Happy Father’s Day! In honor of the holiday, Marc Delucchi shares the origins of his San Francisco Giants fandom.
One of my father’s favorite stories is from one of his worst moments as a sports fan. It was Game 6 of the 2002 World Series and the San Francisco Giants, my father’s favorite team, were a matter of outs away from winning their first championship in his lifetime.
Fans already know where this story goes. With a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, starter Russ Ortiz allowed back-to-back singles with one out. Manager Dusty Baker then emerged from the dugout and brought in Felix Rodriguez. My father screamed in anguish.
Rodriguez promptly gave up a three-run homer to Scott Spiezio and the Angels pulled off a 6-5 victory. There was technically still a Game 7 to be played, but my father already knew they would fall short.
I was four years old at the time. By the time the game was over, my father was upstairs, laying in his bed with a pillow over his face to keep light out of his eyes. I wanted to make him feel better, but I didn’t know how to do that. Neither of us had done anything.
“Pa?” I whispered.
“Why are you sad?”
My dad didn’t have a good answer. As a fan, he had plenty of reason to be angry and frustrated, but that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to a 4-year old. I just didn’t get it yet.
It wasn’t the first occasion, but it’s the first memory my father and I share through sports. Soon we would go through countless trade hypotheticals, prospect hopes, comebacks, and tough losses together.
My dad would say, half-jokingly, he could die happy if the San Francisco Giants won a World Series. The Golden State Warriors had already beaten the odds with Rick Barry, and the San Francisco 49ers dynasty had given him plenty to celebrate. But, with Barry Bonds aging and the Giants’ front-office trading young players for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinnie Chulk, it didn’t appear likely.
Quietly, the team developed an incredible young core and found some gold from the scrap heap. Before we blinked, it was 2010 and the Giants were in the playoffs for the first time in five years. No one thought they were going to go very far, especially my dad. He’d been down this road too many times.
Most of the games were too stressful for him to watch the whole way through. He would pace around the living room and go up to his bedroom when peak Giants torture was in effect. Usually, he could use the pitch of my yelling to tell if they got out of it or not.
It seems like a blur now. Like barely a moment separates Travis Ishikawa stretching to catch Juan Uribe’s high throw to clinch the NLDS, Cody Ross homering off Roy Halladay, and then they were World Series champions. But, each pitch was pins and needles.
In Game 5 of the World Series, the San Francisco Giants had what should have felt like a commanding 3-1 series lead. Led by a strong start by Tim Lincecum and an Edgar Renteria home run, they entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead. In came Brian Wilson, the architect of torture.
My father couldn’t leave now. They were too close. I was kneeling on the carpet, staring up at the TV, while he burrowed his feet into the couch cushions. We would rise or fall together.
First came Josh Hamilton, he was called out on strikes. Then, Vladimir Guerrero, who grounded out. Finally, Nelson Cruz worked a 3-2 count and my dad was commanding Wilson not to walk him.
With the next pitch, Cruz swung through a slider for strike three and we both jumped up in celebration. Even though I was in the middle of that seventh grade “don’t want to be seen around your parents” phase, I jumped into my father’s arms. Even though he was 52 years old and probably shouldn’t have been risking his back’s health, he lifted me up to the ceiling.
Then he put me down. Neither of us said a word as we quietly watched the celebration ensue on TV. I looked back up at my father and saw tears pooling in his eyes.
That night, there wasn’t a bedtime. My mom understood. We were listening to late night radio as people called in from across the country telling their favorite Giants stories. I quietly snuck out of my dad’s bedroom where we were listening and over to his office where I dialed up the number for whatever ESPN Radio Show it was.
They put me on air to make some jokes about a 12-year-old being up so late and I told whoever was listening how we had celebrated and I’d seen my father cry. When I hung up the phone, I waited a bit for my dad to come and join me in the office. Our joy so palpable we barely knew what to do with it.
We are five years removed from the team’s last title. I may never see another in my lifetime and that’s okay. The victories always feel better than the defeats. Still, the biggest losses always seem to feel worse.
So, why are we fans?
To share our experience with others. So no matter what, we always have someone to celebrate or commiserate with. Whoever those people are for you, a friend, father, mother, or another family member, make sure to remember that.
When it comes to baseball, I will always root for the Giants. Regardless of how they do, I share something with my father. Even when we are on opposite sides of the country, we can celebrate a Steven Duggar home run, a Shaun Anderson strikeout, or clench our fists at a blown lead together.
There’s no better reason to be a fan than to become closer to the ones you love and I am so much closer to my father because of our shared passion for the San Francisco Giants.
Happy Father’s Day!