I realized this weekend that 2013 is my 26th season as a Giants fan. One thing I’ve had to do in the past few years is explain why I’m a Giants fan. Some people think I jumped on the bandwagon in 2010. Not true. The following post was originally published on RJ’s Fro, a site run by my friend (and lifelong Padres fan Rick) about a year ago. I made a few changes/corrections to it that slipped both of our eyes in the editing process (and I’m sure I’ve missed a few more since. Oh well). Hopefully with this, along with this previous post, I can stop answering the question “How’d you become a Giants fan?”
I get a lot of crap.
I could probably limit this post to that, but that just might be the lamest blog post ever. But seriously, I get a lot of crap because I’m a Giants fan. Some people just can’t seem to accept that someone who grew up in San Diego, went to Padres games in the 80s and 90s at Jack Murphy Stadium, and lives in San Diego would seemingly choose the Giants over the hometown team. The Padres had plenty of opportunities to win me over as a kid, but they never did.
The first game I ever went to was in the summer of 1984, and my dad got tickets somewhere on the Plaza level against the Pirates. I can remember Steve Garvey walking on the outside of the stadium before the game. For some reason, he parked down in the player’s lot and then walked up like he had a ticket (maybe he was meeting one of his kids out there). My brother ran up to get his autograph, but I was too shy. I can still remember the feeling of the sun block on my legs and how my program stuck to my legs as my dad tried to keep me (and my older brother) from burning as we sat just out of reach of the shade cast by the Loge Level. Gary Templeton hit a grand slam that day (pretty sure it was a game winning homer). Yes, Gary Templeton. I have no idea what the score was, or who pitched for either team, or anything other than the heat & humidity of Mission Valley in the summer, Steve Garvey and Gary Templeton. Guess what? The Padres didn’t win me over.
There were times in the middle 80s when I had the opportunity to come face-to-face with multiple members of the Padres. Anyone remember the Junior Padres Caravans? Every once in a while, there’d be a group of Padres at a particular mall on a Saturday morning. You could get their autographs and talk to the guys. The team would have raffles and a few other things. In ’84, I saw Tony Gwynn give hitting tips (keep your feet shoulder width apart; hands together on the bat; plant your chin on your shoulder—the one facing the pitcher, of course; keep your back arm parallel to the ground; bat at a 45 degree angle). Obviously his tips didn’t do much for me. I did get his autograph (still have it), along with Nate Colbert and Eric Show. In ’85, I got autographs from Dave Dravecky, Tim Flannery, and Randy Jones. I won an insulated mug that would keep my hot chocolate warm and my cold drinks cold (supposedly). There was one Padres pitcher—Ed Wojna—who gave me a cookie from The Great Cookie Company. How many people remember Ed Wojna? Check that. How many of you have even heard of Ed Wojna? No one? Well I do. I’ll never forget him. What 9-year-old kid doesn’t like cookies, especially from a Major League Baseball player? Guess what? The Padres still hadn’t won me over.
In ’87, I started collecting baseball cards. My best friend Alonzo and I would ride our bikes down to the local 7-11 and buy packs of Topps cards for 45 cents each. I’m pretty sure we’d actually eat the gum back then, working hard to generate enough spit to break down and moisten those solid pink sticks. By ’88, I had discovered three more baseball card companies: Fleer, Score, and Donruss. I probably had a few hundred baseball cards by the 1988 All-Star Game. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a 12 year-old boy with a $2 a week allowance, that was a ton. I was constantly organizing my small collection in the plastic sheets I bought at the local baseball card shop, and for some reason, I alphabetized them by player. One thing I noticed while looking at my cards one day was that I had four different cards of one particular player (and that was more than any other player): San Francisco Giants first baseman Will Clark. I read and re-read the stats on the back of his cards. His first hit in the minor leagues was a home run, and it was on the first pitch he ever saw? Awesome. He hit a home run off of Nolan Ryan? In his first game with the Giants? In his first Major League at-bat? Seriously awesome! I was impressed. And guess what? Just based on the stats on the back of his baseball cards and the little factoids printed with those facts, I was a Will Clark fan. I started following the Giants, rooting for them whenever I could, and that meant whenever they came to San Diego to play the Padres. And guess what? Just by watching Will Clark play, and collecting his baseball cards, the Giants had won me over.
Some people might say I jumped on the Giants bandwagon in 1989 when they won the NL West, and went to the World Series after Will Clark single-handedly destroyed the Cubs in the NLCS (the World Series didn’t work out so well). I don’t have a problem with people saying that. Maybe I did, but I was a fan at least a year before that and if you ask my brother, the Giants are the only team I’ve ever rooted for, day in and day, season after season. I’ve stuck with them after they let Will Clark leave at the end of the 1993 season. As much as I cringe at the mention of Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, I still have an orange “SF” on the back window of my car. And those first few seasons after Bonds retired were pretty painful. But here I am, all these years later with a closet full of Giants hats, t-shirts and jerseys. I still have autographs from Tony Gwynn, Dave Dravecky, Roberto Alomar, Trevor Hoffman and Jake Peavy. But I also have them from Shawn Estes, Rich Ruschell, Scott Garrelts, Darren Lewis, Brett Butler, Ernest Riles, Kirk Rueter, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres, and (of course) Will Clark.
As much as RJ’sFro loves the Padres, I love the Giants. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. So what that I’m a native San Diegan—the franchise never won me over. One thing my older brother will tell you is that I’ve never really rooted against the Padres, except when it benefits the Giants. I have no ill-will towards them; it’s not like they’re the Dodgers or Yankees or Fox Sports. They’ve just never been my favorite team. And for some reason I get a lot of crap for that. That I’ve ever had to explain why I’m a Giants fan is pretty frustrating, especially when it comes from people who don’t know me. So here’s the deal. I think we can agree that watching grown men play (and make a whole lot of money while doing it) baseball is kind of ludicrous. But if you’re reading this, then you probably enjoy watching baseball, too. It’s just a game and if you have a problem with someone who doesn’t like the same team as you, just let it slide. I do, but if you try to give me a hard time for being a Giants fan, I will be more than happy to give you just as hard a time as you think you’re giving me.