mets ruined everything.
Bonds hitting his 70th, 71st, 72nd and 73rd are high up on my list of personal favorites, as is his absolute moonshot off K-Rod in the World Series. So are his 500th, 600th, 700th, 715th, 756th home runs and so on. And of course, Cody Ross, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Buster Posey and Travis Ishikawa certainly make the top 10.
But despite everything -- despite all the wonderful memories that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life, despite the previous two gloriously improbable World Series titles -- the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that my favorite home run of all time was hit by Michael Morse in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2014 National League Championship Series.
Let's take a moment to watch it again. Maybe a few times. We've got nowhere to be.
Michael Morse, the immensely lovable galoot who was only with us for a season. The man whose affable doofiness inspired me to buy a MORSE shirt midway through 2014. The player I liked all the way back when he was hitting phantom grand slams for the Nationals. He's the owner of my favorite home run in Giants (and baseball) history.
It's my favorite because it's the perfect storm of timing and emotion. The Giants needed someone to tie the game right then, because even with a 3-1 series lead, there's absolutely no window to allow the Cardinals to sprinkle their Devil Magic about. One must be ever vigilant where the Cards are concerned. The Giants didn't have a whole lot of people who could jimmy-jack a dinger off the aggravatingly unorthodox Pat Neshek. They had precisely one man who could do it off the bench.
So Michael Morse came to the plate with every last person in the stadium and every last person in the Giants dugout and clubhouse wishing and praying and hoping he could get a hold of one and launch it into left field. That's precisely what he was hoping, too.
Anyone who has followed me on Twitter during a Giants game or spoken to me or seen me in real life knows that I fall into the category of sports fans who is constantly expecting calamity to happen at any given second. I can't help it. That's how my brain and my heart and my body is wired. I think the absolute worst outcome is going to happen, every single pitch. The upside is that it makes the good things that do happen even more wondrous and magical by contrast. The downside is that it's a horrible, agonizing way to live your life.
Long story short: by the time the Giants came up in the bottom of the eighth, I had stopped actually watching the game. I couldn't handle having all of my senses focused on it. As a double-reverse-ultra-non-jinx-no-backsies gambit, I was listening to the KNBR radio broadcast through a pair of earbuds. I was probably trying to work on a script or something, or maybe I was idly hotkeying through my RSS reader.
When Morse came up to pinch-hit, I sort of sat back in my chair, eyes glazed over in a thousand-yard stare. Then I sat forward, then back again. My shoulders were knotted and my entire body was going through that first-date anxiousness that can only be equated to an emotional dry heave. "If Morse could hit a home run here," I murmured to myself, not even allowing my brain to finish the thought. Then "He should jack one. Come on. Hit a home run."
My grandmother taught me to be a Giants fan when I was five or six years old. She sat me on the couch beside her at my mother's house and played the games on KTVU when they were on television and on KNBR when they were on the radio. One of my earliest memories is Will Clark's brief flirtation with a horrible mustache. My grandmother was the type of fan to yell at the television or the radio. At her house or at my dad's house, she'd listen to the radio in the kitchen, or lying down on the bed in the dark in the bedroom. Occasionally, we'd be in the living room and we'd hear her yell out in the back of the house and know that one of Roger Craig's moves hadn't panned out.
So I was talking to the radio, in a fashion. Telling the Giants what to do, just like my grandmother would have done. Another thing my grandmother taught me was to root for the National League, even when the Giants were out of it. This meant that one of the first World Series I really remember was spent rooting for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, along with my grandmother.
She was really enamored of Orel Hershiser and truth be told, I think she may have had a crush. She liked him so much and raved about him so fervently that for Christmas that year, I bought her an Orel Hershiser Donruss Diamond Kings card in a nice plastic stand. She displayed that card in her house until she died nearly a decade later. So she taught me to be cool with the Dodgers, unless they were directly playing the Giants. It's something I was raised being okay with, so it wasn't until I was an adult that anyone told me I was enjoying baseball incorrectly. Thanks, everyone!
As a result, there are really only a handful of teams that I truly hate in baseball ... and none of those teams are the Dodgers. I hate the Yankees, naturally. And I really hated the Braves until the past couple years when they just became some weirdo non-team. But there's only one team I really, truly loathe in all of baseball. It's the Cardinals. Mostly due to Cardinals Devil Magic and mostly because of residual sour grapes, when they appeared to be the team that had it all and that everyone was sick of. Turns out it was the Giants all along. Whoops!
Morse was at bat against my most passionately hated team, needing to hit a home run to tie it and to give us a hope and a prayer. The Giants would still have two more chances to win just one game even if they dropped Game 5, but come on. This was the Cardinals. They made a cottage industry out of crapping on the chest of your heart's desire.
I listened to Jon Miller call the at-bat and I focused my entire being on willing Morse to hit a home run. I heard the crack of the back and I heard Miller's voice reach that pitch he reserves for special moments or heart-stopping close calls. He told me that the ball landed inside the left field foul pole as I heard the crowd roar louder than I would have thought possible. I sat in disbelief, even as the announcers assured me he had tied the game. I got up and paced. It seemed impossible. The exact thing I wanted at the exact time I needed it? No. Not a chance.
I went in the other room and turned the TV on mute. Verified the score. Began pacing. A grin spread over my face as I watched the replays. Amazing. Unbelievable. Wonderful. Glorious. Transcendent.
A short while later, the game would be made academic by Literally Travis Ishikawa, but there wouldn't be a Game 5 pennant without that perfect Morse home run. The exact person who needed to hit a home run at that exact time. He didn't hit it.
Later, either Miller or Andrew Baggarly or Alex Pavlovic would insist that they had never in their lives heard the AT&T crowd be louder than when Morse hit his home run. Not with the Ishikawa homer later in the evening. Not with the J.T. Snow homer. Not with any of Bonds' feats. Not with division clinches, series wins, perfect games, no-hitters or World Series games. Then. When Morse's ball disappeared into the night sky. My recollection of the crowd thundering into my earbuds backs that up. I wish I had been there to lose just a bit of my hearing in person.
Only hours after the game did I hear Joe Buck's call of the home run, which I like even better than Miller's. Buck gets a lot of flack, but he absolutely nailed the call of the Morse homer. He nailed the Ishikawa call later. They're two of my favorite calls of all time. But any time I even think about the words "THAT'S HAMMERED INTO LEFT" -- which I do; very, very often -- I smile. The homer often makes me tear up. Morse's unbridled glee, best viewed in ultra-slow-mo, is undeniable.
It's my favorite home run. It's the best home run. And I love it with all my heart. I'm glad it was hit by Michael Morse, Good Giant. My grandmother would have liked him. She would have liked the home run, too. She probably would have had a thing or two to yell at the television.