As a young boy, my earliest and lasting memories as a SF Giants fan were the resounding cheers for the heroes of ’62: Cepada, McCovey, and Mays—but especially Mays.
He didn’t have to do anything but come to the plate and have his name announced and Candlestick Park would quake.
I’ve never really experienced anything live at any baseball game that could ever come close to the roar Mays could inspire.
Maybe I just haven’t been to the right games in person.
But yesterday I was. Game 1 NLDS, Braves and Giants, Tim Lincecum’s first post-season start.
That’s when I heard it again: AT&T Park reached and surpassed the mythic roar of my Candlestick.
Electric crowd? It was practically nuclear. When the focus is all on Lincecum, the wunderkind pitcher, it’s not just a sporadic burst of cheers every nine batters for a star like Mays. It’s pitch by pitch throughout the entire game. And just as in the days of old, before the baseball gods created the closer, Lincecum pitched the entire game (119 pitches).
Lincecum’s dominance really was quite deceptive. In retrospect, there’s no question that to the Braves, Lincecum was untouchable. But when you’re at the game, the electricity is like an unbroken circuit. You’re living and dying with every pitch, and totally in the moment. Dominance isn’t a reality until the last out is recorded. And then you look back and realize the Freak has 14 strikeouts, and by golly, the Giants one run has held up.
The 14 K’s were the most in franchise history since the ’62 Giants, when it was ace Jack Sanford who rung up 10 Yankees.
I was happy to hear the stat, mostly because it brought up the name of an oft forgotten Giant.
Sanford who passed away in 2000 at age 70, was another favorite of mine. He won 16 consecutive games in 1962 to propel the Giants to the pennant that year. Normally, Juan Marichal’s name comes up when people remember the arms of ’62. But to me Sanford was the guy that year, his only really stellar year.
As the Giants surged to win the NL West on the last day of the season, there was lots of talk about 62. But few, if any, ever mentioned Sanford, until Lincecum took the mound tonight.
This was just Lincecum’s first outing, a harbinger of more greatness to come, as if two Cy Young awards in his first two full years didn’t already indicate that. Lincecum had a rough August, but his return to form in September continues into October.
He’s got his Filipino side in him working again.
Next for the Giants comes Matt Cain, then Jonathan Sanchez. And Madison Bumgarner. And Lincecum again. And when they tire, Brian Wilson and the bearded and unbearded pen lay in waiting.
With those arms maybe all you do need is a couple of hits, a walk, and a run scored on a double play. (The Giants have 159 or so of those this year).
I’m almost as old as the number on Timmy’s back. But I haven’t felt this way about baseball since I was a kid.
On Thursday, I saw it, and heard it. I’m going back for more.