THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: World Series Journal — Brad Eastland Reporting

October 31, 2010
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      I hereby apologize—both retroactively and in advance—if I either have already or will, subsequent to this column finding voice, annoy anyone on Earth during this foul fortnight we provincial American snobs call the World Series.

      Normally I’m a fairly pleasant, digestible guy.   Especially during the World Series.   But this time it’s serious business.   I have skin in the game this time, so it’s serious and tense and I know I may irritate a friend or lover or two.


Madison Bumgarner: Don't throw this "Bum" out.

      Because the Giants are involved.   My Giants.   The San Francisco Giants, who have not won the World Series since…..well, ever.   They’ve never won the World Series.   And they’ve been playing big-league baseball by the Bay since 1958.

      Anyway, I’ve been trying to get this emotional monkey off my back for several decades now, and when it’s the Giants I do get a little wiggy during a close game, so if I’ve annoyed anybody I know, or am about to, sorry about that.   Can’t be helped.

      I thought it might be fun to jot my thoughts down as the action is happening or just after it happens.  Game by game.   Here goes.




      Can’t wait.   Can’t wait.   Can’t wait can’t wait can’t wait.   Will this be the very first World Series Championship in San Francisco Giants history? I ask myself.   My son Rob is just as curious.   He’s watching the game with me.   And he NEVER watches baseball with me.   Several reasons.   For one thing, he’s more musician than sportsman.   For another, he is leery of hanging out with his normally calm and digestible dad when the latter is melting down in front of a Giants game.   And lastly, he hates the way I nervously niggle the pitches up to the plate in slow motion using the remote control.  (see last week’s column on the semi-scientific subject of niggling: )

      Sure enough I start niggling pitches right away.   “Dad, don’t niggle!” the lad cries.   I’m still bigger than him (for the moment) so I pay him little heed.   As always, it works.   Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, and Nelson Cruz can’t buy a hit off me.

      Rob doesn’t buy it.   “That niggling stuff doesn’t work, you know.   Why do you do it?”

      “You have to try everything, son,” I exclaim, alluding to the Giants’ sad, sorry, bad-luck-laden post-season history.  “Niggling, heavy despair, compression, drinking, praying, everything.   If I knew for sure it’d work I’d run naked down the street right now yelling ‘One if by land, two if by sea’!”   We both break into sobs of laughter.   Unfortunately for Rob he is eating crackers at the time, and a couple of them come back up and out his nose….

      But suddenly I’m not laughing and the very 1st inning is only five minutes old, when S.F. starter Tim Lincecum makes perhaps the dumbest, most inexplicably brain dead play in World Series history.   He fields a nubber along the 3rd base line, Michael Young of Texas stupidly wanders off 3rd base and is out from here to Christmas, Lincecum calmly runs him back towards 3rd base, Juan Uribe is waiting for the throw, waiting, waiting…..but he never throws the ball.   His brain just totally stopped working.   Young, much to his surprise, is allowed to return safely to the 3rd base bag.   Even the announcers don’t know what to make of it.   The kid must have thought the bases were loaded (they weren’t), and that Young was out automatically.   Lincecum’s recent marijuana bust jumps into my head, and no doubt into everyone else’s.   Maybe the kid keeps a stash in his locker.   I stare at the TV like I am an American soldier who has just arrived at a German concentration camp.   Then I scream my frustration, as if pierced by an arrow.   My dog Monte flees the room.   He thinks I’m yelling at Rob.   Which I don’t do.   But he just assumes I am because Rob is the only other person in the room, and he knows he hasn’t done anything wrong.   He goes and hides under the bed.   He does that a lot.

      Rob starts laughing again; no crackers this time, but he does drool water and spit all over his shirt and pants.   And my carpet.   He doesn’t care.   He never does.   Fortunately the Rangers don’t score.   It’s 2 to nothing.   “Dad, I wish you could have seen your face when Lincecum choked and didn’t throw that guy out,” Rob says.   Me too.

      The Giants tie the score in the 3rd off the supposedly invincible Cliff Lee.   This is no small feat.   Lee is possibly the best post-season pitcher in baseball history, at least statistically.   He is 7-0 in his career in post-season play, with the 3rd-best ERA ever, a microscopic 1.26.   He’s a stud, as they say down on the farm.

