February 22, 2012
The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next is our old pal Dave Tobener, proprietor of Golden Gate Giants and the best Bay Area sports tweeter (@gggiants) around.
1. Tim Lincecum's windup: Every pitch he throws looks like it might break him in half. His small stature belies the ferocity of pitches fueled by a twisting mass of torque and fury he calls a windup. Tim Lincecum is a sight to behold when he pitches, and his mechanics are the definition of contradiction: utter chaos leading to absolute precision. There's nobody like him in baseball. Watching his starts is something every baseball fan should get to experience, but we Giants fans will gladly keep him to ourselves.
2. AT&T Park: I hesitated to include the ballpark because it seemed too obvious, but then I thought it seemed too obvious to not include it. Does that make sense? Anyway, here it is in a nutshell: AT&T Park is the best ballpark in baseball, and Giants fans get to enjoy it all season long. What else is there to say? I could talk about the location, or about McCovey Cove, or that it's not overrun with hokey gimmicks, or that it doesn't have a retractable roof, etc. No need. The ballpark speaks for itself.
3. History is everywhere: If you go to a Giants game, you're immersed in the organization's rich past. Statues of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda greet you when you enter the ballpark. There are plaques lining the port walk by right field commemorating the major events that have happened at AT&T Park, from Barry Bonds' 71st home run to Jason Schmidt's 16-strikeout game in 2006. There's a massive collection of Giants memorabilia on display in the club level, and the 2010 World Series trophy made its way around the park all year long. There's even a tribute to the San Francisco Seals of the old Pacific Coast League, where Joe DiMaggio got his start.
The best part is, the history at the ballpark isn't all just static. Mays and McCovey are regulars at AT&T, often taking part in pregame ceremonies. There's a good chance you'll run into Cepeda himself if you visit his Caribbean BBQ stand out in center field. More recent Giants alumni like Will Clark and J.T. Snow have jobs with the organization and are at the ballpark all the time. Even Shawn Estes sits in the press box from time to time if you feel like yelling at an ex-Giant. There are few teams in baseball who embrace their past as much as the Giants. They're almost obsessive about it, much to the benefit of Giants fans. We're reminded of our team's storied history not just by displays and statues, but by the actual players who created it.
4. Croix de Candlestick buttons: Candlestick Park was a pretty rough place to watch a game at night when the fog rolled in. So rough, in fact, that the Giants decided anyone brave enough to sit through a night game that went into extra innings deserved recognition. And thus the Croix de Candlestick was born, a small orange button with an iced-over SF logo and the Latin phrase Veni, Vidi, Vixi (I came, I saw, I survived) written across the bottom.
Candlestick may be a thing of the past, but the Croix buttons are still coveted today. They're badges of honor, something that shows you were there before the bandwagon exploded and that you know how it felt to suffer through weeknight games against the Montreal Expos with 5,000 other fans in the cold. If you see a guy walking around the concourse of AT&T Park with rows of orange buttons on his cap, you just know that he knows Ernest Riles hit the 10,000th home run in Giants history. That's cool.
5. Kruk and Kuip: The Giants have had some of the best announcers in the business call their games over the years, from Ford C. Frick award winners like Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons and Jon Miller to local legends like Hank Greenwald. Ask most fans who the voice of the Giants really is, though, and you're likely to get a two-person answer: Kruk and Kuip.
Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, two ex-Giants who took up broadcasting when their playing days ended, make up what has to be one of the best announcer teams in all of baseball. Unlike a lot of play-by-play guys, Kuiper lets the game speak for itself and doesn't get caught up in the sound of his own voice. Krukow has perfected his role of color man and offers the insights of a former big-league pitcher, which is welcomed on a team like the Giants that's built around pitching. Together they've developed a rapport that most announcer teams can only dream of, and that's where they really shine. Listening to Kruk and Kuip is like eavesdropping on a casual conversation two players are having in the dugout during a game. Giants fans are spoiled by the quality of announcers we've had over the years, but Kruk and Kuip are the cream of the crop.
