So, this Opening Day is not wearing off quickly, thank God. As I sit here and watch my Giants and am filled with hopes of another World Series come fall, I drift back to my youth.
In a life that has spanned nearly half of a century, there are few constants. Hating the Yankees, is one of them. It goes back to my earliest sports memories. It goes back to my youth in Los Angeles, when I bled Dodger blue. My old favorite Italian Uncle Phil actually used to send me clips from the San Francisco Chronicle about his Yankees and we’d argue and argue about them. He was a cantankerous SOB, and I was his favorite nephew so he’d twist my tail into knots over the Yankees. I loved the Dodgers back then with their Italian manager Tommy Lasorda and their incredible unchanging infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. I died when I watched them storm back with three wins on the final three days to end the season and we stalked the ticket line to get into the one-game playoff with the Astros, only to lose 8-1.
But nothing stung worse in my early life than Reggie Jackson’s fat pin-striped ass stuck into the double-play ball that I still believed cost the Dodgers the series against the Yankees. Through it all my Uncle Phil taunted me with his malevolent smile.
When Pedro Mania came along and we finally beat the Yankees (in a strike-shortened season that crushed me unfortunately) I finally gave that old man an Eminem-style battle trashing. My hatred for the Yankees was sealed.
I married into San Francisco, but I had long left my Dodgers behind. I didn’t like the post Lasorda era much and I hated the new owners when the Alston’s sold. In 1986 I discovered a fan base that hated the Yankees as much as I did, and well, the Red Sox became my love. When I moved back East and bought into season tickets at Fenway, well I’ve never loved a team like that in the early 2000s. That was a long… long nearly two decades until the legendary 2004 Comeback made it all worthwhile. But in 2003… in those late innings, with Pedro tiring and … oh man, it was actually worse than Reggie’s hip.
Marrying the Bride meant accepting the Giants. As a lifelong 49er fan (forty years, never wavered, its about the only commitment I’ve kept all those years) I thought it would be easy, but my old Dodger roots made it tough. I really didn’t like the Giants. I hated Barry Bonds. But that stadium… oh my how I learned to love that stadium. The team was bleak when I first moved three blocks away. But few things pull so deep in my heart as San Francisco, The Bride and the 49ers, so eventually I became a baseball polygamist. I agreed to an arranged marriage with the Giants.
Like most arranged marriages, I learned to love them. I loved that they lost a lot at first, because I could get cheap tickets with ease and go to lots of game. When they got good, a different energy drew me in. A Friday Night in AT&T out in outfield pavilion is a party like few others every week of the season. Two World Championships with scrappy, overachieving teams didn’t hurt either. Now I follow them as much as I follow my Red Sox… some days even more so. And I’ve learned to hate the Dodgers nearly as much as the Yankees, especially when they went all billion-dollar purchase and payroll on us the last two years. Who Yankee like? Magic… Magic Johnson, favorite Laker of all-time, say it ain’t so…
Life changes. I change. But hating the Yankees, that’s forever.
Oh yeah, I promised another list. This one is my ALL-Time San Francisco Giants team. (I won’t name any New York Giants, period. Too close to the Yankees. Willie Mays is a SF Giant. Let’s make that clear).
It’s tough leaving off the great Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, and Sal Maglie (who wouldn’t want a guy known as “the barber” for his five o’clock shadow and chin music to opposing hitters?). But the New York Prohibition stands.
The Giants are maddening to try to build a line-up. They have awesome first basemen, second basemen and outfielders. Then they have big holes, none so apparent as lead off.
ALL-Time San Francisco Giants
I wish I could steal Rickey Henderson from across the bay… sigh… I’d like to snag Jackie Robinson since he was traded to the SF Giants (he chose to retire instead) but that’s too much of a stretch, even for me.
If the Giants EVER learn the true value of a dynamic, OBP-type playmaker at the top of the line-up, they will be a force.
But until then we will go with:
1) Bobby Bonds, RF- We need his speed and dynamic five-tool talent at the top of this masher lineup. Felipe Alou, doubles as player/coach and has speed for the top of the lineup, will be a reserve.
2) Will the Thill- 1b- Defensively he’s a gem, only JT Snow may have manned the bag better. But he’s a gamer and a fighter and an OBP machine, so we need him to help set the table.
3) Willie Mays, CF- The greatest. The only man who can compare to Babe Ruth and played in the era of desegregation. He alone makes this team dominant.
4) Orlando Cepeda- LF- The baby bull is a beast. Notice who is not here:
The reason is simple. His Pittsburgh Pirates, non-steroid years were awesome, a rare mix of defense, speed, obp, and power. But by the time he came to SF, he was a one-dimensional freak who was cancer in the locker room. The steroids alone earn him a lifetime ban from your list, but his personality makes any loopholes close forever.
5) Willie McCovey- DH- The greatest Willie not named Mays. (yes I get to use a DH in all-time teams, because I say so.)
6) Jeff Kent, 2b- AN easy choice. Our lineup is getting a bit RH lopsided, so we need a lefty PH/platoon guy somewhere. It won’t be here. We want Kent all the time for his consistent glove and unheard of power. I think we’ll teach JT snow to play SS and get his left-handed bat in the lineup (lol). Kent’s our clubhouse asshole (and we’re ignoring his time on the Dodgers, fleeing Bonds anyone can make that mistake), but minus the younger Bonds there is room for one.
7) Matt Williams, 3b- I always suspected him of steroids. But there is no denying his power and excellent defense and he’s an easy choice here.
8) Buster Posey, C- Admittedly, he’s still a little young. But an MVP, two world series rings, and a stellar clubhouse leader. He’s in.
9) Johnny LeMaster, SS- This is just a tough one. Rich Aurillia would be the likely pick because of his offense and leadership. But this team’s defense is going to be its greatest strength and LeMaster’s a wizard without the Ozzie. Omar Vizquel would be great, but he was old by the time he came to SF. Chris Spiers was Rich Aurillia, before Rich Aurillia.
Starters: The Giants have depth here, with a lot of stellar pitchers. The ace is none other than Juan Marichal. We have to add Matt Cain and Tim Lincicum (the two Cy Youngs, two rings, make this a must even if now he’s… not so special).
Then it gets dicey. Vida Blue? He’s an Oakland A, more than a Giant in my book. The Count of Montefusco was sure entertaining. But I’ll go with those stellar Jason Schmidt years and Gaylord Perry, though Rick Ruschel should get some love too. Hell, there’s a lot of guys here. Can I just take Christy Mathewson and call it good?
Closer: Rob Nen- A beat, who literally gave up his arm in the World Series loss to the Angels. Rod Beck is in the pen but not closing. Dave Righetti will be our swing man, long-relief, and pitching coach.
Manager: Bruce Bochey. He’s won twice and don’t forget how good he was with the Padres. He’s vastly underrated.
Ok, that’s my list. Go Giants.
For the All-Time Boston Red Sox, click here. And for the best five stadiums of all time, click here. And for my 2014 predictions, click here. With that, we return to our scheduled, non-baseball, Effin Artist programming.
ount of Montefusco