Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Since 1969, the year my family moved to L.A. from New York, I have personally witnessed one of the most intense sports rivalries in team sports – between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. This rivalry is so special because it’s so old, with great tradition and history behind it. This hate-hate relationship can be traced all the way back to the early 1900’s, when the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers (originally the Robins) fought and scrapped throughout many seasons. Names like John McGraw, Zack Wheat, Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Sal Maglie, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe, Monte Irvin, Bobby Thomson and Duke Snider come to mind when you think about those days. When both teams moved to the West Coast in the late 1950’s the LA/SF rivalry became even more vicious, distinguished in the 60’s and 70’s by huge fights, both on the field and in the stands. When Giant pitcher Juan Marichal clubbed LA Catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with a bat in 1965, the rivalry reached its apex. Let’s just say that there’s no love lost between these two teams. In 1977, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, but I never gave up my allegiance to the Dodgers. I went to a ton of SF/LA games at windy, uncomfortable Candlestick Park for roughly three decades. After a while, I stopped wearing my Dodger stuff, because doing so meant taking an enormous amount of abuse. Giant fans would throw ice and other objects at me, and one time a guy even urinated on me in the bathroom, for which he received quite a beating. There were frequent fights and Candlestick was one big drunken brawl at times. Over the years, I learned to really despise the Giants and their fans, and I still do. That’s why this off season has been so entertaining. When the Dodgers hired Ned Coletti away from the Giants in 2005, I never imagined that he would be such a fantastic GM. The man is a real wheeler dealer and really seems to know his way around the free agent world of baseball. Last year he picked up players like Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Wilson Betemit and Julio Lugo. He also traded for young talent like Andre Ethier. At the same time, the Dodgers farm system began producing with top prospects like Russell Martin, James Loney and Chad Billingsley. In the meantime, the Giants team that looked so promising a couple of years ago when they got into the World Series (and choked to the Angels), was rapidly getting old. Once a solid squad, the team started to look like a senior care facility, with names like Steve Finley, Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel and other assorted old timers. But, after this off season, I have to believe that the LA/SF rivalry will be as exciting to watch as ever. The Dodgers have some new players that should help their club tremendously, guys like Jason Schmidt (who they stole from the Giants), Randy Wolf, Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez. The Giants picked up guys like Ryan Klesko, Bengie Molina, Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, but the big catch was undoubtedly Barry Zito, who they signed to an incredible 7-year, $126 million contract -- the largest ever for a pitcher in the history of major league baseball. Now I can’t wait for the baseball season to start. April cannot get here soon enough. It should be another interesting chapter in one of the longest and most intense rivalries in sports – and you can bet I’ll be there to watch every single minute of it!