Giants Fan in the Great White North
I’m sure like most people, many of you had wondered “How are you a Giants fan living so far away?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I would probably be living in San Francisco already. I am going to use this blog as a way to explain to each and everyone of our loyal and great readers just exactly “How I am a Giants fan living so far away”. A few of the other questions that I have been asked over the years are: While wearing one of my 3 Barry Bonds jerseys during the 2001 season, I was asked “Are you just wearing that because of the record?” and was asked the same in 2007. During the 2010 and 2012 World Series winning years, I was asked “Are you wearing those Giants jerseys,shirts,hats and jackets because they are winning?” and the answer to all those questions is an emphatic “NO”. I will share quite a bit of my story and explain my fandom for the San Francisco Giants.
Growing up in my early teens, I became a very big fan of Barry Bonds of the Pittsburgh Pirates. At that time there was no MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings, so I had to wait and watch games on TBS and WGN whenever the Pirates were on those channels, then in the post season from 1990-1992.
Following a heartbreaking game 7 loss to the Atlanta Braves, in the 1992 NLCS, Bonds became a free agent. In December of 1992, Bonds signed a 6 year deal worth $43.75m, largest contract in baseball history at the time, and so my fandom of the San Francisco Giants began.
During his first year with the Giants, Bonds batted .336 with 46 HR, on his way to a second MVP season in 3 years. That season was my first as a Giants fan and set me up for many heartbreaking seasons/moments to follow, the Giants won 103 games that year and lost the division title by 1 game to the Atlanta Braves (wildcard was not added until 1995). That moments was probably the most heartbreaking for me as a baseball fan, I realized 9 years later that it could be a lot worse.
The 1994-1996 seasons were very tough seasons to be a fan of the Giants, but I still cheered them on whenever I had the chance. Then in 1997, it finally happened, the Giants won the National League West. The Giants didn’t last long in the post season, being swept in National League Divisional Series by the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins.
Skip ahead to the 2002 season. When the MLB Schedule was released, I seen that my hometown Toronto Bluejays were to play host to the Giants, I was beyond excited and bought tickets in left field as soon as tickets went on sale, I was finally going to get to see Barry Bonds and the rest of the Giants in person. From the time I purchased my tickets, I kept counting down until June 10-12. The day had finally arrived, I was getting to see the Giants live, a friend of mine whom I went to many Bluejays games with had called me and told me he had an extra ticket in a different section, as I mentioned earlier my seat was in LF to get a close up view of Bonds. Bonds was the DH of that game, so I decided to sit with my friend, a few rows behind home plate. Giants ended up losing that game, 6-5 and Bonds went 0-4 with a BB and K. The second game I got to sit in my LF seat, as Bonds played the field that night. Giants won the game 9-2 and Bonds ended the night 2-3 with 2 BBs. In one at bat, Bonds hit a screamer of foul ball to left field and went off my Giants hat that I had used to try and catch the ball, how cool would it have been to catch a foul ball off of the bat of my all-time favorite player. During the 9th inning of the third and final game of the series, I finally got to see what I was hoping for all along, with Bluejays reliever Cliff Politte on the mound and Bonds at bat, Politte with the pitch and as soon as Bonds connected I jumped out of my seat and had my arms in the air, just like Bonds did so many times, and the ball went over the left field wall and even though the game was all but decided at that point, I was still the happiest person in the Dome. The Giants had won the final game 9-2, Bonds was 2-3 with that HR and 2 BBs. The Giants won 2 of the 3 games. I was so happy after those 3 games and remember them as if they were yesterday. This season looked like it was going to be a good one, not that it wasn’t already for me personally, but the Giants ended up winning the National Wildcard.
During the record breaking 2001 season, I made sure to do whatever it took to be able watch Bonds at bats. I remember watching a game on a dreary October evening and wondering if he would tie Mark McGwires single season HR record, sure enough he did just that, hitting a ball in the RF seats in Houston off of Astros pitcher Wilfredo Rodriquez. The next night, I had plans to go out for the evening, but delayed my night and my taxi to watch Bonds face the Dodgers and Chan Ho Park. In his very first at bat of the game, he did it, Bonds hit HR #71 (later hitting #72) to become the all time single season HR king, and my night turned from plans into celebrating the record.
During the National League Divisional Series I watched every game I could, if I was not working. The series ended up going 5 games and I was so disappointed that I had to work the fifth and deciding game vs the National League East winning Atlanta Braves. I had set up my VCR for that game, PVR had not been created yet, I had told all of my friends that I did not want to know what had happened in the game because I was recording it and wanted to watch without knowing the outcome. It was a very nerve racking night at work. When I was finished my shift, I raced home and turned on the game. I was so excited to see the Giants beat the Braves, was starting to really dislike that team from Atlanta because of 1991-1993 seasons. During the NLCS vs the St Louis Cardinals, I had a friend at work that was a Cardinals fan. My friend and I decided that we would put a wager on the series, loser of the series has to wear the winning teams jersey (I think my Bonds jersey looked better on him then the Musial jersey would have looked on me). The Giants were going to the World Series to face the American League Champion Anaheim Angels. This series was a fun series to watch, unless you were a Giants fan and watched games 6 and 7. I remember watching Game 6 and as the game went on I thought I was going to be able to celebrate a World Series Championship from the Giants. Going into the bottom of the 7th the Giants had a 6-0 lead and were 9 outs away from their first Championship during the San Francisco era. Russ Oritz was on the mound and pitching very well. After giving up a couple of hits, Giants manager Dusty Baker came out to replace Ortiz. As Ortiz was walking off the mound, Baker stopped him and handed him the ball and this seemed to upset the baseball gods. The Angels scored 3 runs in that bottom half of the inning and 3 more in the bottom of the 8th, I hate you Scott Spiezio. What seemed like a sure thing of the Giants winning the World Series had now turned into a huge let down. I had hope for Game 7 but had watched enough baseball to know that usually when a team has that big of a letdown, as the Giants did, in Game 6 that it would be almost impossible for the Giants to win. The Angels ended up winning Game 7, 6-5 and thus becoming 2002 World Series Champions.
Skipping ahead to the 2007 season, which I knew could be the last season that I’d ever get to see Bonds play. Bonds was close to Hank Aarons all time career HR record. As he got closer to the record, all the sports stations in Toronto started to show more Giants games. On August 4, 2007 Bonds tied Aarons record, with 755 career homeruns. On August 7th, while facing the San Diego Padres, Bonds was facing Padres pitcher Mike Bacsik and the minute the ball left Bacsiks hand and Bonds swung, my arms were in the air as I knew that he had just set the all time homerun record with number 756.
Bonds did not have his contract renewed following the 2007 season, but that did not stop me from being a fan of the team I had been following for the past decade and a half. My first year (2008) following the team, post Bonds, was not an easy season to watch as the team had a 72-90 record, and a fourth place finish. The 2009 season was a lot more fun to watch due to Tim Lincecum, who had become my new favorite Giants player. During the 2010 season, all the “torture” was all worth it as the Giants won the World Series in 5 games vs. the Texas Rangers. The moment Nelson Cruz swung and missed, on a Brian Wilson fast ball, the tears of joy started to come down my face, I had lots friends come up and shake my hand and congratulate me “my” team winning the World Series.
Below is a video from one of the games that I had attended here in Toronto, in 2010