Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Long It's Been: Since the Giants' Last World Series Win

This is the first of a new series, titled "How Long It's Been."

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on November 1, 2010. The last time they won the World Series was as the New York Giants, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, on October 2, 1954. Yes, a World Series ended on October 2.
Fifty-six years and one month. Here's an idea of how long it's been:

Of course, the Giants were playing their home games at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, and their rivals, now the Los Angeles Dodgers, were the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing at Ebbets Field. And, of course, the Yankees, playing at the original Yankee Stadium (still seems weird to type that) in The Bronx.

There was, for another 10 days, an American League team in Philadelphia. It was about to be sold and moved to Kansas City. Just 1 year earlier, there had been an American League team in St. Louis, and a year before that, a National League team in Boston. There was an American League team in Washington. There was a National League team in Milwaukee, but it wasn't the Brewers. Aside from St. Louis, right on it, there were no major league teams west of the Mississippi River, and no teams south of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers.

There were teams called the Los Angeles Angels and the San Diego Padres, but they weren't in the majors. Those cities, and (for the moment) Kansas City, and Minneapolis (and St. Paul), and Dallas (and Fort Worth), and Houston, and Atlanta, and Miami, and Tampa (and St. Petersburg), and Toronto, and Denver, and Phoenix, and Seattle, and, yes, San Francisco (and Oakland) were all then minor-league cities, though most were at least Triple-A.

Only 2 of the MLB stadiums then in use are still used by MLB teams. All but one of the 16 teams then in MLB were playing in stadiums with permanent lights, but there were no artificial turf fields, and no domes (retractable or otherwise). There was no designated hitter, and no regular season interleague play. And no divisional play or Playoffs, just the World Series: If you won over 100 games and another team won more, you were out of luck.

Bob Feller was still pitching. Ted Williams and Stan Musial were still very much in their primes. Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks had just completed their rookie years. Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, and Brooks and Frank Robinson were about to arrive.

Cy Young, Connie Mack and Honus Wagner, however elderly or infirm, were still alive. So were Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Rogers Hornsby. So, for another few days, was 1890s Boston Beaneaters (Braves) legend Hugh Duffy. So was 1908 and 1912 Giants goat Fred Merkle.

The defining players of my childhood, the 1970s and early 1980s? Carl Yastrzemski and Willie Stargell were in high school. Pete Rose was in junior high. Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench were in elementary school. The day after the World Series ended, Dennis Eckersley was born, and Dave Winfield turned 3. George Brett was in diapers. (Okay, that hasn't changed.)

The major leagues were racially integrated, but far from fully. There were still 4 teams that had not played a nonwhite man in a regular season game. Regrettably, one was the Yankees. That would change on the next Opening Day, as Elston Howard debuted. It would be another 3 years before the Philadelphia Phillies integrated, another year after that before the Detroit Tigers did, and one more before the Boston Red Sox made it 16 out of 16.

Two of the 16 franchises had never won a World Series. The St. Louis Browns never won one, and as the Baltimore Orioles it would take them 13 more years until they finally won the franchise's 2nd Pennant and 1st World Series in 1966. That left the Phillies as the only "original" franchise without one, until they finally did it in 1980, the 98th season of the franchise and the 77th World Series.

Of the men who now coach the New York Tri-State Area's teams, Tom Coughlin of the football Giants was 8 years old, Mike D'Antoni of the Knicks was 3, Jerry Manuel of the Mets was 10 months old, and Joe Girardi of the Yankees, Rex Ryan of the Jets, Avery Johnson of the Nets, John Tortorella of the Rangers, Jack Capuano of the Islanders and John MacLean of the Devils weren't born yet.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States. Richard Nixon was his Vice President. Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman, and the widows of Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt, were still alive. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were in the U.S. Senate, where Joseph R. McCarthy was about to be censured for his unfair and bullying defamations of loyal, patriotic Americans. Gerald Ford was in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter had recently resigned his commission as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy to run his late father's farm. Ronald Reagan was still an actor, and still a Democrat, although an increasingly conservative one.

George Herbert Walker Bush was in the oil business in Texas, and his family included a 9-year-old boy named George who was in elementary school. So were Billy Blythe and Hillary Rodham, although we don't remember them by those names today. So were Al Gore, Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani. Dick Cheney, Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg were in junior high. John McCain was a newly matriculated Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The Governor of New York, about to leave office, was 1944 and 1948 Republican Presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey. Diplomat Averell Harriman was about to be elected Governor. The Mayor of New York City was Robert Wagner Jr., son of the Senator who wrote the bills that became the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Board -- making him arguably the 2nd-most-important person in FDR's New Deal. The Governor of New Jersey was Robert B. Meyner.

Nelson Rockefeller was a business tycoon and State Department official. Richard J. Hughes was a superior court judge. Malcolm Wilson was in the New York State Assembly, and William T. Cahill had just left New Jersey's Assembly to practice law before being elected to Congress and eventually Governor. Abe Beame was New York City Budget Director. John Lindsay, Hugh Carey, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Brendan Byrne were practicing law, and Mario Cuomo was in law school. Tom Kean was at Princeton University. Nancy D'Alessandro (Pelosi), Harry Reid and Jim Florio were in high school. Mitch McConnell was in junior high school. George Pataki, Christine Todd (Whitman), Donald DiFrancesco, Richard Codey, Jon Corzine, Eliot Spitzer and John Boehner were in elementary school. David Paterson was an infant. Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson (Obama), Jim McGreevey, Eliot Spitzer, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo and Sarah Palin had not yet been born.

