Monday, January 24, 2011
the giants take manhattan
Followers of this blog know that I'm a die-hard Mets fan who bleeds orange and blue through thick and thin. I grew up in the heart of Yankee country, in the New York City suburbs, always having to explain why I followed that other team. Well, readers, it was quite simple; it was because my father grew up following the New York Giants, who called Manhattan home for three-quarters of a century before skipping off to San Francisco in 1957. Dad eventually became a Mets fan when the National League re-established itself here in New York in the early 60s (rooting for the hated Yankees, of course, was never an option). And so, we were a Mets family. But my father always kept the Giants in his heart, and he'd occasionally share stories from his childhood, of catching the bus from our little town down to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and then walking across a bridge into Manhattan to watch the Giants play in their cavernous Polo Grounds, also long gone but not forgotten.
Three years ago I happened upon a newspaper article about a group of old-time New York Giants fans, the kind who still argued about whether Thomson had stolen a sign before his epic shot heard 'round the world, and who sounded a lot like my dad reminiscing about his old team. Not finding much online about the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society, I got in touch with the reporter, who gave me the name of the group's leader, one Bill Kent, of Riverdale, NY. Well, one thing led to another, and I eventually found myself setting Bill up with a listserv so that he could more easily send out notices and share photos and stories with the crew. Since then I've attended a bunch of meetings, sometimes with my father in tow, other times on my own, and I have to say it's always a hoot to hear how passionate these guys are (and it is mostly guys) about the team that abandoned them for sunnier California skies.
And then 2010 happened.
When the San Francisco Giants started getting really good, started looking like playoff contenders, started convincing everyone they might make it to the World Series, a small but devoted group of folks 3,000 miles away from the City by the Bay started feeling the thrill of baseball again. Many of the old timers had remained faithful to the orange and black for all these years. But even those like my father, whose primary allegiance had strayed after the Jints left town, felt a pang of longing for the glory days when, on November 1st, the "fear the beard" crew made it official: the Giants were champions of the world once more.
This weekend, those folks got to be kids all over again. We received word a few weeks ago that the Giants organization had decided to pay tribute to its New York roots by bringing the World Series trophy to the East Coast. Hall of Famer Willie Mays, the Giants' most celebrated ambassador and one of the greatest players to ever don a Major League uniform, thrilled all of Harlem on Friday when he visited a school in his former neighborhood. And the trophy would be on display in midtown the next day for the benefit of Giants fans old and new. In a move of true sportsmanship, the team also invited the Nostalgia Society to a private meeting with not only the trophy, but Giants top brass Bill Neukom (owner) and Brian Sabean (general manager); catcher Buster Posey, the National League's Rookie of the Year; and the "Say Hey Kid" himself, Willie Mays. For guys like my dad, it was like Halloween, Christmas, and your birthday all wrapped into one!
It sure did turn out to be a day to remember. Many of the guys brought their wives and kids, all of whom took turns taking mugshots with the trophy. Everyone was in total awe when Mays came out to greet us, beaming and full of joy. He interviewed Posey for a while and answered questions before signing copies of his biography—which, by the way, the team provided to all of us free of charge. And we heard plenty of stories of old NY Giants memories. It was a moving demonstration of the power that baseball has in bringing people together. While my father and I will continue to hope that the Mets might someday make it back to playoff contention (a girl can dream!), it was truly awesome to have this moment to share with all the other fans in Giants Nation. &infin