      But then in the 5th, something weird happens.   Something unprecedented.   The Giants’ bats go crazy.

      You must understand that the Giants have not been a very good hitting team for most of this season.   They have only scored more than four runs in a game ONCE since mid-September.   They swing at a lot of pitches in the dirt, and hit into way too many double plays.   And they are slow afoot.   The very idea of them cobbling together a big inning off of Cliff Lee is preposterous.

      But Freddie Sanchez doubles in a run.   Pat Burrell draws a walk.   Then, with two out, the over-achieving and emerging folk hero Cody Ross singles up the middle.   Aubrey Huff singles up the middle as well.   It’s like I’m playing a video game!   Suddenly its 5-to-2, and the mighty Cliff Lee has been driven to the showers!   It is beyond belief!

      My sister Marji just texted me.  (She’s very funny, by the way.)   She writes, simply, “Lee’s a hack.”   Too bad that girl’s not on TV.   She might be the best broadcaster in America and yet nobody will ever know it.

      A relief pitcher comes in and the first batter to face him, Juan Uribe, blasts a Gigantic (get it?), mammoth, tremendous, way-beyond-great-life-affirming-there-is-a-god variety of home run into the left field stands.   Three more runs.   It’s 8-to-2.   I almost black out.   Rob is laughing so hard that no sounds are coming from his body….he recovers and devours a popsicle.

      Final score?   Giants 11, Texas 7.   And the game wasn’t really that close.   ‘Couple of garbage runs for Texas in the 9th.   It’s a bay city carnival.

      I have been watching baseball for over 45 years.   This is the happiest, the giddiest, the most fun I have ever had watching a baseball game.   Ever.   In my whole life.   Period.  

      I thank Rob profusely for watching the entire game with his old dad.   A quintessential father/son moment.   I nearly cry.   He nods, yawns, and goes into my office to pull up some heavy metal videos on YouTube….




      Pitcher’s dual.   Totally the opposite of Game One.   Matt Cain and C.J. Wilson are both brilliant.   It’s no score in the 5th when the Rangers’ 2nd-baseman Ian Kinsler slams a monstrous drive to deep center off Cain, over 400 feet….and it hits the top of the wall.   And I mean the very top of the wall, as in the flat shelf of the top of the fence.   And amazingly, it does not go over the wall for a home run!!!   All of Nature’s laws for governing force and motion have been reversed.   I replay the ball hitting the wall about a hundred times, and indeed it hits on the top of this flat horizontal shelf, but instead of going over the fence for a home run it bounces straight up in the air, no doubt due to the excessive backspin on the ball, and somehow floats BACK INTO the park for a long double.   Has to be it.   Or maybe the baseball gods really are with the 2010 Giants?   There’s no one out, but Cain bears down and retires the Rangers without surrendering the run.   Unbelievable!   I’m catatonic.   I’m confused.

      My dog is getting really anxious.   He hates it when I yell and scream and gesticulate wildly at the TV.   “You want a biscuit, Monte?” I ask.   He says yes.   Sits up, begs, woofs, pleads with his eyes, the usual.   As I stuff the hard crusty treat into his soft eager mouth I say, “Maybe this will bring the Giants good luck, boy!   Hm?”   Sure enough, and right away, the 34-year-old-and-supposedly-washed-up Edgar Renteria hits a huge home run down the line in left.   One to nothing.   Renteria hadn’t had an extra-base hit in 5 weeks.   I swear it happened just this way.   It was me giving that dog a biscuit.   But I’m no fool.   You can’t draw water from that same well twice.   Monte will get no more treats from me this whole evening, lest I jinx the good Karma he just provided me.

      And now Cain gets out of another jam in the 6th.   And then Juan Uribe singles in Ross in the 7th.   It’s 2 to nothing!   Only two innings left to suffer through.   This really can’t be happening….can it?

      Cain allows a walk and a stolen base in the 8th, is removed from the game, and leaves to a thunderous ovation.   He has gone 21 and a third innings in the post season without giving up an earned run.   Suddenly he is the legendary Christy Mathewson striding off the mound for the Giants, a colossus, a Giant among Giants.   Indeed, his numbers are the greatest for any Giants pitcher in the post season since Mathewson….and that was in 1905!   A century ago.   Teddy Roosevelt was president.   Actor-president Reagan wasn’t even born yet.   Heroin was legal.   Women voting for president was not legal.   Must have been quite a decade, the nineteen-oughts….Anyway, it has been that long since a Giants pitcher has done what Cain is doing.

