As the San Francisco Giants unlikely postseason moved Monday night to the almost surreal — surviving six do-or-die elimination games and moving on to their second World Series in three years — the moment became an occasion once again for invoking various spiritual forces in connection with a baseball game.
The quasi-mystical aspect of baseball has long been in there, from the mythic characters of long ago, to the curses that affix to franchises. (At least the Boston Red Sox finally were freed from the shackles of the Bambino curse, but, the Chicago Cubs show no sign of escaping their enslavement, from billy goat to Bartman.)
But when Hunter Pence’s someday legendary “triple bat hit” plated three Giants runners in the third inning, making the remainder of their defining Game 7 series against the St. Louis Cardinals a matter of just passing through the final six innings before the adoring and screaming orange-towel waving throng at AT&T Park, you had to know something outside the realm of time and space, much less the rules of baseball (which allow a “double hit” in the case of a broken bat; not sure about a triple bat hit, however) was at work.
It wasn’t until the television replays showed the baseball bouncing once, twice, three-times-a-lady off Pence’s shattered bat, sending the ball knuckling toward Cardinals’ shortstop Pete Kozma first left, then right, that the full import of what happened hit home. One friend fired me a text saying the Pence moment (has any player had a stranger arc to Giants fame than the Rev. Pence, he of the fiery pre-game speech and gangly awkwardness on the field?) proved that the Giants’ amazing comebacks came because the team had made a pact with the devil.
But after the game, a better explanation was delivered, by Giants’ broadcaster Mike Krukow, a former star pitcher himself. Krukow invoked the long-ago 1962 World Series against the New York Yankees, when Willie McCovey’s potentially Series winning scorched line drive was speared by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the game. The Giants wouldn’t win their first World Series in San Francisco uniforms for another 48 years, until 2010. The Pence triple-bat hit was clearly, said Krukow, “divine intervention” a half century later redeeming the McCovey line drive.
That Monday night’s game finished in a monsoon, with National League Championship Series hero Marco Scutaro dancing around a drenched infield like a dancer with vertigo to snare the final pop up hit by, who else?, the villain of this story, Cardinal outfield Matt Holliday (who vicious slide in Game 2 of the NLCS threatened to kneecap Scutaro), only added to the other worldliness of the Giants’ triumph. The sight of a drenched Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews after the game on the field presenting Scutaro with his NLCS Most Valuable Player trophy as the rains descended amid the eerie glow of stadium lights in the San Francisco night and the fans continuing to celebrate amid the outpouring, was a truly indelible moment.
Now, for the Giants, no time to rest, as Wednesday at 5:07 p.m. they face off against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Can the Giants once again summon the will and grit to overcome the powers of Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander, justly celebrated as the best in the game? Will unlikely heroes such as Giants’ pitchers Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelson write new chapters in this story, ones that will be passed down to another generation of fans in the same kind of hushed tones that today’s fans learned of past postseason triumphs — and failures?
More will be revealed.