San Francisco Giants: The Importance of the Giants-Dodgers Rivalry

By Gary Oversen
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In the world of sports, there is nothing better than a rivalry game. Whether it is a historical or geographical rival, the games are intensified and seem to bring out the best in everyone playing or managing. But nothing is like a game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was obviously cold and windy. It was Candlestick. And it was the middle of June. The stomping of feet and clapping of hands sometimes happened whether something good happened on the field or not. But it didn’t matter in the least, since the two teams doing battle on the field were giving everything they had to secure victory.

These two teams, the Giants and Dodgers, have been leaning up against one another in the same division since May 3rd, 1890. And just like the ground beneath our feet in California, mountains can be made from two forces pushing together.

That is precisely why it is so important for both teams to be successful, so they push the other to compete. One team holds the other in check, and vice-versa.

It really started the year prior to 1890. The two teams from New York Giants were in the National League and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms were in the former American Association.

The two teams played in the World Series in 1889 that was a “first to six wins” format, which saw the Giants win it six games to three. The following year, the Bridegrooms moved to the National League, but wouldn’t change their name to the Dodgers until 1932.

Then after the 1957 season both teams moved to California, with the urging of Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, since both teams were having issues with their current ballparks. This move served to tighten the bond between the two teams, and made the rivalry even more meaningful.

The fans in each ballpark, whether it was Seals Stadium (where the team played its first two seasons in San Francisco), Candlestick Park, AT&T Park, or Dodger Stadium, the hatred of the other team’s colors is very real.

Unfortunately, some fans take it to the extreme, and that is where it gets dangerous. It is still just a game after all.

Many nights out at Candlestick, especially Friday nights, there would be waves going on in the stands. But it wasn’t the wave that you are likely to see at a stadium event. (Most Giants fans know that watching people stand up and sit down across the park from you, while waiting for your turn to do the same, isn’t the most focused way to watch a baseball game.)

No, this wave was from a group of overly intoxicated men, and women, who decided that their team’s honor needed to be defended at all costs. Arrogance, stubbornness, and six beers later, and the entire bleachers looked like a mosh-pit.

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But with rivalries, you have to expect some heightened emotion, it’s just that some people don’t have that dimmer inside that says it’s just a game.

As organizations are concerned, the rivalry definitely brings out competition for talent as well. Every year during this time, teams are looking to get better. And one of those teams you compare yourself to is your rival.

But again, it is in the best interest of both teams to be competitive.

Even though most Giants fans would say that they want the Dodgers to lose every game next year, most would also understand that the two teams being good at the same time is important for the game.

Looking at the situation in Oakland is a little different. The A’s are a geographic rival, which doesn’t necessarily carry the same weight as ones that compete in the same division. Even with inter-league, they don’t play against each other enough to really develop true resentment for the opposite side.

On the other hand, when both teams are playing well, there is an element of rivalry on the marketing side, to draw new fans. This isn’t to say that a lot of fans are passing down their love from generation to generation. But when a team is winning multiple World Series titles, it is easier to sway the casual fan to your direction. And then there is the ribbing between fans about 1989 and then the comeback of “3 titles in 5 years”.

But getting back to the Giants/Dodgers situation, here is some of the history between the two teams. And it is amazing to see how close most of the statistics are between the two teams when playing one another.

The Giants hold the edge in games won 1219-1187 with 17 ties. The Giants dominated the 1900’s through the 1930’s. Then the Dodgers had the 1940’s and 1950’s. The 1990’s saw them win exactly 70 games against each other, and so far in the 2010’s the Giants hold a 60-51 advantage.

The Giants also hold the advantage in NL pennants 23-22, and World Series titles at 8-6.

The Giants have retired 11 numbers, the Dodgers have retired 10. Jackie Robinson‘s 42 is also retired by the rest of Major League baseball.

There are 53 Giants in the Hall of Fame (51 players and 2 managers). Bruce Bochy will be there at some point as well, and there are few more players that are on their way. The Dodgers have 51 Hall of Famers with 43 players and 8 managers.

The Giants lead in having the most MVP’s at 14-13, thanks to Barry Bonds. The closest finishes 1-2 between the teams is Maury Wills over Willie Mays in 1962, Mays over Sandy Koufax in 1965, and Bonds over Adrian Beltre in 2004.

The Dodgers have far more Cy Young awards at 12-3. The closest finishes between the two teams has been Don Drysdale over Jack Sanford in 1962, and Eric Gagne over Jason Schmidt in 2003.

The history runs deep between these two franchises. If you would like to get deeper into the numbers and learn more about the history, there is a dodgers-giants website that has comprehensive information and is a great reference.

Within the rivalry there have been some notable dark times. Including in 1910, when Art Devlin went into the stands and knocked out a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. He was arrested, then paroled. And in 1938, when a man shot a bartender and a patron in an argument over whether the Dodgers or Giants would win the pennant.

There was also the famous incident between between Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal and catcher John Roseboro. Roseboro, after Marichal had hit a couple Dodgers earlier, threw a couple of throws back the mound that almost hit Marichal, who was up to bat. Marichal turned and hit Roseboro over the head with his bat, inciting a brawl, and eventually leading to a division win for the Dodgers. Marichal was suspended, obviously.

Dodgers outfielder Reggie Smith went into the stands two different times, once in 1978 and again in 1981, to confront an unruly fan.

Most recently there was the shooting death of Giants fan Marc Antenorcruz after a game in LA in 2003. The brutal attack of Bryan Stow took place in 2011 at Dodger Stadium and netted two arrests. And another incident in 2013 that reportedly sparked by the rivalry when Dodgers fan Jonathan Denver was stabbed to death. The suspect in the case was found to have acted in self defense.

The two teams have come together on each one of these issues and have tried to condemn the violence. Since what goes on during the game is all that ultimately matters as a fan, the focus should be on the field anyway.

The fact that the two franchises were able to move across the country and play nearly 400 miles away from one another (when they use to be within 16 miles of each other while in New York), and still maintain that rivalry was all about competing.

It is a known sentiment between Giants fans that a Dodgers loss is almost as good as a Giants win. And every year that the teams have a chance to knock each other out of the playoff race is a plus. But the ability to have a fierce rival that is playing well and having success is also important to improve yourself.

Next: Winter Meetings

Without the Dodgers, there would be no Giants. And without the Giants, there would be no Dodgers. So let’s enjoy the rivalry that is much bigger than each one of us. And love the game for what it is, a game.

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