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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Champion Giants successfully put ghosts of past to rest


ARLINGTON, Texas -- One day after Halloween in the year 2010, the Giants, just six outs from winning their first World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958 -- does that sound familiar? -- and suddenly, the Ballpark in Arlington was taking on the trappings of a horror flick.

"I walked up into the clubhouse in '02 and it was like this," said J.T. Snow, then a Giants first baseman, now a special advisor to general manager Brian Sabean, as the champagne party moved out of the clubhouse and onto the field. "In the seventh inning, they were putting up all the [protective plastic over the lockers]. All the furniture was moved. I went up to go to the bathroom or something, or get something from my locker, and it was just like this.

"Aubrey Huff came up tonight in the eighth inning and saw this, and he put his blinders on. He said, 'I didn't see that, I didn't see that.' I said, 'Just go out and get six more outs and don't worry about it.'

"In '02 we came up after the game and they were tearing all this down, and moving the furniture back. It was an eerie feeling."

Until Tim Lincecum, Edgar Renteria and a 3-1 Game 5 comet on a historical Monday evening in Texas, the San Francisco Giants never had the occasion to keep the furniture moved and the plastic up to celebrate a World Series triumph.

Willie McCovey's frustration stretched across the decades. The screaming liner that stuck in second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove in Game 7 in 1962, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Scott Spiezio home run to crush Snow's '02 team and cause the scramble to put the furniture back and rip down the plastic.

Empty, empty and empty.

Until a merry band of ace pitchers, a rookie catcher for the ages and cobbled-together lineup finally showed one of America's greatest cities that, sometimes, the World Series really doesn't end in heartbreak.

"You know, it's a euphoric feeling that's so hard to describe," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Lincecum's one-run, three-hit masterpiece over eight innings before closer Brian Wilson obtained the final three outs. "For us to win for our fans, it's never been done there, and with all those great teams. ...

"And what was neat through all this is Willie McCovey and Willie Mays, Will Clark, J.T. Snow, Shawon Dunston, all those guys that played on World Series teams, they were in the clubhouse [during the season], they were pulling for these guys."

What McCovey and Mays and Juan Marichal couldn't do, these Giants did with steamroller pitching and a few key hits.

Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who had to regroup after the worst stretch of his career in August.

"This is far better," Lincecum said of celebrating a World Series title vs. his two Cys. "It's a team effort. Everybody's done their part in every game, every day."

Matt Cain, with his 0.00 ERA in three postseason starts.

"We felt comfortable going out and throwing strikes, all of us," Cain, drenched in champagne, said. "And guys found ways to get runs across."

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San Francisco pitchers shut Texas out twice in five games. The last staff to throw two shutouts in the same World Series was the 1966 Baltimore Orioles of Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker. And those Dodgers did not have nearly as potent a lineup as these Rangers.

"A lot of guys have been praying for this day who came up short in the early 2000s," Lincecum said, and being that he's only 26, forgive him if his memory doesn't stretch back to the days of Will Clark in '89 and, before him, McCovey, Mays, Marichal and Felipe Alou in '62.

Alou, also a special assistant to Sabean, was talking with a small group of reporters after the Giants moved to within one win of this moment in Game 4 on Sunday, telling them that he still shudders at the memory of whiffing in the ninth inning of Game 7 in '62 instead of moving his brother Matty Alou, who had reached on a bunt single, into scoring position for Willie Mays (who subsequently doubled).

"Maybe if we win," Alou said, allowing himself to dream a little, "I can start to forgive myself a little bit."

A night later, after Renteria's three-run smash against Rangers ace Cliff Lee broke open a sensational pitching duel in the seventh, Snow was saying that this "puts to bed the ghosts of '02. We were so close. Seven outs away.

"As a player, you never get that out of your system. This is the next-best thing."

Snow, Will Clark and a few others were in the clubhouse watching on television when Renteria smashed the shot heard from here to the San Francisco Bay, when it came time to put up the plastic and move the furniture in preparation for the champagne.

Call it superstition, call it focus, call it what you will, but Snow's group moved into the visiting manager's office to watch the final six outs on Bochy's television. They didn't want to see the plastic before it was time.

On the field, the way Lincecum was slicing up the Rangers with a fastball with zip, a killer slider and an outstanding change-up, the Giants could barely contain themselves when Renteria smoked Lee's 2-and-0 cutter through the heart of the plate deep into the Texas night.

"Storybook home run," said Cody Ross, the Giants' storybook left fielder. "At that point you're thinking anything right there. Walk, please hit me, anything to get on."

And then. ...

"I was at home plate when I saw it clear," Ross said. "I jumped so high in the air, which I never do in a regular-season game. I'm sorry if I showed anybody up. I was so happy. So emotional. I couldn't hold it in. It was such a weight lifted from the team's shoulders."

And from the franchise's shoulders.

"[Shawon] Dunston, Will and I always say, 'If we had had this pitching staff'," Snow said, "Will says that about '89, I say that about '02. We would have wiped up.

"They had a chance to do something that Mays, McCovey and Marichal never got the chance to do. And they had great players."

This band of "castoffs and misfits", as Bochy dubbed them a few weeks back, got the chance -- and seized it -- to do something so many others never did.

In the dugout at the end, third-base coach Tim Flannery, who won an NL pennant as a player with Bochy on the 1984 Padres, wrapped his arms around the skipper.

"We kind of broke down right at the end," Flannery said, standing in the third-base coaching box as if he never wanted to leave after the Giants celebration -- players, family members, friends -- had moved back onto the field. "We grabbed each other and looked at each other."

Still choked up, Flannery paused before continuing.

"Four years ago yesterday we were called up here," he said. "Halloween day, we started wearing the black and orange."

Meanwhile, several hundred fans wearing that same black and orange were chanting "Thank you Giants! Thank you Giants!" with San Jose-native pitching coach Dave Righetti nearby.

"How cool is that?" Righetti, also tearing up -- and who never won a World Series ring in 16 seasons, mostly pitching for the Yankees and Giants -- said. "They're going to tear up the city."

"I don't live up here [San Francisco]," Clark said. "But I come in when I can, and especially the last month-and-a-half, two months, the whole city was wearing black and orange."

Not since the 1954 World Series, back in New York, when Mays made that stunning catch against Cleveland's Vic Wertz in the Polo Grounds, has a band of Giants been the last team standing at the World Series. Yes, it has been quite a while since Mays could run like that and I Love Lucy was the top-rated television show in the land.

As any of the folks wearing orange and black -- in uniform or out -- will eagerly tell you.

"As Edgar could tell you, their energy, enthusiasm down the stretch, in the playoffs, it's been crazy," Bochy said. "In the ballpark, around the city. I know how bad they wanted it.

"The players, they wanted it as bad for the fans as themselves, because they know how long it's been."


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