The ghosts of opportunities lost can swirl and haunt in an instant, and any temptation for the San Francisco Giants or their fans to look ahead to an assumed World Series title must be stifled.
As Giants fans tingle with the anticipation of a clinching opportunity tonight in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, the demons of the 2002 World Series are on-deck and ready to swarm.
These ghosts hold permanent residence in the collective memory of all Giants fans. One need only ask if the name “Scott Spiezio” means anything to a Giants fan, and the resulting expression alone from your victim should aid in clearing up any confusion.
That is, if you don't get punched first.
Unfortunately, there is no shelf life attached to the lost moments and horrible memories connected to the recent history of the San Francisco Giants and the World Series.
I can close my eyes right now and see Dusty Baker handing the ball to Russ Ortiz. I can remember the 5-run lead in the 7th inning, and the red noisemakers clanged by the Anaheim Angel fans. I remember being eight outs away, and slapping fives with my buddies. I remember watching the rally monkey on the screen, and wishing hateful things. I remember Brendan Donnelly in his goggles striking out seemingly everybody, and then Mr. Spiezo and his bleached hair, hitting a 3-run bomb that changed the entire complexion of the Series.
Finally, the very next evening, I remember the Angels beating us and becoming the 2002 World Series Champions.
It was eight years ago, but that collapse is all there for me in vivid, mental color whenever I don't want it. It stings, and is as accessible as the memory of being dumped in the Mountain View Tower Records parking lot by my high school girlfriend.
Yes, the parking lot.
As for past gut punches, I can’t accurately speak to the sinking emotions surrounding the 1962 World Series for the older generation of Giants fans, because I never had to live through it. For anyone witnessing Willie McCovey line out to Bobby Richardson that afternoon at Candlestick Park, the finality of it must have been overwhelming.
By all accounts, McCovey crushed the ball, one that a foot to either side of Richardson would have probably scored Willie Mays from second base with the Series-winning run for the Giants. Instead, that same crowd, who only a half-second before had been rising to their feet anticipating history, were now cut down where they stood.
Any visions of Market Street parades that day, lost forever to the sight of a New York Yankees celebration on the Candlestick infield.
It must have been truly awful, but that is as far as I want to take it. Any further conjecture risks being disrespectful to the fans in attendance, as well as those listening to Lon Simmons on radios all around the Bay Area that day in 1962. Any more personal musings risk being callous to the pain those fans probably carry in their hearts to this very day, some 48 years later.
That said, with 2002 as stirring in my own mind, I think I can at least relate.
Like all true sports fans, Giants fans love deeply and without remorse. We attach the same elevated meaning in our lives to clutch hits as we do tape-measure homeruns that put us ahead. We lionize twenty-something catchers and pitchers, and lose our minds when a second baseman climbs the ladder to snowcone-grab a liner.
The haunting phantoms thrive in this passion, and are all too ready to delight in bringing the pain of lost chances and failed glory to the very forefront of our minds for another five decades. The one thing, the only thing, that can render these demons powerless, is when we believe without assumption, and support without any expectation.
The Giants have an excellent chance tonight to end over 50 years of futility—a chance. Should that unbelievably sweet event happen, and the San Francisco Giants actually win the 2010 World Series, the very first since moving West, and the very first title for an amazing city, only then will all suffering Giants fans be able to collectively exorcise the nagging ghosts of our history.
The vast amount of space that those awful ghosts heretofore occupied in our minds, now replaced with an amazing and permanent memory that can be cherished, recounted and retold until the day we die.