Refueling the hatred in the heated Giants-Dodgers rivalry
As a kid, the author learned to love the Giants and hate the Dodgers
Over the years things changed and the rivalry lost some of its intensity
Wednesday night's game, a 3-2 Giants walk-off win, brought back memories
SAN FRANCISCO -- When I was 9 years old, I received a T-shirt from my father that I wore almost every day for the next three years or so (to peruse our family album it appears as if it were a mandated uniform). It had a caricature of San Francisco Giants journeyman pitcher Bill Laskey in mid-windup, his extravagant black mustache curled downward into a sneer, as if threatening to advance to full handlebar, and it read:
I HATE THE DODGERS
At the time, in 1983, I was too young to understand the context. I didn't know this was an actual quote from Laskey who, upon arriving from the Kansas City system, had been entranced by the Bay Area's powerful distaste for all things blue-and-white-and-Lasorda. "When I beat Fernando, and saw how our guys and how the fans reacted, well, that's when I really got into the rivalry," he told reporters after winning a game that May. "I hate the Dodgers. I'm not saying why I hate them, I just do. So does this entire team. And we're coming after them too."
I was also too young to comprehend just how laughable that last statement was. After all, in 1983 the Giants finished four games under .500. The next season, it was 30 games under and the year after it was 38 (a woeful 62-100). No, none of this mattered to me. All that mattered was the sentiment. Because I too hated the Dodgers. Hated them with the pure, all-encompassing hate of a 9-year-old, the way I hated raw tomatoes and zucchini and, only a few years earlier, girls.
I treasured that hate. When the Giants had eliminated L.A. on the final day of the season a year earlier -- a day after the Dodgers had eliminated San Francisco, no less -- it sent my brother and I into paroxysms of joy as we listened to KNBR in our backyard, leaping about upon hearing of the deciding three-run blast from Joe Morgan. After all, who needed winning when you could make the Dodgers lose?
A decade after that, I was at Dodger Stadium when L.A. returned the favor, knocking the Giants out of the playoffs on the final weekend of the 1993 season even though that San Francisco team won 103 games (oh wild card, where were thou?). I remember the green, untested Salomon Torres being inexplicably trotted out to the mound with the season on the line, and I remember prized addition Barry Bonds putting up a fat goose egg for the series (or at least it seemed like he did). I also remember the crushing depression that ensued, a malaise that not even a tide of Natural Light -- I was in college, after all -- could lift.
Now, a decade and a half later, things have changed, or at least I have. I'm in my 30s, with two young children and a job that forces me to draw a line between fandom and work. Priorities are different, life is more complicated. Sure, I still follow the Giants -- listening to Jon Miller's languorous baritone on KNBR and reading the San Francisco Chronicle's daily post-mortems and engaging in the official Bay Area pastime of complaining about Barry Zito -- but not with the emotional intensity that I used to.
Do I still hate the Dodgers? Could I? Well, if there was ever a time to find out, it was this past week. For the first time since 2004, the Giants were in the hunt for the postseason in August, flirting with the wild card, and the Dodgers, lords of the NL West, were coming to town. I called my brother and my dad and a friend and we got tickets to Wednesday's day game, the series finale, with Lincecum on the mound and Manny in left field. Bring on the hate.
Things started off well enough, which is to say Lincecum retired the side in the first and we got a round of beers without too much trouble. From our seats down the left field line, we were also in the prime spot to watch the bleacher-blasting of Manny. Dreadlocks, syringes, defensive deficiencies, testicular circumference: the conversation was wide-ranging and one-sided, if nowhere near as vitriolic or enthusiastic as it might be in, say Philly. Furthering our potential for feistiness: a group of Dodgers fans sat directly in front of us. Of course, it was a father, his wife and their two adorable kids, but this was no time to get soft, right? We mustered a few family-friendly jibes but Dodger dad only replied with annoying good nature.
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