Thursday, August 07, 2008

"If You Weren't At Candlestick Park Tonight, Shame on You!"

It wasn't easy growing up as a San Francisco Giants fan in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sure, there was Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, and the Giants made the playoffs in 1971, but aside from that there was a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of...well, let's call it like it was - bad baseball.

The Giants made a great run at the division championship in 1982, but fell just short in the last weekend when they dropped two out of three to the hated Dodgers. But the one they managed to win was also one of the greatest moments in Giants history: a Joe Morgan home run late in the game kept the Dodgers out of the playoffs, and sent the fans home delirious.

That great moment was followed by a few years of suckiness that makes what is going on today look good - at least now, we've got Tim Lincecum. Back then, it was pretty awful.

Things started to look up when Roger Craig came on as manager, late in the 1985 season. And in 1986, the Giants were probably the overachievers of the National League, managing to win 83 games when most experts expected them to come up far short of that. They had started to come up with some great players, most notably Will Clark at first base.

In 1987, the Giants showed early on that they were prepared to make a run at the division title. But it wasn't easy, and when August rolled around they were still in a dogfight with, among others, the defending division champ, the Houston Astros.

In early August of that year, the Astros came to Candlestick Park for a critical series. And on a Monday night, 10 August 1987, the two played what would turn out to be one of the most exciting games in Giants history. And tonight on Comcast Sports Net, they showed the game (not every second, but every moment that counted).

To set the stage, the Giants had fallen behind 4-1, and managed to claw back into the game in the seventh inning, scoring three runs to tie it up at 4-4. But then the Astros scored in the top of the eighth.

I was listening to the game on the radio, and my wife Debra - after hearing the swearing and the foot-stomping that resulted from the Giants dropping the lead - made a comment along the lines of "oh, don't worry - I'm sure the Giants will win in the 9th inning." Yeah, right. Like that ever happens.

In the ninth inning, the first batter was Candy Maldonado.

He hit a home run to tie the game.

The second batter was Will Clark.

He hit a home run to win the game.

Never again did I doubt Debra.

And on that night, Ron Fairly, the former Dodger who finally came to his senses and came over to the good Dark Side, uttered the immortal words, "If you weren't at Candlestick Park tonight, SHAME ON YOU!"

Well, I wasn't, but I was listening. And I can still remember it like it was yesterday.

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