It was a beautiful day for baseball on April 15, 1958 in the Bay Area. Two New York teams had just moved west, bringing major league baseball to the people of San Francisco and Los Angeles. The game pitted the rivals—the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers—against each other at Seals Stadium that fateful day.
A young man named Willie Mays commented to a reporter after the game saying, “It’s like a World Series!”
The Giants won that day on the West Coast, and despite the newspaper headlines that read “New York Giants Win Opener,” it was San Francisco that was infected with baseball fever.
Giants baseball was not the first major league sport to come to the city by the bay; the San Francisco 49ers had already been playing football since 1946. However, baseball immediately fit right in to the atmosphere of the Bay Area. This can be seen by the fact that an overflow crowd of 23,448 people came out to watch the San Francisco Giants opener against the Dodgers—and this great West Coast franchise was underway. Although the Giants only have one World Series to their name, they are still the sports fans’ favorite in the Bay Area.
Don’t let their New York roots fool you; the Giants are a true San Francisco family. In fact, they are almost like a cult: Once you’ve played for them, you can’t seem to let them go. Take a look at Felipe Alou. The Dominican Republic native started as an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, and although he laid his lumber-swinging days to rest in 1974, Alou couldn’t stay away from the Bay and became the Giants manager in 2003.
Current fans know “Kruk and Kuip” as the clever broadcasting duo for the Giants, but Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper’s relationship didn’t start in the broadcasting booth; it started on the field as Giants players. Kuiper was an infielder, while Krukow was a pitcher for the Giants, where together they started a lasting hazing ritual for the rookies. In 1984, the dynamic duo convinced the rookies to paint a statue of General Sheridan bright orange while the team was playing at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s become a tradition around the league,” said Krukow in Tales from the San Francisco Dugout, by Nick Peters. “Every team has its own interpretation, but we were the first.”
After producing Hall of Fame players like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, the 2010 San Francisco Giants team finally did what no other S.F. Giants team had done in 52 years: win the World Series.
The dugout that year was filled with a cast of characters rather than baseball players. There was the “Panda,” the “Freak” and Brian Wilson’s beard (which made him look more like Captain Jack Sparrow than an All-Star closer).
Despite their quirks (and maybe even because of them), the “Band of Misfits” became one of the most cohesive teams in baseball history winning the 2010 World Series.
Although some of those characters from two years ago have faded, new ones are on the rise in San Francisco. For example, Giants followers thus far in the 2012 season are featuring fans who dress up as milkmen in honor of Melky “the Milk Man” Cabrera. For some baseball fans, donning a black beard and gnome hat for Brian Wilson’s gnome bobblehead day may be over the top, but for the fanatics of San Francisco, it’s just another day at the park.
While the San Francisco Giants may only have one World Series title since moving to the Bay Area, and watching them pull out heart-wrenching victories might be torture, their baseball culture will always be tops.