San Francisco Parties Its Heart Out
And with that simple utterance, more than five decades of heartache and frustration yielded to jubilation and exhilaration, because there on the large TV screens was Tim Lincecum -- "Timmy," to one and all -- being hoisted atop the shoulders of his teammates, his long, glorious hair fluttering, his right index finger pointed upward, his legacy as one of this city's toughest, most charismatic sporting characters cemented forever.
Inside The Midnight Sun, a noted gay bar in the heart of the Castro district, there were joyous tears and spontaneous hugging of strangers and fervency epitomized, scenes replicated throughout the Bay Area Monday night after the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series championship since moving here in 1958.
Everywhere you went, from the Castro over to the orange-bathed Civic Center, from Nob Hill to China Basin, it was impossible not to get a contact high. Sure, the sweet smelling wafts from unchecked imbibers intensified the rush – San Franciscans party exactly like you think they would, despite Proposition 19's defeat on Tuesday -- but this buzz was all natural, born out of the magical ride the Giants took their fans on these last few nutty weeks.
It didn't end in Arlington, Texas, with a 3-1 San Francisco win, the Giants wrapping up the title with unpredicted dominance over the Rangers in just five games. Oh, no, this ride figures to last quite awhile, because as any longtime Giants fan will tell you, something this good and this special is meant to linger. There will be Wednesday's ticker-tape parade through the heart of SF, the players waving from motorized cable cars and tracing the very same parade route the team took when the Giants migrated west from New York 52 seasons ago. And then there will be, as the Giants' irrepressible Brian Wilson put it in the midst of champagne showers, "Months and months of bedlam, as only San Francisco can do bedlam."
Figures America's most glorious city would play host to America's most likeable team. Their manager Bruce Bochy likens them to "cast-offs and misfits," the red thong-wearing, Texas-born Aubrey Huff calls them, lovingly, "morons," and parents all along the peninsula have absolutely no retort when their child wants to grow hair to the shoulders like "The Freak" or attach fake, jet-black beards to their chins.
On the streets of Mill Valley Sunday, it was amusing to see hundreds of costumed little Freaks and little Beards roaming about, collecting Halloween candy in, naturally, eco-friendly orange containers. Neighborhood upon neighborhood reported similar invasions. Who would have figured even a year ago that this cosmic shift would be so startling? Lincecum, the waifish but masterful pitcher who at age 26 delivered the championship, and Wilson, the genius closer who nailed down a flawless final ninth inning without causing a mass outbreak of nail biting, are this generation's Montana and Rice.
In the Giants' postgame celebration, the trophy was shiny, the champagne was everywhere and the players were soaking it all in. Click to watch.
The Bay Area has embraced these Giants with a fervor that can best be described as a hyped-up college football town clashing with a Grateful Dead concert. I covered the 2002 World Series here – you might have heard, the Giants were eight outs away from winning the title, but we won't go there now – and the atmosphere then paled to the 2010 experience. Perhaps the unfettered bliss grew as a coping mechanism from the torture the current team was known to inflict through much of the year. Perhaps it's because these Giants weren't supposed to win the National League West on the last day of the regular season or beat perennially power Philadelphia in the NLCS or, really, do much of anything if you heeded the wisdom of know-it-all baseball cognoscenti.
Whatever the reason, late October nights in San Francisco sounded an awful lot like Vancouver at the height of the Winter Olympics, loud and buoyant and a perfectly fine place to bring the family for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. October days here looked like a coat of orange paint had been spilled on everything and everyone: most storefronts displayed Giants signs and school children demanded to wear only Giants gear and folks in Chinatown and the Tenderloin and the Marina shared a common bond. It felt like Boston in October 2004, without the adorable negativity.
Another thing about Giants fans: rarely are they poor sports. Twice we heard boos Monday night, once during a commercial for governor hopeful Meg Whitman (loud, disgusted boos), and once when someone booed the sight of Ranger fans who were booing Pat Burrell for stepping out of the batter's box.
(Alas, like most any other place where three or more gather, there are the uncivilized who use celebrations as an excuse to reveal their sparse amount of brain cells. Much later in the evening there were scattered reports of random fistfights and fires, and helicopter footage showed a melee at the intersection of Mission and 22nd streets that followed what appeared to be a driver's attempt to steer into the crowd.)
For nine stressful innings, you could have heard a crust of sourdough drop on the deserted streets, but as soon as the Giants rushed to dog-pile atop Wilson and lift Lincecum in Texas, the restaurant and bar doors opened here and on 17th street there came a spontaneous cry of "Edgar! Edgar!"
Edgar Renteria resembles a slow-pitch, softball player, and only a few weeks ago he was on the edge of what had been a terrible, injury-plagued season, his biceps tendon in his left arm torn apart, retirement beckoning. He barely made the playoff roster. Now, after his seventh-inning, three-run homer off the playoff deity known as Cliff Lee cracked a skin-tight game, Renteria was the most unexpected, most unlikely Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
And, overshadowed by the love-in SF has with fresh faces like Buster Posey, Cody Ross and Madison Bumgarner, the most unanticipated hero. "Edgar! Edgar!" Wait until word gets around that Renteria called his own shot. "Just luck," he'd say in Texas, but here they're saying as long as Renteria lives, he'll never have to pay for another meal in San Francisco.
Over at the Civic Center plaza, tens of thousands watched the game on a massive screen, as City Hall glowed an eerily beautiful sienna in the background. Minutes after the final out, packs of teens meshed easily with parents pushing strollers and seniors walking their dogs. A large group circled a drum corps, their dancing straight out of Burning Man. Champagne flowed liberally, the still-illegal sweet smelling stuff got passed around, old-timers who survived the wind-tunnel games at Candlestick told youngsters about how the bleachers used to empty when a legend named Willie McCovey came to bat.
"I didn't think I'd be around long enough to see this happen," said John Hirtz, born in the East Bay 83 years ago next month. He took BART into the city Monday afternoon, set up his lawn chair on the plaza, fiddled nervously with his bow tie about a dozen times – and noted later that Lincecum happened to be wearing a bow tie, too, as he entered Rangers Ballpark on this wondrous night – and then Hirtz reckons he discovered what heaven must feel like.
"Like this," he said, spreading his arms wide as if to embrace a scene happening all over town. I told Hirtz that after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, Boston fans wore T-shirts with the words "Now I Can Die Happy" printed across the front.
"That's just perfect," said Hirtz, clearly pumped with pride that was fierce and overwhelming. "I can die happy, but not until after the parade."