I was going to write something yesterday, after Madison Bumgarner’s pitching gem put the Giants one game away from their first San Francisco championship. I was going to say that, looking back on it, October 31st of my 21st year wasn’t entirely unlike his, except I spent it stuffing my face with miniature Milky Ways while he dominated the fourth game of the World Series. But I held off – we were still one game away and this thing was far from over.

Notice that I say “we” were still one game away. I’m not one of those delusional sports fans who imagines himself somehow connected to elite athletes because he has season tickets and played a few innings of baseball as a kid. My tie to the Giants has been an ongoing rite of passage and something as elemental as a son’s connection to his father. It isn’t about the joy of the game or the shared, treasured moments of a lifetime. I’ve known baseball fans like that and am enviously aware of their existence, enthusiasm, and sustained ebullience. Their appreciation is just as significant as my own, but their approach and interpretation much different. That bullshit never flew with my dad. We talked baseball plenty, but it was almost always about what was wrong with the Giants. It was oddly better when they tanked and didn’t come close to winning their division – less expectation, less to worry about. He said it as recently as October 10th, in an email: “Posey is slow but he is a hell of a player other than that … I am not too optimistic about the rest of the playoffs.” Only in knowing my father could you understand the strange comfort in such sentiment. Had he expressed hope, I’d have known that senility had taken hold.

Pessimism should never be confused with the absence of caring, or for that matter with the inability to enjoy life. When my brother was born, my dad brought a small baseball glove with him to the hospital – much to the chagrin of his own, more intellectually-minded father. I’ve heard the story many times about a distracted, first date with my mother in July of 1960, when my dad couldn’t pull himself away from the radio. Juan Marichal, in his rookie debut, took a no-hitter into the eighth and finished with a one-hit shutout. I wasn’t there in ‘51 when Bobby Thomson hit his Shot Heard ‘Round The World, and yet I have a distinct image etched in my mind of Dad swinging from the light fixture in my uncle’s house. There were many seasonal peaks in my lifetime, too – league championships in ‘89 and ‘02, Mike Ivie’s grand slam against the Dodgers, Will Clark vs Mitch Williams .. too many to list, really. But win it all? That, like the Yankees, wasn’t what life was all about.

I’d said it long before Ken Burns did in his eloquent soliloquy set to a dramatic backdrop just prior to Game One of this World Series – baseball is about coming home. The quote is neither Burns’ nor my own, but is idiosyncratically relevant to anyone who’s ever followed and understood the game. I was watching Burns’ pregame monologue on a small screen attached to the seat in front me on a much-delayed JetBlue flight from San Francisco to New York just one week ago; an ironically appropriate circumstance on several levels. The Giants were opening the World Series back home, my brother and his son were at the park a few rows behind the first base dugout, and I was traveling in the opposite direction of the team’s 1958 move from the east to west coast. I’ve made the trip countless times over the last seven years, but this time was different. Sitting in the seat to my left was Dad.

We’d headed back to Brooklyn together to look at an apartment I was considering buying. It wasn’t an easy trip out; the old man isn’t exactly a care-free traveler and upon learning of a two-hour delay at SFO he let out an expletive so jarring that it elevated the airport threat-level from orange to red. His stay was brief but enjoyable, and though the Giants lost the third game while he was flying back Saturday night, by late Sunday they held a three games to one advantage over the Texas Rangers. At one point Dad had even made an uncharacteristically hopeful prediction: “if they take one of the games in Texas, I think they’ll do it.”

Neither I nor my father has ever met Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ 26 year-old, two-time Cy Young winning, right handed pitcher. He renewed my consistent interest in the team three seasons ago and I started paying attention to daily box scores again in Brooklyn. There was something invigorating about this goofy-looking kid who led the league in strikeouts but was often mistaken for a bat boy. But to imagine that he’d do what he did last night wasn’t within the realm of realistic imagination. I called my father after the last out and said “they did it .. the Giants won the World Series.” What had just happened defied clever phrasing. “They did?” he said – my dad, the biggest baseball fan I’ve ever known. “Oh shit, that’s great. I was recording it .. I was too nervous .. I’ve got to go watch.”

Oh yeah – I passed on the apartment.

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