The rivalry began 132 years ago, and it's still flourishing, strong as ever. From my earliest memory, sitting on my father’s lap as we drove to Lost Lake, steering his Mustang, it was there, on the radio. I think I was nearly 4 years-old at the time.
I never missed a Giants baseball game until I moved up to the hills 30 years ago. Funerals, weddings, work, whenever I could, I'd have the game tuned in. I was the one in the pews yelling, “it’s back, back, back, it’s outta here,” even at a family wedding.
I was being taught something that would stay with me my entire life and become a large part of it - love the San Francisco Giants - hate the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What began 132 years ago has become “The Rivalry.”
It was April 18, 1884, the first time the two teams met in an exhibition game, won by the Giants 8-0. Back then they were the New York Giants and they were building the foundation to arguably the greatest rivalry in baseball against the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
Five years later, Oct. 18, 1889, they would play a much more meaningful game for the World Series. The Giants won 12-10, but the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (later named Dodgers) would win the Championship six games to three. It was written that game was the beginning of the seventh inning stretch, when someone yelled out, “stretch for luck,” and the entire grandstands rose gradually then sat back in their seats.
In 1893 John Ward, now player-manager for the Dodgers, stated in the press he couldn’t work for the club’s president Charlie Byrne. In a move motivated by money, Byrne sold Ward back to the Giants and the two men took daily shots at one another in the press. Following the 1893 season Byrne challenged Ward to a post-season series referred to as the “Metropolitan Championship,” won by the Dodgers four games to two. That forever cemented the dislike and discontent the teams have to this day.
Passionate inner-city games
Brooklyn would become a borough in 1898, so the Giants, located in Manhattan, represented wealth and success while the Dodgers fan base were thought of as the working class underdog. Those culture differences were the fuel for the two teams and their fans, as the stands were full of passion during the inter-city games between the two clubs.
The managers and players were just as passionate. On June 3, 1910, Giants third baseman Art Devlin charged the stands and knocked Dodger fan Bernard Roesler unconscious for heckling him on the field. A full brawl erupted as Giants players came to Devlin’s aid after more Dodger fans swarmed the third baseman. He was later arrested and paroled.
When Brooklyn President Charles Ebbets died the morning of April 18, 1925, the game between the two teams went on as scheduled, when at the time, it was customary for teams to postpone games out of respect. Wilbert Robinson, then Dodgers manager, was quoted as saying, “Charley wouldn’t want anybody to miss a Giants-Dodgers series just because he died.”
It was 1946 when Dodger manager Leo Durocher coined the phase, “Nice guys finish last,” in reference to Giants manager Mel Ott. After saying, “Who wants to be a nice guy? Look over at the Giants bench, where would you find a nicer guy then Mel Ott? And where are they? In eighth place.”
Following a rough start to the 1948 season, the Dodgers fired Durocher, who was then hired by the Giants as they fired Ott. Durocher was hated by many a Giants fan, and to this date it is thought of as one of the most surprising moves the team ever made.
Durocher would have the last laugh, as he led the Giants back from 13-and-a-half games down on Aug. 11, to force a three-game series against the Dodgers for the 1962 pennant. In the third game Bobby Thomson stepped to the plate and delivered the “Shot Heard Round the World,” as the Giants beat the Dodgers in the ninth inning with what many refer to as the greatest home run in baseball history.
Stories go on and on
The stories go on and on, further building the foundation that today is just as passionate as when it began. It’s said that in 1956 Jackie Robinson was traded to the Giants, but refused to report, opting to retire instead of wearing the Giants uniform, although many say he had already decided to retire before the trade.
In 1957 Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was considering moving to Los Angeles. San Francisco mayor George Christopher quickly contacted the Giants, and the rest is history, as the Giants announced their move to San Francisco in August, followed by O'Malley's announcement in October.
Just as the cultural differences divided the teams in New York, they were just as divided in California. LA had its Hollywood image, while San Francisco embodied the cultural, progressive image.
The early California years helped transplant the passion that was felt on the East Coast. Fans packed Seals Stadium, the Giants’ home before Candlestick, on April 15, 1958. The Giants won with a 8-0 shutout. The Dodgers played before a crowd of 78,672 fans as they beat the Giants 6-5 in the LA Coliseum, as Chavez Ravine was in the works.
From 1959-66 the two teams would battle one another for the pennant. In 1962 they tied, forcing a three-game playoff. The Giants would win with a bases-loaded walk in game three to Jim Davenport by Stan Williams.
You can’t call yourself a true Giants or Dodgers fan unless you’ve seen the video of Juan Marichal clubbing Dodgers catcher John Roseboro over the head with his bat, after Roseboro threw balls back to the pitcher near Marichal’s ear. Perhaps Marichal, a pitcher, had it coming as he had sent two Dodgers batters to the dirt with inside pitches. It is one of baseball’s most violent moments caught on film, and further added fuel to the “Rivalry.” Marichal was suspended, while leading the team in wins, and the Dodgers clinched the pennant the second-to-last day of the season. Since then Marichal and Roseboro became friends and laughed about the incident until Roseboro passed away last year.
Click the following link to continue the story of baseball’s greatest rivalry, including comments by players such as Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence: http://www.sierrastar.com/2016/06/28/79642/one-of-the-greatest-rivalries.html .