CBSSports.com is counting down the Top 10 storylines of 2010 in sports, culminating with the No. 1 story, which will be revealed on Dec. 30.
So there we were, at a hotel about a 10-minute walk from San Francisco's AT&T Park, like a traveling band of gypsies.
Me. Pablo "Kung Fu Panda"Sandoval. Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt and his classic "Waffle House" baseball cap. October hero Cody Ross and his family -- miles and miles of family. His wife. Grandmother. Kids. Who knows who else? It was hard to keep track.
It started the last weekend of the season, when the Giants hosted San Diego in a showdown series that would deliver San Francisco the NL West title on the very last day of the season, the first step toward the most historic and exhilarating month of baseball the city has ever seen.
You don't really think about things beyond the baselines during the season, the logistics of it all. But summer leases expire, and the San Diego series was Oct. 1, 2 and 3, and guys needed places to stay.
Looking back, after Brian Wilson's beard, Tim Lincecum's hair (and fastball), Aubrey Huff's lucky thong, and sensational rookie Buster Posey's cherubic face, the smiles around that hotel are what I will remember most as the Giants raced through October like kids through Christmas presents.
After the Giants clinched, that hotel lobby was one Giant party that Sunday night.
Then, we all checked out and left ... but everybody kept coming back.
The Giants whipped Atlanta ... then Philadelphia ... then it was time for Texas and the World Series.
Check out ... airport ... victories ... return to San Francisco ... check back in.
Panda. Affeldt. Aaron Rowand. Felipe Alou, special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean.
And Ross, the man who made like Babe Ruth after the Giants picked him off of a South Florida scrap heap in August, his cult hero status growing with each new day of the month.
Until this merry band of "castoffs and misfits" -- manager Bruce Bochy's description -- pulled together into a team for the ages, the World Series in San Francisco had always meant heartbreak.
Willie McCovey's howling line drive that whistled into Bobby Richardson's glove to end the 1962 World Series. The Loma Prieta earthquake that wrought unspeakable horror in the middle of the 1989 World Series. The 2002 clunker, when the Giants couldn't hang on against the Angels even after moving seven outs from the title in Game 6.
Until Lincecum, Posey, Matt Cain and Co., even McCovey, Alou, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Barry Bonds and an entire fleet of other great players never could capture a World Series title in San Francisco.
"A lot of times, the best teams don't win," Roger Craig, who managed that '89 team, told me a couple of days before the Giants hosted Texas in Game 1. "Who would have thought the 2010 Giants would be in the World Series? Isn't that amazing?
"I've played and coached in a lot of cities, and San Francisco's the best city in the United States, I think. They deserve it. They've wanted it a long time. I hope it can happen."
|The city of San Francisco throws the 2010 Giants a victory parade after winning the World Series. (Getty Images)|
But his spirit was there.
If nothing else, the Giants history in San Francisco -- right up to and including this year's champions -- shows how fragile the road to a title really is.
As Bochy was lauded throughout the month of October for making all the right moves, I kept thinking of the one move in Dodger Stadium in late July that was as important as any of them.
That was the night when the astute Bochy called to the umpires' attention that Don Mattingly, managing the Dodgers in place of the ejected Joe Torre, had made one too many trips to the mound. The umpires conferred, agreed that Bochy was right and forced the Dodgers to remove closer Jonathan Broxton.
That was the key moment as the Giants fought back from a 5-1 deficit for a 7-5 win.
If not for Bochy's move there, the Giants probably lose that night.
That happens, and instead of playing for a division title on the last day of the season, they've already been eliminated.
Then there are no hotels during the month of October, no smiles, no lifetime moments and, certainly, no World Series parades.
"There are moments you do try to take a step back and realize what just happened," Bochy was saying as the baseball world gathered at the winter meetings earlier this month, everybody waist-deep in plans -- already -- for 2011. "I had a chance to look at the videos, the Giants videos ... a couple of nights ago in San Francisco.
"You know, during those videos, you get a chance to enjoy it, savor it. You're not quite as nervous as you were when it was actually happening."
At the same meetings, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was in Bochy's euphoric cleats after winning the 2005 World Series, good-naturedly ribbed the Giants manager. Among other things, Guillen said Bochy was the "diva" of the winter meetings.
Bochy, a bear of a man who once was a spring training teammate of Guillen's with the early 1980s San Diego Padres, flashed a world champion smile.
"Well, you feel pretty good," Bochy said at a resort hotel just about as far away -- literally and figuratively -- as possible from the one so many of his key players were crashing in while giving San Francisco the baseball ride of its life. "It's a feeling that is so hard to describe. It's something you train and strive for every year, and now you've done it. There's no question, it's a great sense of accomplishment. ...
"He's right. There's nothing like, you know, you've climbed the mountain. You're at the pinnacle. You've done what you set out to do.
"So it's a great feeling. Not just for me, but for the team, the front office, ownership, fans, everybody."