As a veteran of the feud since 1954, Tommy Lasorda's heartbeat still quickens when he talks about the Giants and the Dodgers. He recalled how his old Brooklyn teammate, Jackie Robinson, retired rather than accept a trade to the hated crosstown Giants. Lasorda reveled in recalling the earsplitting boos he had hear at Candlestick Park.
But the latest sinister chapter of this storied rivalry leaves him cold.
"It brings tears to my eyes," Lasorda said, his voice rising. "This is not what baseball is all about."
In one of the most violent episodes in a rivalry that dates to 1889, Giants fan Bryan Stow suffered a savage beating after an opening-day game at Dodger Stadium on March 31. The 42-year-old Santa Cruz paramedic was attacked by two unknown assailants and remains in a medically induced coma at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
As the search for Stow's attackers continues, the Giants are bracing for the next round: The Dodgers arrive Monday for a three-game series at AT&T Park, and the Giants have significantly bumped up the amount of security enforcement in and around the stadium.
Jorge Costa, the Giants' senior vice president in charge of ballpark operations, declined to say how many officers have been added. But Costa, who has been handling Giants security since 1989, said part of his job is to "assess the overall mood of the event." And passions are running high, even by the standards of one of the fiercest rivalries
Pleas for cooler heads
At the Giants' home opener Friday, a moment of reflection for Stow was followed by chants of "Beat L.A.!" The Giants were playing the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the aftermath of the Stow incident, Costa asked fans to keep cooler heads this week and urged them to alert security of brewing trouble. Fans can send anonymous messages by texting "80899" followed by "security" in the body of the text, with details about the area of concern.
"We have to look at this building as a little city of 42,000 people," Costa said. "Like any other successful community, residents play a role in keeping each other safe."
The need for such vigilance at a ballgame makes even a rivalry hard-liner such as Lasorda cringe. During an interview with the Mercury News on Sunday, the longtime manager pledged to make a personal donation of $5,000 to Stow and his family.
"I feel so sorry for that young man. I want to help the kid with his bills," he said. "Hey, there's nothing better than a good rivalry. But this? This is all because of some" -- he paused to search for the right words -- "rotten thugs."
"A couple of cowards," Orlando Cepeda called them moments before Sunday's game. The Giants Hall of Famer was part of several celebrated pennant races against Los Angeles during the 1960s, when Giants-Dodgers games were at a decadelong fever pitch.
"There have always been fistfights between fans," Cepeda said Sunday. "But this? No way."
In truth, the rivalry is checkered with violence and ugly confrontations -- on the field and off. Even the fan-on-fan violence has long-established roots. After the Giants beat the Dodgers on July 12, 1938, two fans took turns needling a Dodgers fan named Robert Joyce in a Brooklyn neighborhood bar.
"Why don't you get wise to yourself, Bob? Why don't you root for a real team?" a Giants fan chirped.
Joyce left the bar and returned to shoot one of his tormentors in the head and another in the stomach.
Such is the dark side of a rivalry born when the Brooklyn Dodgers of the American Association played the New York Giants of the National League during an exhibition at the Polo Grounds in New York on Oct. 18, 1889.
By 1890, they were on each other's nerves: Brooklyn third-base coach Darby O'Brien pretended to be a baserunner during a June 12 game, luring an errant throw and igniting a dispute.
Fueled by a potent mix of geography, colorful characters and an almost freakish competitive balance (the Giants lead the head-to-head matchups 1,172-1,152), the series was soon rife with hostility. When Charles Ebbets -- the namesake of Brooklyn's Ebbets Field -- died on April
18, 1925, the game went on as scheduled because, Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson said: "Charley wouldn't want anybody to miss a Giants-Brooklyn series just because he died."
When Leo Durocher made the unthinkable leap from Dodgers manager to Giants manager in 1948, he derided the man he was replacing: "Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the Giants? Why, they're the nicest guys in the world? And where are they? In last place!"
History has whittled the quote to its more familiar maxim: "Nice guys finish last."
'You didn't even say hi'
Sal "The Barber" Maglie, who pitched for the Giants in the early 1950s, drilled Dodgers batters with fastballs with such frequency that friends warned him never to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
"(Fans) believed that when I pitched against Brooklyn, I threw at the heads of Dodgers," Maglie said in 1959. "I can't really blame them for it. They were 100 percent correct."
When the Dodgers and the Giants moved West for the 1958 season, the rivalry followed.
"We brought it with us 3,000 miles," Lasorda said.
Cepeda made his debut that season (hitting a home run against Los Angeles in his first game) and learned immediately that he was part of baseball's Hatfields and McCoys. "We didn't even talk to each other," Cepeda said Sunday. "I didn't talk to Maury Wills or Tommy Davis or Jim Gilliam. You didn't even say hi. You never know when you're going to have to take someone out at second base."
It was during that era that Giants pitcher Juan Marichal ignited the most infamous brawl in the history of baseball. Marichal was in the batter's box when Johnny Roseboro angered him by firing his return throws to Sandy Koufax suspiciously close to Marichal's head. During the argument that followed, Marichal clubbed Roseboro with his bat, igniting a 14-minute free-for-all. The attack stunned not only the 43,000 spectators but also the country.
The fight ended only when Giants outfielder Willie Mays crossed the rivalry lines and helped escort Roseboro into the locker room, a blood-soaked towel pressed against his head.
Often overlooked is that Marichal and Roseboro patched up their differences and became lifelong friends. When Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal served as an honorary pallbearer and spoke at his funeral. Marichal continued to call Roseboro's widow every few months to check up on her and her daughter.
Lasorda, 83, is among those who hope a similar sense of humanity and civility emerges this week at AT&T Park. Now a Dodgers "ambassador," Lasorda pleaded for perspective after the incident that left Stow fighting for his life.
"The rivalry is great, and for years and years, it's been great," he said. "But I've always said that there are millions and millions of people in China who don't care about the Giants and Dodgers."
Some memorable moments in Giants-Dodgers history. (For a more detailed list, go to Dodgers-Giants.com.) Brooklyn beats New York 12-10 at the Polo Grounds on Oct. 18, 1889, in an unofficial first game between the two franchises. It was part of a six-game exhibition series. The 1912 season opener is called after six innings because police were unable to contain the large crowd. New York wins 18-3. Giants manager Bill Terry was asked about Brooklyn's chances of winning the 1934 pennant. "Brooklyn? Is Brooklyn still in the league?" he quipped. Brooklyn beat the Giants on the last day of the season to spoil their playoff hopes. Bobby Thomson hits the famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World" on Oct. 3, 1951. His homer against the Dodgers gives the Giants the pennant and caps a comeback for a team that was 131/2 games out of first place on Aug. 11. Major League Baseball debuts on the West Coast when the Giants beat the Dodgers 8-0 at Seals Stadium on April 15, 1958. In 1965, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal uses a bat to club Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro, igniting a violent brawl. Marichal's suspension cost him two starts; the Dodgers edge the Giants by two games to win the pennant. Dodgers outfielder Reggie Smith climbs into the stands after a May 26, 1978, game to confront a fan who had been throwing objects onto the field. Smith would again fight a Giants fan in the Candlestick Park stands in 1981. Source: Dodgers-Giants.com
Supporting the Stow family
The Giants will dedicate their first home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in honor of Bryan Stow. The team will collect donations at AT&T Park on Monday to benefit a fund established to support Stow and his family. To donate to the fund, go to www.sfpcu.org and indicate The Bryan Stow Fund, account No. 1377733.
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