Friday, January 20, 2012

New York vs. California in Playoffs

(Note: This blog post was begun on the day you see above, as a preview of Giants vs. 49ers. I wasn't able to finish it until the day after the game was played. The game was not actually played on a Thursday.)

Last night, the New York Giants defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17 in overtime, on a field goal by Lawrence Tynes, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, for the NFC Championship and a berth in Super Bowl XLVI (46).

It would, after all, have been a bit more appropriate for the 49ers to play in Super Bowl XLIX -- or would that be "IL"? -- than SB XLVI.

This is not the first time the Giants and Niners have played in the NFL Playoffs, nor even in the NFC Title Game.

The Giants won NFL Championship Games in 1934 (over the Chicago Bears at the Polo Grounds), 1938 (Green Bay Packers at the Polo Grounds) and 1956 (Bears at Yankee Stadium); and lost them in 1933 (to the Bears at Wrigley Field), 1935 (Detroit Lions at University of Detroit Stadium), 1939 (Packers at the Dairy Bowl in Milwaukee), 1941 (Bears at Wrigley), 1946 (again, Bears at Wrigley), 1958 (Baltimore Colts in that overtime thriller at Yankee Stadium), 1959 (Colts at Memorial Stadium), 1961 (Packers at what became Lambeau Field), 1962 (Packers at Yankee Stadium) and 1963 (again, Bears at Wrigley).

The Giants have won 3 Super Bowls: They won Super Bowl XXI in 1987 (over the Denver Broncos at the Rose Bowl), Super Bowl XXV in 1991 (Buffalo Bills at Tampa Stadium), and, of course, Super Bowl XLII in 2008 (over the team they'll be playing this time, the New England Patriots, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona). They've also lost 1: Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 (to the Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa).

They will play the Patriots on Sunday, February 5, at Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable-roof home of the Indianapolis Colts.


The history of teams from the New York Tri-State Area and the State of California playing each other in the postseason is a rich and complicated one.

It first became possible in 1946, with the move of the Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles, where they could have played the Giants in the NFL Championship Game; and also with the founding of the All-America Football Conference, which included the 49ers and a team called the New York Yankees. These teams played each other in the 1949 AAFC Playoffs. Before the next season, the 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the original Baltimore Colts -- the history of that team name is complicated -- were taken into the NFL. Except for a brief interlude in 1951, there has never again been a pro football team called the New York Yankees.

From 1950 onward, it has been possible for the Giants to play the 49ers and Rams in the Playoffs, although the move of the Rams to St. Louis in 1995 makes such a matchup (which hasn't happened sine) no longer a New York vs. California matchup.

In baseball, it has been possible for the Yankees to play the Oakland Athletics and the team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Playoffs since 1969; and, since then, for the Mets to play the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. When the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in the 1957-58 off-season, and the New York Giants baseball team moved to San Francisco at the same time, it became possible for them to face the Yankees in the World Series, and they did so, in back-to-back years, 1962-63.

The Yankees have now played all 3 California National League teams in a World Series, and have beaten them all. The Mets have never played the Angels in a World Series, but lost the 1973 Series to the A's.

In basketball, it's always been geographic: A New York Tri-State Area team can only play a California team in the NBA Finals. The Knicks and Nets have both played the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals; the Los Angeles Clippers have never reached the Finals, nor have the Sacramento Kings, and while the Golden State Warriors have (though not since 1975), they have never faced either the Knicks (at least, not since moving west from Philadelphia in 1962) or the Nets in the Playoffs.

In hockey, it was possible for a Tri-State Area team to face a California team in a pre-final round from 1975 to 1982. Then realignment made it possible only in the Finals.


Series which clinched, or led to, a World Championship for a New York Tri-State Area team are in bold.

1949 All-America Football Conference Western Division Playoff: San Francisco 49ers over New York Yankees (football version), 17-7.

1962 World Series: Yankees over San Francisco Giants, 4 games to 3. Willie McCovey vs. Bobby Richardson.

1963 World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers over Yankees, 4 straight. Sandy Koufax 15 Ks.

1968 AFL Championship: New York Jets over Oakland Raiders, 27-23.

1970 NBA Finals: New York Knicks over Los Angeles Lakers, 4 games to 3.
Willis Reed limps onto the court and hits the Knicks' first 2 baskets, and Walt Frazier has the game of his life. New York becomes the first city to win World Championships in all 4 major-league sports.

