Dog Fight

Dog fight at 5:07PM PDT.

Two historic, storied franchises, Musial versus Mays, set to duke it out old school in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. A rubber match of sorts. 1987 to the Cards, 2002 to the Giants. 2012?

Who will it be tonight?

I’m a Giants fan granted the thrill of a World Series win just two years ago. Still on a high from the first San Francisco win. But I’m a baseball fan, too, and those are different things.

The Giants fan wants black and orange to prevail. The baseball fan wants a clean game, no questionable calls, no errors, a fair fight and a solid feeling that the best team won.

My Giants fan wants Marco Scutaro to tear the cover off the ball so Matt Holliday knows never to try a late slide take-out hit at second base when he plays my boys; Pam the baseball fan knows it’s part of the game and the baseball gods generally even the score without human intervention.

I want to see outstanding play and know I’m watching the best that the best can deliver out of both dugouts; I also want my team to be just a little bit better.

My baseball fan and Giants fan watch together in stunned admiration of the team that won three championship road games in a row to rally from the brink of elimination in the division play-off.

And here we are tonight. Two teams that evenly split wins during their regular season meet-ups. The St. Louis Cardinals, a team built to clobber every other with outstanding hitting and a filthy bullpen loaded with 100mph flame-throwers.

My Giants? Can’t categorize them and have it hold from one night to the next. They’re up, they’re down, as soon as one pitcher finds his mojo, another goes MIA. They’ve defied description in the best and worst ways leading the league with errors in the early season, turning it around with a shortstop holding the best defensive record in baseball. They’ve thrilled fans with MVP play, then sucker-punched them with a crowd favorite suspended for PED use.

My baseball fan knows the San Francisco Giants aren’t supposed to be here tonight. Their closer placed on the DL early in the season went without replacement. The league leader in hits was bounced from the team. Their All-Star catcher, recovering from a near career-ending injury, took off with a slow start. Their award-winning pitcher had an ERA above 5 till the last week of the season, and another All-Star position player spent half the season disabled in two separate stints on the DL.

For the sixth game this post-season, the Giants are on the cusp of elimination. Or maybe, this time, a trip to the World Series. Only 50 times in the history of baseball has a championship series needed all seven games. 50.

For a baseball fan, it doesn’t get better than this. A game of games where both teams are literally playing for their seasonal lives. 162 games, plus five divisional play-off games and six league championship games have been reduced to tonight. A slow, plodding progression over six months ends and begins with a one game frenzy to see who lives and who dies.

We are an hour from the first pitch of the last game that determines who moves on to baseball’s last rung. Two evenly matched pitchers will meet on the field of play. My Giants fan’s throat aches from life on the edge, endless cheering, and shoving my heart back down into place. My baseball fan knows it’s a privilege to see such a match, even greater because my hometown team is a participant.

Tomorrow morning one team will have been victorious, will be shaking off a champagne shower, wearing a World Series cap, and doing a light work-out in prep for game one of the World Series. Their fans will be arranging schedules to attend or watch televised games wearing bright new championship t-shirts; one team will empty lockers as their fans count days till pitchers and catchers report to spring training. 

Cardinals Red? Giants black and orange? In which group of fans will I be? Either way, what a ride, what a ride.

It’s baseball. And I’m reminded of a Rogers Hornsby quote. Win or lose, my baseball fan completely understands. 

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Photo credits to Huffington Post, Sports Illustrated, Getty Images


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