Giants vs Bums, father vs son
The first baseball game I ever watched on television took place on the small black and white screen of our family’s faithful Zenith in Rockville, Maryland. It was supper time on October 3, 1962 – the final game date of a dramatic best-of-three showdown between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Outside of our modest home in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the world was on edge, with Dave Scheiber, award-winning journalist and longtime baseball fanlatent tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are about to erupt more than two weeks later in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Inside our house, tensions were also high. An impending crisis of my own making was about to unfold, an event that has become a family tradition through the generations.
Now let’s set the scene: the winner of this series would win the National League pennant and advance to the World Series against the arch-rival of the New York Yankees. And the growing anxiety at home was palpable. When I was a child, I was oblivious to what filled my father with growing angst – that he was a native New Yorker who took the subway to the Polo Grounds in the 1930s to watching his beloved New York Giants, and who participated in a spontaneous celebration on a Manhattan sidewalk in 1951 to the news of Bobby Thomson’s world tour when the Giants beat the Dodgers in another tie-breaker. post-season for the pennant.
The truth is, the significance of the 1962 series, after a tie for first place at the end of the 162-game season, was completely lost to me at 8. But this week, 59 years later, as the Giants and Dodgers fought in the National League Divisional Series, my mind returned to that historic clash.
Although the Giants-Dodgers series in 62 was technically not a playoff – Major League Baseball recorded all three games for posterity as a regular season overtime – it was, in the eyes of history, a post season series. And that makes this NLDS series the first Times these two rivals, who left New York in 1957 as West Coast pioneers, have met in a post-season setting since that momentous night of 1962.
Of course, the evening was memorable for me for reasons that had nothing to do with the game itself.
I had started the day, before going to school, watching a popular Washington-area children’s TV show, Prowler Hal. What I remember from this morning’s episode is that Ranger Hal and his rabbit-led puppet troupe named Oswald did a little musical number that mentioned the Brooklyn Bums – the nickname for the Dodgers from their Ebbets days. Field. In retrospect, The Ranger offered a hot topic related to the Giants-Dodgers critical series. But all that got stuck in my brain was “Bums” and the funny tune that delighted the Dodgers, a team that otherwise wouldn’t have recorded a blip with me.
My only real allegiance to a baseball team at this point was to the expanding Washington Senators. My father had taken me to a few games at the old DC Stadium (later renamed RFK Stadium), and I remember being mesmerized by the sight of the vast expanse of pristine green grass under the bright lights of the stadium. Now, on that fateful day, months later, I was home from school in second grade around 3 p.m. – before the game started at 4 p.m. in the East. And at one point, after I had an early dinner, I joined my dad, who was sitting in the little den that housed our family’s only television. Looking back, I can imagine the pride he must have felt sharing that father-son moment, passing on to me his undying love for the team from his childhood – even with his stomach knotted as the Dodgers rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning.
I’m not sure exactly what prompted me to say the words that came out of my mouth at this critical moment. “I’m in favor of the Bums,” I said without apologizing. I liked the name I heard that morning on TV. And I was ready to proclaim myself a fan of my new favorite team.
To fully understand what happened in the seconds that followed, you have to understand that everyone who knew my father, who passed away in 2014, considered him a balanced, kind voice of reason. He was the City Manager of Rockville who would help guide him to All-American City status; and later the longtime executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, known to calm the spirits among competing local officials – and a man described as an “accomplished diplomat” by Washingtonian magazine when he named him Washingtonian of the Year in 1974. .
“We root the Giants in this family,” I remember his response sternly.
Through the haze of time, I remember holding my pitch to single digits. And what I said next was something akin to a bold, steadfast statement inspired by my TV buddy, Ranger Hal: “I love bums.”
There is no doubt what followed, since I have two sisters who have been eyewitnesses. Completely out of character, my dad barked, “Well then you can go straight to bed. “
Granted, his verdict may seem harsh all these years later. But the passion for sport can lead even the most reasonable people to do things they may regret. I didn’t dispute his call and remember dutifully going to bed several hours earlier – unaware that the Giants then hit back with four runs up ninth at Dodger Stadium to win 6-4 and clinch the pennant.
The next morning, I’m happy to report that cold heads prevailed – no doubt spurred on by my mom who gave my dad an ear after hearing what happened after the fact. My father apologized. I gave up my fleeting support for the Bums and, by liaison, the Dodgers. And within days, I was a full-fledged San Francisco Giants fan – properly deflated when Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson leaped forward from a screaming Willie McCovey liner to end to a potential Giants rally and secure the World Series. victory for New York.
You can’t say I wasn’t a quick learner. And it didn’t take me long to become a full-fledged baseball and sports freak, Washington post every morning in the sports section – and 15 years later I worked for the Post early in a career writing about sports for the St. Petersburg Times, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, and in several books.
My loyalty to the Giants has faded over the years, living in Florida for so long and becoming more allied with the Tampa Bay Rays. But for this series, San Francisco vs. LA 2021, there’s no question who I’m rooted for. This one’s for you, daddy… I love the Giants.
Dave Scheiber is a longtime journalist and freelance writer based in the Tampa Bay area. Scheiber is the winner of numerous national large-circulation writing awards, including a first place at the National Headliner Award for sports reporting and the Associated Press Sports Editors first place for best feature film, as well as co-author of six pounds.