World Series a Giant Hit

One: Culture Wars

Having declared the Texas Rangers World Series Champions, the national sports media turned from baseball to the so-called “Culture War,” that faux political/cultural event that never happened and never stops happening: SF vs. Dallas, Summer of Love vs. decades of militarism, etc.

They don’t want to talk about the Giants; they don’t know what to say.

Two: A Hipster’s World

Even though he has not yet become a full-fledged Mission hipster, Giant starting pitcher Tim Lincecum gets plenty of pre-game interviews. That’s because no one is more “Culture War” than our Timmy.

Brian Wilson’s fans wear fake beards; Pablo Sandoval’s fans wear cute panda hats. Your fans wear “Let Timmy Smoke. %^$ Yeah” T-shirts. How do you explain that?”

What do you want him to say? Or do you want him to give up a single to the first batter he faces, then a walk to the second? He must be amped beyond his usual head-spinning self. Lincecum “brain-farts” on the base paths, but the Rangers only score once. What angst. What agony!

Three: Hitting the Unhittable

Meanwhile, check out Texas pitcher Cliff Lee, pitching as advertised. Other than a Freddy Sanchez double, the Giants got nada.

Until the third inning. Up 2-0 after another Lincecum stress test in the second, Lee hums like a drone over Pakistan. With one little problem. He can’t seem to get his curveball or slider to go where he wants. So he adjusts, throws nothing but fastballs and cutters. Not a good idea, as first Freddy Sanchez, then Buster Posey, can sense what’s coming and connect to tie the game.

The party on the banks of Mission Creek begins bouncing off the rocks, as thousands of fans who can’t pay thousands of dollars to get into the ballpark have come outside to cheer the Giants. It’s a beautiful night, though high clouds are drifting in. “Looks like rain,” says a guy sitting near the statue of Willie McCovey.

Four: The Ohlone Way

We’ve come from the Mission, Excelsior, Daly City, San Mateo, Stockton and as far away as Fresno to party outside the walls of the ballpark. We sit on the grass and the rocks, barbecuing, drinking, listening to Kuip and Kruk, taking pictures of each other taking pictures.

“It’s not going to rain,” says Pablo. “The Ohlone will decide when it will rain.” The Ohlone (the indigenous who lived here before the Spanish arrived in 1776)?

“Yes,” he says. “The Ohlone spirits are here with us.” With the Giants? Dumb question.

But I don’t know how dumb until Andres Torres hits a double in the fifth inning and Freddy Sanchez follows with his third double of the night. That’s more doubles than he’s hit all year! Lee throws cutters and fastballs, fastballs and cutters; Buster Posey strikes out. Lee tries his breaking ball again and walks Pat Burrell. So Lee sends nothing but fastballs to Cody Ross, on the high outside corner of the strike zone. Three in a row, same pitch, same place. No fool, Cody knows what’s coming and what to do.

Five: The Uribe Way

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter came up empty against him in New York, but Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez slap Lee around like he’s pitching batting practice. Who are these guys? Maybe Lee remembers Aubrey Huff; if not, he will remember Huff’s single, the hit that drives him to the showers.

Imagine scoring five runs off Cliff Lee! Nothing can beat this. Oh yeah?

Darren O’Day will pitch to Juan Uribe. A sidearm pitcher, O’Day misses outside with two slow sliders. Then he tries a slow fastball over the inside half of the plate. Uribe has already begun his swing. He extends his arms, rolls his hands and hits the ball directly with the fat part of the bat. A three-run home run!

Six: Group Think

The question was not whether the Giants could hit Cliff Lee; obviously impossible. The real question was would the Giants hit at all. Yuk yuk.

Like political reporting, sportswriting tends toward group think. It’s easier that way; also more acceptable to the group. Giant hits don’t fit the story line. San Francisco is supposed to be a city of peaceniks.

But the Rangers were used as a platform to launch George W. Bush into the presidency. Does that mean they are more likely to be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, rather than find a way to come home?

Seven: A Freaky Farewell

Ian Kinsler can’t answer that question now. It’s the top of the sixth inning, and he’s hacking away at Lincecum. Six, seven, eight pitches. Timmy had struck out the first two batters he faced; had Kinsler down one ball and two strikes before walking him on the tenth pitch.

Two outs and two strikes on a relatively weaker batter poses a problem for Lincecum. He often seems to let up, which is a big mistake, because once lost…. Tim walks off after two more Ranger runs. So concludes one of the more surreal “pitching duels” in World Series history.

Eight: Welcome to Giants Baseball

Edgar Renteria’s triple opens the bottom of the eighth inning, in which the Giants score another three runs on hits by Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz. By the time the ninth starts, we’re almost partied out. Eleven runs!

No worries about “torture” tonight, not with a seven-run lead. Really?

Two Giant pitchers put three runners on base; two Ranger hitters knock them in. Not torture, but tense enough. Please Brian, it’s only the first game. Wilson stares into the camera. Nods. OK.

Nine: If it’s Not the Yankees, Is it Baseball?

By harping on a vague and vapid Culture War, the national sports media avoided discussing real baseball, not to mention real politics, and so failed to anticipate the first story of the Series: One reason the Giants don’t hit consistently well is because they don’t wait for a good pitch; they are “free swingers.” Against a pitcher like Lee who throws nothing but strikes, that weakness can be a strength. It was tonight.

Too bad they won’t hit like that every night.

True, but that may not be necessary.

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Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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