      But there is still one on and two out in the 8th.   The lead is only 2 to nothing.   The tying run is at the plate.   Need to get one more batter.   No problem.   Javier Lopez, a nasty, side-arming lefty from hell, easily retires the American League’s best player, Josh Hamilton, and we head to the bottom of the 8th still up 2-0.

     And the Giants score seven runs.

      I can’t believe the baseball gods have allowed me to type those words.   A seven-run 8th inning, in front of a delirious, euphoric, apoplectic home crowd.   Some scared-to-death Rangers pitcher named Derek Holland just threw 13 pitches….and 12 of them were balls.   Yep, 12 of the only 13 pitches he threw were outside the strike zone.   Walked three guys in a row.   How’s he gonna explain that to his grandchildren?   Marji just texted again: “This guy Holland….how did he GET this job?   I don’t get it.”   The girl’s a genius.   Anyway, Holland just exited to mock cheers.   Another reliever, another walk.   It’s 4 to nothing.   No team has ever walked four straight batters in World Series history….till now.   Renteria slaps a 2-run single.   Aaron Rowand blasts a 2-run triple to the 421-ft sign in right-center.   The world is spinning out of control!   It’s just like the 5th inning of Game One!   I just poured myself a tasty, relaxing glass of merlot.   A double by Andres Torres makes it 9 to nothing.   That’s the final score.   The Giants bullpen shuts the door in the 9th.

      I expect good pitching from the Giants.   They had the most strikeouts, the lowest ERA, and the lowest batting average allowed of any team in baseball.   They surely have the best pitching staff in all the land.   But this offensive explosion is very confusing.   As stated above, this is a team that had trouble scoring runs all year long.   Yet the Giants have suddenly scored TWENTY RUNS in TWO GAMES.   They have totally destroyed Rangers pitching, and totally shut down the Rangers’ vaunted offensive juggernaut.   They have totally humiliated the Rangers in every aspect of the game.   The Rangers look scared stiff, nervous as a wide-eyed White House intern or a buxom Jets sideline reporter, an error-making, walk-issuing, swinging-and-missing embarrassment.   It is the much maligned and oft-disrespected Giants who are the only ones making great plays in the field, pitching like a veritable platoon of Mathewsons, and putting together tough, resourceful at-bats.   They are only two games away from winning their first World Series, ever.

      Is it literally as if the baseball gods are paying me back all at once, for the 45 years of utter torture they have put me through….

      A 6-run inning yesterday.   A 7-run inning tonight.   The two highest-scoring innings in the World Series in Giants history.   This can’t be happening.   Game Two is now officially the second most fun baseball game I have ever witnessed.   The Giants lead the World Series two games to none.   I have entered Baseball Nirvana….




      Here it is.   A chance to bury them.   Only one team (the 2004 Red Sox) has ever come back from being down three games to none in a post-season series, so obviously this is huge.

      But on the mound for the Giants is Jonathan Sanchez, who, the last time he pitched, last week against the Phillies in the NLCS, had an anxiety attack on the mound.   In his only two innings of “work” that day, he allowed three hits, walked two, threw a wild pitch, hit a batter, and to add lunacy to injury then yelled at the poor batter he’d just hit.   Giants manager Bruce Bochy removed him from the game immediately.   Good manager, that Bruce.  (he’s my age)

      Sure enough, in the 2nd inning, Sanchez grooves a batting-practice fastball to Mitch Moreland, the rangers’ #9 hitter, and he crushes it to right for a 3-run homer.   Moreland had fouled off four 2-strike pitches in a row before delivering this fatal blow.   It’s tough being a Giants fan.

      Naturally I yell out a curse word or two.    Monte goes and hides under the bed again.   This time he thinks I’m fighting with my girlfriend.  He hates it when I fight with my girlfriend.   I’m not, of course.   In fact she’s doing her best to soothe me and encourage me and calm me down.   But Monte thinks I’m yelling at her.   He’s a very sensitive little fellow.

