Commentary

Giants fans feel the fever

With wigs, beards, caps, costumes, S.F. faithful turning games into a Halloween event

Originally Published: October 27, 2010
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- In easily the best World Series performance by an octogenarian since Jamie Moyer started Game 3 in 2008, Tony Bennett walked onto the field between innings Wednesday evening and crooned his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." Of course, if Bennett truly left his heart in San Francisco, it probably was because the Giants first cruelly ripped it from his chest during one of their many torturous summers and autumns.

As you may have heard, Giants fans have been bruised and battered and tested and tortured by their beloved team throughout the years. The Giants have never won a World Series since moving to San Francisco 52 years ago, although they have lost two in heartrending fashion ("Why couldn't McCovey have hit that ball just three feet higher?!") and a third in a miserable sweep interrupted by the worst earthquake in 80 years. If this were Boston, the fans would go on and on about how much they have suffered, but Giants fans aren't like that. This is San Francisco, a city used to being rocked and shattered and burned, and fans here don't mope. They make the most of what they have and move on.

So the city is back again, hoping that this year will finally be different. Maybe it's because the Giants' clubhouse is filled with likable little guys such as Tim Lincecum and Cody Ross instead of muscled Barry Bonds in his recliner, but something is different.

I covered the 1989 and 2002 World Series, and the fans weren't like this. Mike Murphy, who has worked in the Giants' clubhouse since they moved here in 1958, says the fans weren't like this in 1962, either. For one thing, he said, they didn't wear fake beards and wigs and panda hats. This year, he said, "There's a fever. They've got a fever."

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco Giants fan
AP Photo/Eric GayRangers fans will have to step it up to outdo the outrageousness of Giants fans.

Indeed. This October, if you wear anything less than a cap, replica jersey, team jacket and stirrup socks, you are seriously underdressed for the game. What with all the outrageous fake beards and wigs at the park for Game 1 on Wednesday, at times I wasn't sure whether I was going to a World Series game, a gay pride parade or a meeting of the Taliban.

I talked to a guy who was wearing an actual carved jack-o'-lantern over his head. I talked to a woman who dressed her dog up like Bonds, complete with miniature No. 25 replica jersey and elbow pads. (The costume was so detailed that I expected him to growl at reporters.) I talked to a Dutch man who stood about 6-foot-5 and was decked out head to toe in Giants orange, including a pair of enormous clogs with, inexplicably, shoelaces. When I asked what the official garb for Giants fans was, he responded in true San Francisco fashion: "It's whatever you feel like inside -- there is no right or wrong. … Orange is one of those colors that make you happy."

I even talked to a man wearing lacy panties, although what made this notable in San Francisco was that he wore them outside his cargo shorts. He insisted he was straight but was wearing the panties because of Aubrey Huff. "If Aubrey Huff can wear them, I can," he said, jokingly adding, "It feels great. Now I know why all the women want to wear them."

Yankees fans, these are not.

"There's a lot of characters and personality in San Francisco," Giants reliever Sergio Romo said. "Not just on the team but in the stands as well. They support as much as possible. It's like Halloween."

All the costumes, said a woman wearing a panda hat to honor Pablo Sandoval, "really represent what this city is about. It's about diversity, and it's about fun and it's about expressing yourself without being judged."

I'm not going to knock the Rangers fans' claw-and-antlers T-shirts, but I will say that if they want to top the Giants fans when the series shifts to Texas, they will have to bring their A-game.

We have the best fans in baseball. They come out and dress up and do some of the craziest things I've seen. That's what you want as a player. Fans who are passionate about it, who are willing to go out and dress up just for you.

-- Giants outfielder Cody Ross

"We have the best fans in baseball. They come out and dress up and do some of the craziest things I've seen," outfielder Cody Ross said. "That's what you want as a player. Fans who are passionate about it, who are willing to go out and dress up just for you."

Underdogs as usual, the Giants got this series off to a tremendous and most unusual start by scoring 11 runs in Game 1 and leading by seven at one point. They drove Cliff Lee from the mound in a six-run fifth inning that gave them a commanding lead and probably meant Lee will have to settle for a three-bedroom condo in Trump Tower rather than a four-bedroom penthouse on Central Park. When Juan Uribe slammed a three-run homer to cap the inning, the fans shook the stadium so much that I thought another earthquake had hit San Francisco.

Even so, the Giants being the Giants, they had to torture their fans just a little, giving up three runs in the ninth with closer Brian Wilson and his magnificent beard on the mound. But they won 11-7 in the end and sent their fans home one victory closer to a world championship.

The ninth-inning scare was appropriate because the team's official theme is torture, due partly to the team's history but mostly to the nerve-racking one-run victories that so frequently result from a team with the game's best pitching and one of its weakest offenses. Catcher Eli Whiteside has white hair -- he looks a bit like George Washington in a powdered wig -- and I asked whether that was because of all those close games. He said no, that it's a family trait, that he began getting gray hair when he was a sophomore in high school. (Think he was asked to buy beer for his friends?)

Whiteside is 31 and not on the postseason roster, and with rookie Buster Posey set behind the plate for years to come, I'm not sure we'll see fans wearing powdered wigs along with their Lincecum tresses, Wilson beards and panda caps next year. But as the Giants proved this season and Wednesday night, you never know in San Francisco.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com