With a slider—down and away— the Giants’ closer, Sergio Romo, got the Cardinal’s Matt Holliday to pop up to the second baseman, I jumped up from the couch and did a sort of victory dance that only feels natural in the moment. The outcome was never in doubt, with a final score of nine to zero, but being the fanatic that I am, I jumped anyways. On the screen, rain poured down into the stadium. Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants’ Second Baseman and NLCS MVP, stood like Andy Dufresne: arms raised high, simply loving the moment.
20 minutes later, my parents called. “Al,” they said, “how would you like to go to the World Series?”
We’re a family of Giants fans; my parents went to almost every playoff game. When my Grandparents moved to the Bay Area after the War and decided they loved baseball, I remember visiting house in Marin. My MorMor would cook a traditional Swedish meal, and my family would sit around the table, eating dinner with the game on. Now, two years after the Giant’s incredible World Series victory in 2010, they have another shot to be the best team in baseball. And I was going to see my San Francisco Giants play the Detroit Tigers.
Three days later, I stepped off of a plane into the San Francisco International Airport. The game started at five, and I met three fellow Giants fanatics and old friends outside the ballpark. Gideon and Andrew sat on a bench, looking out at the Marina, while Peter stood in front of them. Together, we walked towards the stadium with all the hope and optimism of fans of the team with a 1-0 series lead.
My friend Gideon is an avid sabermetrician. A sabermetrician analyzes the game of baseball using advanced baseball statistics. Think Billy Bean and Moneyball. So, as we walked towards our seats, we talked about the statistical advantage of the Giants over the Tigers in what probably sounded like complete gibberish.
Gideon said something like, “Although Barry Zito is generally terrible, and his FIP [Fielding Independent Pitching] – as well as his WAR [Wins Above Replacement] – is pretty terrible, he’s a left-hander, and the Tigers’ ISO [Isolated Power] has been pretty terrible against lefties.”
To which I replied, “Indeed.”
Peter was talking to Andrew, probably about women, beer and whether or not Tim Lincecum (Two-time Cy Young winner and San Francisco Giants pitcher) still smokes weed.
People tell me all the time that baseball games drag on and are boring to watch. I disagree. That night, it didn’t matter how you felt about baseball. You could feel the excitement of the game. On paper, the game appears boring. Two runs scored, one on a double play, the other from a sacrifice fly. But the stakes of the World Series ratcheted up the tension of every play. With every hard line drive, the ballpark hushed and then erupted. And every Madison Bumgarner strikeout pitch brought the crowd to their feet. The next day, my arms were sore from the wild excitement of the twists and turns of the game.
The Giants won — two to nothing. We hung around after the game, listening to the voice of Tony Bennett serenade the crowd with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Then we watched “The Baseball Tonight” ESPN crew roll out their set. Peter, Gideon, Andrew and I walked down to the field to see Boomer and the guys break down the game. Peter started a call-and-response with the other drunken Giants’ fans:
“WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH DETROIT?”
“THEYRE ALL BUMS!”
Half an hour after the game, we headed out of the ballpark and joined the crowd hanging around outside. Horns honked, people yelled, and the crowd flowed into the streets in collective ecstasy. As we walked away from the ballpark, long after the game had ended, we felt like skydivers after the free-fall.