Thursday, October 28, 2010

Say Hey, Giants Fans Show Their Wistful Side

With the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series, here is a look back a couple of years at an article where fans talk about their love of the New York Baseball Giants - Editor

From New York Times
April 14, 2008


The members of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society know this: Their team’s history is just as rich as that of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Their Giants won more pennants and World Series titles than the Dodgers did.

They had Christy Mathewson, John J. McGraw and Willie Mays.

Yet these 60 or 70 Ottophiles, nearly all men — and mostly of a certain demographic that saw those Giants play — cannot stir a revolution.

They cannot alter this irrefutable fact: They long ago lost the nostalgia battle to Pee Wee and the Duke, as well as to Jackie Robinson’s civil rights breakthrough, and to the deep connection between the Dodgers and their borough and the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series victory.

For half a century, the Dodgers have bathed in waves of wistfulness denied the Giants, who have no match for the Boys of Summer sobriquet created by Roger Kahn in his elegiac 1971 memoir.

“Very few are standing up for Buck Ewing and Amos Rusie,” said the historian John Thorn, referring to a couple of antique Giants Hall of Famers.

Consider this outrage: The Mets used Ebbets Field, particularly its rotunda (named for Robinson), as an architectural model for their new Citi Field. No recognition has yet been accorded the quirky home of the Giants.

“They didn’t incorporate any of the Polo Grounds in the design,” Steven Rappaport, a member of the society, who grew up among Dodgers fans in Flatbush, said during the nostalgia society’s meeting last Thursday.

“Maybe it’s a good thing,” he added. “You couldn’t duplicate it.”

Still, even if he is forgiving, it is a sore point. “Another example that we don’t get no respect,” said Bill Kent, the society’s president, who as a youngster turned turnstiles at the Polo Grounds (to earn his way into the ballpark by the fourth inning) or sneaked in (over a fence behind home plate).

The old Giants fans must deal with a bit of accidental history. The Dodgers left behind a fan named Fred Wilpon, who became the owner of the Mets.

Perry Barber, one of the few women in the society, hopes Citi Field’s green seats are meant to evoke the Polo Grounds. Not that she feels that’s equitable. “Will only true Giants aficionados like me know that this is the unspoken tribute to our hallowed ground of which the Mets have omitted any mention?” said Barber, an umpire at numerous levels.

But the society will not be picketing in Flushing.

“We’re a quiet protest group,” Kent said.

The group charges no dues, publishes no newsletter, has no Web site and lobbies no one. It meets to schmooze with comrades in history.

“I want to live in the past in baseball,” said Keith Danish, a former Manhattanite who wore a Giants cap and shirt to the meeting.

“My father was a fan of Matty’s and McGraw’s and was 67 when I was born. This puts me in touch with him.”

About 60 members of the society gathered in folding seats for their occasional get-together, in an Episcopal church in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. The author Frank Deford discussed his recent book, “The Old Ball Game,” about the influence of McGraw’s Giants on modern baseball.

“You all know more about the Giants than I do,” he confessed in his oration, which touched at one point on the team’s winning streak in 1916.

“You all know the Giants still hold the record for the most consecutive wins in a season,” Deford said. “Twenty-six.”

“That’s the New York Giants,” Rappaport reminded him.

The departure of the Giants left their fans with a sense of loss no less acute than that felt by Dodgers fans, but not as widely disseminated.

“I was stationed in Europe in 1957,” said Jerry Liebowitz, who grew up in Englewood, N.J. “I got all my information from Stars and Stripes, and from letters from my mother and father with articles and pictures from the New York papers. When I got back in ’58, they were gone. I felt so empty.”

Some still resent Horace Stoneham, the Giants’ owner, for following the Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to California. Others have accepted his motives.

“Stoneham was O’Malley’s willing lackey,” said Rappaport, who is firmly in the anti-Stoneham camp.

“He was a lackey, but he was forced,” Liebowitz said.

He saw a good business opportunity,” said George Sommerfeld, who grew up in Manhattan. “The Giants and Dodgers took over the West Coast.”

“Everything fell into Stoneham’s lap,” said Gary Brown, who was too young to remember the old Giants but has immersed himself in their history and is writing a book about the 1954 World Series-winning Giants.

“When I got older,” he said, “it became unconditional love.”

And they’re still talking about their first games at the Polo Grounds.

“I was 12, and Mays threw a guy out at home and stole home,” said Harvey Weinberg, originally from the Bronx.

“And on the seventh day, he rested,” Brown said.

George H. Gregor, who used to ride the crosstown bus from the Bronx to the Polo Grounds, honors the Giants of his youth, and McGraw, whose nicknames included Muggsy, in a 200-page baseball poem called “A Ride on the Mendoza Line.” One verse reads:

How is it, you ask, I on Giants teams dwell,
And stop this narration to pause and to tell
Of Muggsy’s exploits that were so long ago
When Coogan’s Bluff’s tenants were hits of the Show?


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