Bay Area sets sights back to orange and black
With football in rearview, San Francisco's 'most cherished team' returns to diamond
Just like that, San Francisco is a Giants town. The team of the Two Willies, Barry and now Buster also rules the Bay Area, which includes seven million folks stretching beyond the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, Oakland to the east and San Jose to the south.
Giants, Giants, Giants.
Everything associated with orange and black now rocks Northern California as much as earthquakes.
This has nothing to do with the San Francisco 49ers just losing the Super Bowl, by the way. This has everything to do with the ongoing appeal of the Giants, owners of a gorgeous ballpark that is stuffed for every game with colorfully loud fans.
I mean, where else can you find grown people dressed in panda hats to honor Giants third baseman Pablo "Panda" Sandoval?
The Giants have two of the most entertaining announcers (Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow) in sports. Oh, and Jon Miller, known as the official "Voice of the Giants," is a nationally renowned and award-winning broadcaster.
They've also won the World Series twice in three years.
If that isn't enough, they still have Buster (as in catcher Buster Posey, the reigning National League Most Valuble Player) and other nice pieces to make a run at a third world championship in four years.
This is some feat for the Giants. I'm speaking, not only when it comes to their dominance in baseball as of late, but to their ability to capture the title of the Bay Area's most cherished team.
There are the Raiders, the Athletics and the Warriors of Oakland in the professional ranks. There also are the Earthquakes and the Sharks of San Jose. And, if you include the college ranks, Stanford and Cal have a slew of diehard followers in several sports.
Then there are the 49ers -- always the 49ers.
Ever since the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco after the 1957 season, the 49ers have been their fiercest competition in the city for "team of the heart" honors. That's because the 49ers were the Bay Area's first pro franchise in 1946 in the old All-America Football Conference before they joined the NFL in 1950.
The 49ers spent the Giants' first decade or so in San Francisco through the 1960s with a couple of fancy quarterbacks -- Y. A. Tittle and then John Brodie. Despite mediocre to bad results, those 49ers were entertaining, and they were among the first users of the shotgun offense.
In contrast, the Giants went through the 1960s with star power everywhere, beginning with the two Willies: Mays and McCovey, both prolific sluggers along the way to the Hall of Fame. They had plenty of company in the clubhouse when it came to future Cooperstown guys.
Juan Marichal. Gaylord Perry. Orlando Cepeda.
Those Giants teams were only a tease, though. They won more games during the 1960s than anybody in baseball not named the Baltimore Orioles, but they never captured a world championship. They reached just one World Series. That was in '62, when they lost to the New York Yankees during a seventh game for the ages in San Francisco.
Those Giants finished second five straight years to end the decade, but at least they were better than the 49ers.
So advantage, Giants, for the 1960s.
The 1970s were a draw. Although both the Giants and the 49ers began the decade with promise (the Giants winning the old NL West in '71 and the 49ers taking three straight division titles through '72), they both were mostly brutal the rest of the way.
Oakland was the Bay Area rage in the 1970s. The Athletics managed three consecutive world championships through 1974, and the Raiders were consistent terrors in the NFL. They also won a Super Bowl in '77. Plus, out of nowhere, the Warriors snatched their only NBA title as Bay Area residents during the '74-75 season.
The 1980s? Practically all 49ers, with Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott collecting Vince Lombardi trophies like crazy, though the Giants did make an NL Championship Series appearance in 1987 and won the NL pennant in '89 before getting swept by the A's in the famous "earthquake" Series.
And the 49ers continued as the people's choice in the Bay Area into the 1990s, with a dynasty that switched to Steve Young leading the way. The Giants were a mess around that time, and it went beyond their issues in the standings. With attendance dwindling at windy and chilly Candlestick Park, they nearly moved to Tampa.
Then, prior to the 1993 season, San Francisco baseball was saved when Peter Magowan bought the team, Barry Bonds signed with the Giants, Dusty Baker was hired as manager and the team won 103 games to finish two games shy of topping the Atlanta Braves for the division title.
Still, it took the turn of the century to trigger the Giants' steady and dramatic rise toward national significance.
Thus, Bay Area superiority.
For one, Bonds became even more of an unstoppable force, and so did his teammates to reach the 2002 World Series. They lost to the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels, but you get the point.
For another, the Giants left Candlestick Park for AT&T Park after the 1999 season, and suddenly, all things were possible for the kayakers in McCovey Cove behind the right-field wall. You also had everything from the majestic statues of former San Francisco Giants great players in Willie Mays Plaza to playing conditions more conducive for baseball than skiing to inspire the home team to function better.
The AT&T momentum hasn't stopped for the Giants. In fact, there is no end in sight -- to the chagrin of their Bay Area counterparts.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.