      No point in dragging this out.   The Rangers just wrapped it up, final score 4-to-2, in a game that really wasn’t that close.    A couple of late home runs made it respectable.   Cody Ross hit one of them, but even his folk-hero magic couldn’t carry over to the rest of the team.   This was the old Giants out there tonight, the Giants I know; swinging at bad pitches, grounding into double plays, striking out in bunches.   Left fielder Pat Burrell struck out FOUR TIMES in this game.   That’s all you need to know.   I knew it was too good to be true.

      What a lousy way to blow a good bottle of Cabernet….



      My girlfriend (Roxanne) wanted to watch Game Four with me.   Despite what a pain in the ass I had been to be around in Game Three.   I told her (or should I say warned her) that that might not be such a good idea.   I tried to explain that this was the key game, that whoever wins will probably win the series, and that I might be, uh, shall we say, somewhat difficult to be around, but she remained steadfast.

      Monte made no pretense at being steadfast.   Once he could tell I was watching a baseball game, he ran and hid under the bed right away.   After the noise, tension, yelling, screaming, and general chaos of games one, two, and three, the poor pooch had had enough.   I don’t blame him.

      Fortunately for Roxanne I was only an irritating son of a bitch for about two innings.   Because in the 3rd, Aubrey Huff launched a 2-run homer to right and the Giants had the lead.   Turns out that’s all they would need.   Their starting pitcher, a 21-year-old aw-shucks kid from North Carolina named Madison Bumgarner—a lad with a cinematic Southern drawl to go with his distinctively Southern name—was masterful.   He gave the Giants eight innings and did not surrender a run.   The Rangers could manage only three base hits all night, all singles.   He is the youngest rookie to ever throw eight shut-out innings in his first World Series start.   Amazing.

      Buster Posey homered as well, and as you probably saw that the Giants won 4-to-nothing.   The Rangers thus became the first team since the 1966 Dodgers to be held scoreless in at least two games in a single World Series.   The only tense moment for me came around the 6th inning, when the Chinese food I ordered arrived at my door.   It was delivered to me by (not surprisingly) a Chinese guy.   He was very nice, but spoke in broken English because he was, after all, Chinese.

      He said, “How ‘you tonight, sir?” as he handed me my bag of orange chicken and broccoli beef.  

      “Fine,” I replied, “We’re just watching the baseball game.”

      “Oh!” he exclaimed with glee; “How ‘the Rangers doing?”

      Not how is the game going or what’s the score.   But rather, how are the Rangers doing.

      I don’t mind so much that most of the announcers, sports writers, and people I know are rooting for the Rangers and picking the Rangers to win and are over-the-moon crazy for the Rangers.   But the Chinese delivery guy???   It’s tough being a Giants fan….

      The Giants just might have the last laugh after all.   They now lead the series three games to one.   They only need to win one more game.   One more game.

      Thanks to Bumgarner.   Y’know, Bochy took some heat when he put the 21-year-old on the playoff roster, and left the Giants’ highest paid pitcher, the veteran Barry Zito, off.   But I gotta hand it to Bochy.   He was right about Bumgarner.   In fact, he’s pushed all the right buttons so far.   He has definitely out-managed Rangers skipper and reformed cocaine user Ron Washington in this series.   Interesting anecdote about Bochy: They say he has the biggest head in baseball.   Literally.   Even a size 8 doesn’t fit him.  When Bochy joined the Mets as a player back in 1982 they didn’t even have a batting helmet big enough to fit him, so they had to send away for the one he wore in the minors.   I’m not kidding.

      With the Giants up three games to one, I wonder how big his head is now.

      So that’s it.   I’m turning in this column in a few minutes.   As of this writing I have no idea if the Giants are champs or chumps.   Could they still choke away a three-games-to-one lead?   Sure.   It’s the Giants.   But it’s unlikely.   Anyway, as you read this, I have no idea if the 2010 World Series will be a monumental scratching off of an item on my bucket list, or yet another deep depressing dagger to the Sports Philosopher’s troubled heart.

      Forty-five years of waiting.   One more game.

      Pray for me, LaVerne Nation.   Pray for me.

      Time for a relaxing glass of merlot….if they win, I may have two.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0029

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and unabashed San Francisco Giants fan—in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the fascinating links below:





One Response to “THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: World Series Journal — Brad Eastland Reporting”

  1. For your sake, Rob, Marji and Roxanne, I wish Good Luck for the Giants!


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