George C. Marshall was the holder of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Pope was Pius XII.

In 1954, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married. And divorced. The first Godzilla film premiered. Marlon Brando starred in On the Waterfront. Judy Garland starred in a remake of the 1937 film A Star Is Born, and Carmen Jones, a reworking of the opera Carmen with a mostly-black cast, introduced America to Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Garland and Dandridge were both nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress. Neither won: Grace Kelly did for The Country Girl. An injustice.

Ian Fleming wrote his second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die. Kingsley Amis, who would write a Bond novel after Fleming's death, wrote Lucky Jim. William Golding published Lord of the Flies. Pierre Boule wrote The Bridge On the River Kwai. In science fiction/fantasy, Isaac Asimov wrote The Caves of Steel, Poul Anderson wrote The Broken Sword, and Richard Matheson wrote I Am Legend. In a way, these also fit that category: Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote Horton Hears a Who! Aldous Huxley wrote The Doors of Perception, borrowing the title from a poem by William Blake, and later inspiring the name of a rock group. Oh yeah, and J.R.R. Tolkein wrote the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Pope was Pius XII. Canada's Prime Minister was Louis St. Laurent, and the nation's first subway opened in Toronto. Elizabeth II was Queen of England -- that still hasn't changed -- but she was just 28 years old, and most British money still had the portrait of her father, King George VI, on it

In the spring of 1954, England's First Division of football (soccer) was won by Wolverhampton Wanderers, with West Bromwich Albion finishing second. Wow, that was a long time ago! West Brom also won the FA Cup Final. But on October 3, a new season was underway, which would see Chelsea win the Football League (their only title in their first 99 seasons of play), and Newcastle United win the FA Cup (for the moment, still their last major English trophy).

In that autumn of 1954, the Detroit Lions went on to win the NFL Championship -- or, if you prefer, Super Bowl -XII. (The Lions were World Champions? Wow, that really was a long time ago.) In fact, Detroit was a city of champions, as the Red Wings were about to begin a season in which they successfully defended the Stanley Cup. The defending NBA Champions were the Minneapolis Lakers, the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes -- and now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers.

The defending National Champions in college football and basketball were Michigan State University (led by coach Duffy Daugherty, hence the name "Duffy's Toughies") and LaSalle University, starring one of the defining figures of Philadelphia basketball, Tom Gola, for whom LaSalle's new arena is named. Rocky Marciano had just defended the heavyweight title by knocking out Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium -- for the 2nd time in 3 months. Nope, that's not a misprint.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America 5 times, Japan 3 times, Italy 3 times, Canada 3 times, Austria twice, France twice, Australia twice, Mexico, Germany, Russia, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Norway, Greece and China. The World Cup had just been held in Switzerland, and has since been held in twice each in Mexico and Germany, and once each in America, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

No one outside of the South had yet heard of Elvis Presley, who had been professionally recording for all of 3 months when the Giants last won the World Series. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day and Patti Page were the biggest singing stars in America.

The Number 1 song in America was "Hey There" by Rosemary Clooney. Bill Haley & the Comets had already had the 1st rock-and-roll hit with "Shake, Rattle and Roll," and rhythm-and-blues hits had already been made by Antoine "Fats" Domino and Ray Charles. But the world had yet to meet Chuck Berry, "Little" Richard Penniman, James Brown, Charles "Buddy" Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Don and Phil Everly. Bob Dylan was in junior high school. The Beatles were in the British equivalent. Michael Jackson wasn't born yet. Neither was Kris Jenner. Robert Kardashian Sr. was 10 years old.

Computers could still take up an entire wall of a city building's floor. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee would all be born the next year.

In that autumn of 1954, Albert Einstein was still alive. The U.S. launched the first nuclear-powered submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus. The Vietminh officially took control of North Vietnam, after both it and South Vietnam had been, uh, "liberated" from France the preceding May. The Miss America pageant was first broadcast on television. Texas Instruments introduced the first transistor radio, and children who loved baseball but weren't allowed to watch night games on TV rejoiced, as they could now hide their windows to the game under their pillows. The immigration terminal at Ellis Island closed. West Germany was admitted to NATO, and the Algerian War of Independence began. The first Hyatt hotel opened in Los Angeles, and the first Burger King opened in Miami.

In the autumn of 1954, Henri Matisse, Lionel Barrymore, and Enrico Fermi died. David Lee Roth, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and future Star Trek: Enterprise Captain Scott Bakula were born.

October 2, 1954. The Giants would not win the World Series again for 56 years and 1 month.

And now they have. Congratulations to that franchise, both crossed by stars and star-crossed.

I wouldn't mind the Yankees facing them in the 2011 World Series. But if that happened, unlike in the 2010 Series, in which the Giants beat the Texas Rangers, I wouldn't want the Giants to win.

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