The Giants and Dodges Rivalry is better than the Yanks and Red Sox!

Well, the three game series in Los Angeles did not go well for the Giants. It did go better than being swept in San Diego. The one game that the Giants won was a 9-0 combined shutout thrown by the starter and Giants ace, Tim Lincecum. Lincecum also got three hits in the game. One of the aftereffects of the three game series with the Dodgers and the Padres’ sweep is that it resurrected fears of last year concerning the futility of the Giants’ bats. I think that it is too early to go there…yet.

The Giants’ pitching on the road trip was a mixed bag. Lincecum, as I said, pitched great, and so did Barry Zito, who was sadly betrayed by his bullpen in an uncharacteristic moment. Wellemeyer pitched horribly, but the Giants did come back in the late innings to make it close. If Wellemeyer continues to pitch poorly, it remains to be seen if he’ll remain in the starting rotation. Jonathan Sanchez pitched brilliantly giving up one hit in seven innings and losing– becoming the first Giants pitcher to have this happen to him since 1917.

Other negative things to come out of the three game series in Los Angeles was the beaning of the Giants’ leadoff hitter and center fielder Aaron Rowand. This was definitely not a good situation for the Giants. The Giants’ pitchers did not retaliate for the beaning which would lead me to think that it might be done later on in the season, or that they concluded it was accidental despite the Dodger’s pitcher Vincente Padilla having a reputation as a head hunter. Fortunately, Rowand was not injured too seriously, and he will be out until, at least, May 2nd, but it could have been a lot worst. The Giants are now shifting around their outfield with Andres Torres getting more playing time in center field, which I have my doubts about. We shall see what happens next.

In the time since I’ve been a baseball fan, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry has been like a pendulum swinging back and forth. Beyond the time that I’ve been a Giants fan, I think that it has swung back and forth. One of the most fascinating moments had to be October 3, 1951 when Bobby Thomson hit the pennant-winning home run off Ralph Branca.

This was before expansion and multiple play-off rounds so Thomson’s home run meant that the Giants would be in the World Series. The Giants, at one point in August 1951 were fourteen games back of the Dodgers. The Giants got HOT, while the Dodgers did not. There is some question as to whether or not this happened legitimately or if the Giants cheated. I’m not sure if this is something that we’ll ever know. Actually and ironically, the date of October 3rd takes on significance for both the Giants and Dodgers throughout their history.

The significant moments that I can recall being a Giants fan in the Giants-Dodgers rivalry are Mike Ivie coming off the bench to hit a pinch-hit Grand slam home run off Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton on May 28, 1978. It was not the game-winner, but it certainly did help spark the Giants in a very exciting season. The other thing that I remember was the 1982 baseball season; I was a junior in high school.

Vida Blue, Frank Robinson & Joe Morgan

In 1982, after several off seasons for the Giants they revived, lead by an unknown pitching staff (led by Bill Laskey, and Atlee Hammaker), but they had a spectacular bullpen. It was led by Greg Minton, who had a career year, going 10-4 with thirty saves, along with Gary Lavelle, and Al Holland. The Giants, in 1982, were lead by manager and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. The Giants had a good mix of veteran players with Joe Morgan and former Dodger, Reggie Smith, along with young players like Jack Clark and Chili Davis. The Giants had done okay the first half of the season, but in the second half of the season, they were burning hot, forcing themselves into the pennant race. It came down to the month of September, which is just the way I like it. The Giants had a three game weekend series in Los Angeles, where historically they hadn’t played well. The Giants actually swept the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium with three, one run victories. They were all nail biters, very close games. The Giants, Braves, and Dodgers were all fighting it out until the bitter end. The Dodgers were at Candlestick Park for the final weekend of the season with the last game on October 3rd, 1982. The Giants ran out of steam losing the Friday night game and getting eliminated altogether in the Saturday afternoon game. It came down to one last game, and if the Giants couldn’t go themselves then they didn’t want the Dodgers to play the Braves to see who went to the playoffs. In the seventh inning with two Giants runners on base, and Joe Morgan batting against Dodger reliever Terry Forster. Morgan hit what proved to be the eventual game-winning home run, which also eliminated the Dodgers from the play-offs. It was spectacular!!

Just so you don’t think that this is all one-sided in favor of the Giants, you have to consider the 1993 season. The Giants had a great team and had built up a huge nine game lead against the Braves. The Braves were able to make a huge trade (for Fred McGriff) without giving up too much. In the second half of the season, the Braves were scorching hot while the Giants were not. Towards the end of the season, the Braves caught and overtook the Giants. The Giants were able to catch up with the Braves. The last weekend of the season, the Giants had a four game series on the road versus the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and the Braves had a home series versus the expansion Rockies, who they hadn’t lost to all season. Barry Bonds willed the Giants to beat the Dodgers the first three games of the series. In the forth game, manager Dusty Baker started rookie pitcher Salomon Torres. Torres hadn’t done well all season and this proved to be a huge mistake as the Dodgers beat the heck out of them. With the Braves beating the Rockies again, it was the end of the Giants’ season. On a side note, this pennant race is what prompted the (idiot) Commissioner Bud Selig to add another division, another round of play-offs, and inter league play. While I do recognize that the Giants missed the play-offs and that they did have an excellent team with 103 wins, as painful as it is for me to admit, the Giants did not deserve to make the play-offs. This is why they didn’t make it in. So, yes, the Dodgers did keep the Giants from going to the play-offs, and that is the sad reality of life.

In 1991, the Giants shutout the Dodgers behind Trevor Wilson on the last day of the season to keep them from a one game play-off versus the Braves. Why is it that the Braves seem to benefit the most, going to the play-offs, while the Giants and Dodgers knock each other out? I don’t have an answer, other than that’s just the way history goes.

The one other significant Giants-Dodgers series took place in the middle of September 1997. Of course, there were other ones, but this is one that I remember quite fondly. The Giants and Dodgers were fighting each other for the division, and there was a crucial two game series at the ‘Stick in the middle of the week. The Giants were two games back of the Dodgers, who were in first place. The Giants and Dodgers played a very tight game in the first game of the series with the Giants winning, 2-1. The second game was “a game for the ages.” It went back and forth and ended up in extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Giants reliever Rod Beck, who was having a so-so year, came in to pitch. He gave up three straight hits to load the bases. The crowd was howling for Beck to be removed from the game and for his head, if the Dodgers took the lead. Beck bore down, struck out the first hitter, and got the next hitter, the dangerous Eddie Murray, to hit into an inning-ending double play. The game went on into the bottom of the thirteenth inning, and up came catcher Brian Johnson. Johnson hit a line drive home run on the first pitch turning him into a Bay Area folk hero along with Mike Ivie, who I mentioned earlier.

Well, that is one thing about being a baseball fan, the pendulum will always swing one way or another. While I am disappointed that the Giants lost two out of three to the Dodgers last weekend, I can already see in the schedule that the Dodgers will be at the Giants’ ballpark for three games on June 28-30, and hopefully, we can give it back to them. Hope to see you at the park… if not in June, hopefully before then…

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  1. tom

    April 27, 2010 at 12:22 am

    That first picture is not Bobby Thomson, it’s the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski scoring the winning run after homering to beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series

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