6. The uniforms: Classic and clean, free of trendy colors and garish designs, the Giants' uniforms are timeless. I imagine it'd be awful if my team had a bunch of ugly colors or a stupid logo; thankfully, the Giants have stuck with orange and black and it's hard to screw that combination up. The hats are some of the best in the game and haven't changed much since the team moved west in 1958. The home jerseys don't have names on the back, which means you actually have to pay attention to the roster to know who the players are. And to top things off, the Giants are bringing back their beloved 1980s road jersey as an alternate this season, making their uniform set that much better.
7. The Crazy Crab: Before they succumbed to the trend of cuddly animal mascots (I'm looking at you, Lou Seal) the Giants trotted out what is undoubtedly the greatest mascot in sports history: the Crazy Crab. The Crab was an anti-mascot, designed as a spoof of the cartoonish characters that were popping up at ballparks around the country. His sole purpose was to infuriate the fans at Candlestick who were encouraged to despise him; the gimmick worked too well, however, as the Crab was pelted with garbage whenever he'd appear on the field. Things got so dangerous that the costume had to be reinforced with fiberglass, and the Crab was eventually retired after one glorious season.
The Crab still pops up occasionally at the ballpark, including one memorable appearance in 1999 when he took the house microphone and professed his undying love and support for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's still hated by Giants fans, though now it's the good-natured kind of hate normally reserved for someone like Tommy Lasorda. He still shows up on T-shirts, and there are websites devoted to bringing him back on a full-time basis. The very notion of an anti-mascot is inherently San Francisco, an idea that speaks to the subversive culture of The City as a whole. It's something Giants fans can claim as their own, and something fans of other teams wouldn't likely understand. We may tolerate Lou Seal, but secretly we're all hoping to see the Crab show up and knock him unconscious.
8. We still can appreciate Barry Bonds: He may be a pariah everywhere else, but Barry Bonds belongs to San Francisco. For fans like me who didn't get to watch Mays play, Bonds is the most complete player to have ever worn a Giants uniform. For fans that did get to see Mays, Bonds is the closest thing to the Say Hey Kid they've ever seen. It's easy to forget just how good Bonds was even before the cloud of PED suspicion hovered over him. I'd never seen a player with his combination of power, speed and brains who could beat a team in a hundred different ways, and I doubt I ever will again in my lifetime.
Fans of other teams can choose to remember Bonds as a "cheater" who tarnished his legacy and ended up in a courtroom. Fine, that's their loss. Giants fans remember Bonds on the field, and those are some of the best baseball memories anyone could hope to have. There's a reason he still gets a standing ovation when he does something as simple as walk to his seat when he attends home games nowadays. We all know what he did for the Giants, and we know that our ballpark wouldn't have been built without him. Barry Bonds the person may have numerous faults, but Barry Bonds the ballplayer was one of the greatest to have ever played the game. A Giants fan still gets to appreciate that.
9. The community of fans: There's something about being a Giants fan that connects people, whether through misery (see 2002) or euphoria (see 2010). You can say "Jose Cruz Jr." or "Scott Spiezio" to another Giants fan and he'll know exactly what you're talking about and why you're suddenly close to sobbing. You can sit next to a total stranger at a game and quickly find common ground talking about how bad Aubrey Huff was last season. You can log in to Twitter and find a huge, lively contingent of fans discussing all things Giants. There are a number of ways you can experience what it's like being part of the Giants' fan community.
Can the same be said for other fan bases? Probably, but I'm biased. It feels different being a Giants fan, whether it's because of our shared history of past miseries, the chip on our collective shoulder from what we perceive as a lack of respect from the national media, or something else entirely. We're fiercely protective of our team, but not to the point where we overlook its faults. And yes, we were probably insufferable when the Giants won the World Series in 2010. (I'm not apologizing for it.)
Being a Giants fan feels like you're a part of something much, much bigger. And that's a nice feeling to have.
10. We're not Dodgers fans: And really, that is the best thing about being a Giants fan.
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Big League Stew encourages you to join in the fun! Please share these lists with your fellow fans on Facebook, tweet us your suggestions with the #BLS10best hashtag or just use the comment section below to tell us your favorite things about being a fan of the San Francisco Giants.