Short thoughts from short Giants series in L.A.
Friday, May 20
Because each game featured final-at-bat dramatics, this week’s pair of encounters between the Giants and-Dodgers featured enough thrills for a series twice as long.
But before the late innings, it didn’t feel like a Giants-Dodgers series at all.
Though the Giants-Dodgers rivalry isn’t as intense as it once was, the fans still generate some noticeable excitement, anticipation, “juice” — at least in San Francisco. This week at Dodger Stadium, however, there was virtually no buzz in the hours leading up to the first pitch and in the early innings. Willie McCovey once famously said of the atmosphere at Giants-Dodgers games, “You can hear the electricity.” That’s not a malaprop. That’s an accurate description, courtesy of the wisdom of the great Willie Mac. By contrast, early on Wednesday and Thursday nights, you could almost hear the crickets chirp.
My Dodgers counterparts and confidantes told me that such ennui has enveloped Dodger Stadium much of the year. If that’s so, it’s sad. Is it the sub-.500 baseball? The stigma of the Bryan Stow beating? The McCourt-vs.-McCourt snafu? This is one of baseball’s crown jewel franchises which, as such, should never lose its luster, even during losing seasons. Now, the Dodgers appear to be a Rolls-Royce with a rusty undercarriage in need of a paint job and an overhaul.
Maybe it’s just me; maybe I’ve romanticized the Giants-Dodgers rivalry a little too much (I’m one of those weirdos who deems it historically superior to Yankees-Red Sox). I received my Giants-Dodgers indoctrination on an afternoon in 1969, when my interest in baseball had just taken root and I was searching for the game broadcast on my little transistor radio. I came upon what I thought was the station (KSFO 560, remember, folks?), but all I heard was static. As it turned out, it wasn’t static. It was crowd noise. And all that was going on was a trip to the mound by the Dodgers pitching coach. I instantly figured that if people got this worked up when nothing was happening, imagine what it’s like once the action started. I was hooked.
Let’s be thankful it’s still that way at AT&T Park. I do wonder what I’ll find when the Giants return to L.A. in September.
Many people probably considered Matt Cain foolish for sprinting like Usain Bolt toward the third-base camera well in pursuit of a fifth-inning foul popup Wednesday night.
I considered Cain for what he is. A competitor. A winner.
Sure, Cain risked injury as he headed dangerously close to the railing and slid on the warning track to avoid a collision. But that’s what real athletes do. They play hard and they play to succeed.
For me, this further legitimized the comparisons between Cain and Hall of Fame right-hander Tom Seaver that proliferated at the beginning of the former’s career. Seaver also was known to pursue anything hit remotely near him if it would improve his chances of winning.
It’s redundant to note that right fielder Nate Schierholtz made an outstanding play to end Thursday night’s game.
But I can’t say I was surprised. And that’s meant as a compliment to Schierholtz.
About the only time Schierholtz surprises me is when he strives to make a difficult play and can’t make the grab or throw out the runner. He has completely spoiled me. If he played regularly, he’d be a certain Gold Glove candidate.
I emptied my piggy banks and purchased a shirt at the Robert Graham flagship store at Venice Beach before Thursday’s game. What the heck does this have to do with baseball, you ask?
Well, Giants left-hander Jeremy Affeldt piqued my interest in the brand. The shirts are colorful, comfortable and distinctive. And if you happen to be familiar with the Robert Graham products and you’re in the L.A. area, make sure to head for the store at 1326 Abbot Kinney Blvd. The staff is patient, friendly and helpful and the variety of clothing available is outstanding … about as outstanding as Nate Schierholtz’s diving catch.
— Chris Haft