Why I’m a Fan: The Bonding

by /u/horsemeatsandwich

My grandmother, a descendant of Irish immigrants who had lived in San Francisco since fleeing the Great Potato Famine and traveling halfway around the world hoping to strike it rich during the Gold Rush, gave birth to my dad in December 1944, just days after my grandfather, a Boston native, was wounded fighting against the Nazis in France during the Battle of the Bulge. When my grandfather was finally sent home and discharged from the Army the following year, the young family had a choice of whether to settle down in San Francisco or Boston. They left that decision up to the flip of a coin. I absolutely love the city of Boston and visit friends and family there every chance I get, but Northern California is the most perfect place on Earth, and as luck would have it that coin landed on tails, meaning my dad would be raised in San Francisco.

He enjoyed a relatively happy childhood here, but unfortunately struggled with health issues early in his life, particularly chronic bouts of pneumonia, which were apparently worsened by the regularly damp and heavy air in the Outer Sunset. During his days spent in bed away from school and friends, my dad had only one primary source of happiness: baseball. Often left home alone while my grandparents worked long hours, he found comfort and solace in listening intently to radio broadcasts of the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals, and quickly developed a passion for the beautiful and incredible game we all love so much.

As the years passed and my dad’s health improved, his love of listening to, watching, and playing baseball with friends only grew. He, like many of us growing up, idolized his baseball heroes and fantasized about making it to the big leagues one day. If only San Francisco had a true Major League team …

Then, in 1958 when my father was 13, the seemingly impossible happened. The New York Giants, one of the most storied teams in the history of the game, moved here from across the country to bring Major League Baseball to the West Coast in conjunction with the Bums, a move that has brought immeasurable amounts of joy, sorrow, laughter, anger, pride, sense of community and Torture™ to the Bay Area and beyond (and lead to the creation of the best subreddit on this stupid site 52 years later). Although I’m sure he mourned the resulting loss of his beloved Seals, I know my dad was ecstatic to have the Giants in San Francisco, and he fell in love with the team and its players immediately. He spent the rest of his adolescence and young adult life in San Francisco essentially worshiping the Giants and the legendary players on the team during those years.

Over the course of the next several decades, my dad graduated from the University of San Francisco, enlisted and served a tour in Vietnam as an officer, returned to the States and earned his MBA, married then much later divorced his “college sweetheart” before meeting and marrying my mother, moved to Dallas, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles for work over the course of almost 20 years before returning to the Bay Area.

Through it all, his passion for the Giants (and Niners) never wavered. He followed every single game he could over those years.

I was born early in 1989, a significant year for the Giants and Bay Area as a whole for several reasons, but my first vague memory of baseball and the Giants is from 1993. I have this nebulous image of running around the garage in my parents’ first house as my dad lifted weights with the Giants game playing on the radio in the background while Will Clark and Barry Bonds in his first season with the team did their thing. As it would turn out, through two moves and many life changes, that scene would become a staple of my childhood. Over the ensuing years, any Giants game my dad and I would happen to be watching at home on TV that became stressful in later innings, he would bring me out to the garage with him to listen on the radio as he lifted weights to ease the stress, I guess. To this day, when Torture™ happens, all I want to do is walk out to my childhood garage with my dad and turn on KNBR.

By the time I was 6 or 7 years old, some of my favorite evenings were spent freezing my not-yet-dropped balls off at Candlestick enjoying a cotton candy next to him. The fact that Candlestick was the only place my dad even allowed me to have cotton candy, against my mom’s wishes, made the experience that much sweeter (pun intended), but I enjoyed spending time alone with him and watching the Giants above all.

In 1996, although I was ecstatic to start playing “real baseball” (teeball), I cried when it turned out my first team would be the Dodgers, despite my dad consoling me and reassuring me that he would still love me no matter which team I played for. The following year, my first year in actual little league, my dad and I danced around the living room in celebration the day I was assigned to the little league Giants. I’ve never asked him, but knowing his personality and love for me, I came to realize much later that he likely made a phone call to the league in order to make sure I landed on the Giants that year.

Time soon started passing more and more quickly, life became more and more complicated as it tends to do as we move on from childhood, my “baseball career” ended in junior year of high school and tensions arose between my dad and me during my teenage years due to me being an angsty adolescent shithead. The one thing that remained constant between us from the time I was about 14 to 20 was our shared love for the Giants, and our annual game together where he would splurge for Club Level tickets at Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park, and buy me my yearly cotton candy. I’ll always regret being a dickhead teenager and taking him for granted in so many ways, but when we attended those games together it all seemed to vanish for a few brief hours. We just sat there taking in the Giants and the beautiful game of baseball together. Pure bliss.

When I moved out of the area for college, I subscribed to MLB.tv and my dad and I started a tradition of nightly phone calls if anything of significance happened during that day’s Giants game. The first few years weren’t very eventful, there were a lot of disappointing Giants-related calls, but by 2009 it was clear things were starting to turn around. I spent my days working that summer, and my nights (when I wasn’t out dicking around with friends) excitedly talking with my dad about the fact that the Giants were finally within a realistic shot at the wild card, the emergence of Sandoval as a star and symbol for the team, Lincecum’s general awesomeness, Bumgarner’s first start the night Lincecum had back spasms (Bumgarner is about six months younger than I am, so that was a fun point of conversation), etc.

For my 21st birthday the following year (2010), just weeks before the season began, my dad gave me an authentic Giants dugout jacket, which I wear regularly to this day and firmly/superstitiously believe has been a good luck charm in our World Series years.

That fall, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Europe during the miraculous World Series run, and routinely stayed up until about 4 a.m. for weeks watching playoff games and then calling my dad on Skype to recap.

After college, I moved back to the Bay Area to begin my career just as my parents retired and moved away. Over the past few years I’ve watched every single Giants game I could, attended many with friends, have gone nearly insane over the 2012 and 2014 World Series wins, and still keep my annual Club Level game tradition with my dad even though he has to travel here for it now.

In April of last year, my parents and I were taking a trip together to the Sonoma County coast, and the situation ended up being that my mom would head up a day early and my dad and I would drive up together the following day. I’ll never forget that drive with him.

As we headed North up the beautiful and awe-inspiring Sonoma County stretch of Highway 1 that afternoon, with a Giants game fading in and out on the radio as we turned from forested corners and emerged to wide-open coastal vistas, he laid a bombshell on me: he had been diagnosed with cancer, and the eventual outcome wasn’t yet clear. A few miles down the road I pulled over to buy a six-pack of Anchor Steam at a small coastal shop, and we drank a couple while listening to the remainder of the game in silence together watching the sunset. The Giants won.

Over a year and several different treatments and surgeries later, things are beginning to look bleak for my dad. There’s a very real possibility that the man who has lived through so much, raised me with nothing but love and compassion, and given me my love for the Giants, will not be here for opening day next season. With that in mind, I offered to treat him to this year’s father/son annual game with seats behind home plate, but he refused. In fact, he rebutted and insisted on taking me to two games on the Club Level: August 12th in a battle of orange and black against the Orioles, and September 30th against the Dodgers in a game I hope is meaningless by that point as the Giants will have clinched the division.

These may be my final two games I get to watch with my dad, a man who has loved baseball and the Giants almost his entire life, through thick and thin, and the man who instilled that love in me. I will always love the Giants, but more importantly, I will always love my dad.

If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact /u/ashleyramone on Reddit or e-mail us at PostgameThread@gmail.com

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