A San Francisco Story
Endings are intense that way. They can also be incredibly satisfying, for writers as well as for readers. Or especially for readers. Without conflict or drama or characters that strut and fret upon the page—heroically and tragically—endings would not affect us in the powerful ways that they can, that they do.
I doubt most San Francisco Giants fans would want to go back to the beginning of the season, or to relive seasons and stories past, in light of what they call their brand of baseball. (Torture.)
I can’t say that I experienced any of it this year. Until the postseason, Giants baseball had bypassed me. What I watched of it was from the Chronicle Books’ fourth floor where there is a view of the ballpark and a view of the bay. I saw parties on rooftops as the postseason approached, and the number of beards—real and Sharpied on cheeks and chins—steadily increase on the street. Even the Chronicle Books logo was altered on our website, and our lobby bookstore adorned to reflect the postseason spirit.
So when the World Series is happening down the street from where you work and you haven’t watched one game, you want to know what it means, not just for the team and for the fans, but for yourself. Or I should say “I”—I wanted to know. I was too easily swept up in the World Series spirit to ignore its implications.
A jack-o’-lantern captures the World Series spirit. (Photo by Ben Kasman)
All the elements of a good story were in place. There were decades of drama and diverted dreams. There had been a 1954 World Series win in another city, on another coast, and four World Series wins before that. There were certainly close encounters over the years, even as recently as 2002. And there was the infamous Battle of the Bay when the Series was disrupted—by an earthquake. The Giants have often made their fans proud, but more than a bit baffled, too. A championship as a San Francisco team had remained elusive, and, at some point, that elusiveness propelled the story forward, season after season.
And then there are the characters—the Giants players this season who have been called everything from “castoffs” to “misfits” to “freaks.” Rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner bought his wife a bull calf for a wedding present. Closer Brian Wilson has a mysterious masked friend called “The Machine.”
As I walked by the ballpark last Friday morning, the team was piling into charter buses for the ride to Texas. They were in suits and ties and looked surprisingly energetic for having won a World Series game, 9-0, the night before. A small crowd called out to a player who looked about fifteen from afar. (“Timmy!”) Perhaps their team dynamic isn’t much different from other major league teams, but I can’t help but think there is something “San Francisco” about how the Giants make it work. For lack of a more nuanced thought: A little weird goes a long way.
Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum boards the bus for Texas.
As I walked around the AT&T ballpark yesterday afternoon, the palm trees were set against a blazingly blue sky. I kept expecting to see a cloud, but I did not. All was peaceful, and the vista made me think of a line from Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem, which might also capture how Giants fans have felt over the years:
“California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried by ineradicable suspicion that things had better work out here, because here, under that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.”
I was on my way home last night when I was drawn to a crowd on the corner. The Giants were away for the fifth game of the World Series, but this crowd wanted to be near the ballpark.
I kept meaning to leave and go home, but I found myself watching one inning and then another and then another, with strangers. By the seventh inning, police arrived to close off the final stretch of Second Street. This was right around the time of Edgar Renteria’s three-run homer, when the story changed and an end seemed in sight.
There were soothing voices of “It’s OK, it’s OK,” spoken to no one in particular when a Giant struck out, and in those final innings, the crowd was almost protective of its players. When the first shots of Brian Wilson flashed across the screen, the crowd exploded and “Fear the beard!” overtook everyone. Suddenly, there were just three more outs and then it was down to one strike and then it was over with the flip of the wrist, the beauty of a final pitch. Watching with people I didn’t know in San Francisco with the ballpark in the distance, I could only think: This is what history feels like.
Maybe that’s why endings mean so much. They reveal our attachment to the story, to the characters, to what has been at stake all along. Endings let us see that it has all been worth it—the care, the suspense, the torture. It is only after a story or a Series ends that we finally understand what it was we’ve been waiting for—and, for some of us, what we were waiting for without even knowing it.
Assistant Editor, Children’s
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