1972 NBA Finals: Lakers over Knicks, 4 games to 1.

1973 NBA Finals: Knicks over Lakers, 4 games to 1. The Knicks haven't won the title since.

1973 World Series: Oakland Athletics over Mets, 4 games to 3. Reggie Jackson says hello to New York.

1977 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers, 4 games to 2. Reggie says goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to Dodger pitches.

1978 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers, 4 games to 2. Reggie is hip.

1979 Stanley Cup 1st Round: New York Rangers over Los Angeles Kings, 2 straight.

1980 Stanley Cup 1st Round: New York Islanders over Kings, 3 games to 1.

1981 Stanley Cup 1st Round: Islanders over Kings, 3 games to 1.

1981 American League Championship Series: Yankees over A's, 3 straight. Billy Martin can't get his revenge on George Steinbrenner. Their seesaw relationship would resume.

1981 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees, 4 games to 2. Blew it, and the dynasty that wasn't quite comes to an end. Over 30 years later, this one still sticks in my craw.

1982 AFC Division Playoff: Jets over Los Angeles Raiders, 17-14.

1984 NFC Wildcard Playoff: New York Giants over Los Angeles Rams, 16-13.

1984 NFC Divisional Playoff: 49ers over Giants, 21-10.

1985 NFC Wild Card Playoff: Giants over 49ers, 17-3.

1986 NFC Divisional Playoff: Giants over 49ers, 49-3.

1988 National League Championship Series: Dodgers over Mets, 4 games to 3. Mike Scioscia vs. Dwight Gooden, and another dynasty that wasn't quite comes to an end.

1989 NFC Divisional Playoff: Rams over Giants, 19-13. This is "the Flipper Anderson Game."

1990 NFC Championship: Giants over 49ers, 15-13. No touchdowns, but 5 Matt Bahr field goals won it.

1993 NFC Divisional Playoff: 49ers over Giants, 44-3. Lawrence Taylor's last game.

1998 World Series: Yankees over San Diego Padres, 4 straight.

2000 NL Division Series: Mets over Giants, 3 games to 1.

2000 ALDS: Yankees over A's, 3 games to 2.

2001 ALDS: Yankees over A's, 3 games to 2. The Jeter Flip.

2001 AFC Wild Card Playoff: Raiders over Jets, 38-24.

2002 NBA Finals: Lakers over New Jersey Nets, 4 straight. The Nets' 1st NBA Finals appearance.

2002 American League Division Series: Angels over Yankees, 3 games to 1.

2002 NFC Wild Card Playoff: 49ers over Giants, 39-38. Giants blew a 17-point lead.

2002 AFC Divisional Playoff: Raiders over Jets, 30-10.

2003 Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils over Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 4 games to 3. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Playoffs, despite the winning goalie, Martin Brodeur, becoming only the 2nd goalie in Stanley Cup history to notch 3 shutouts in the Finals.

2004 AFC Wild Card Playoff: Jets over San Diego Chargers, 20-17. Doug Brien's field goal wins it in overtime.

2005 ALDS: Angels over Yankees, 3 games to 2. Randy Johnson spits the bit in Game 3.

2006 NLDS: Mets over Dodgers, 3 straight. Finally, the NL "half" of the Tri-State Area gets some revenge on L.A. -- if not on the evil O'Malley family, which sold the Dodgers a decade earlier. This remains the last postseason series the Mets have won.

2009 ALCS: Yankees over Angels, 4 games to 2.

2009 AFC Divisional Playoff: Jets over Chargers, 20-17.

2011 NFC Championship: Giants over 49ers, 20-17. Lawrence Tynes' field goal wins it in overtime. Will this one lead to a World Championship, the Giants' 8th? Stay tuned.


Yankees: 8-4
Giants: 5-4
Jets: 4-2
Islanders: 2-0
Knicks: 2-1
Mets: 2-2
Devils: 1-0
Rangers: 1-0
Nets: 0-1
Yankees (AAFC): 0-1

Baseball: New York leads California, 10-6
Football: New York leads California, 9-7
Basketball: New York & California are even, 2-2
Hockey: New York leads California, 4-0

Total: New York leads California, 25-15.

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