During the parade and celebration today (in case you haven’t heard, the Giants won the World Series!) I thought of my Dad. Don Dwyer was a die-hard Giants fan for 42 years but he died in 2000, ten years too early to ever witness a world championship.
Dad loved baseball. In his youth he read all of the Ralph Henry Barbour books about Baseball Joe and when I turned ten he gave them to me and I read them, too. For the first 48 years of his life my Dad was a Seals fan. His father took him to Recreation Park to see his first Seals game when he was eight years old. Pretty soon he was going to a game just about every Saturday. And when the Seals were away he would go and watch the Mission Reds play.
He used to reminisce about the times when his Uncle Jack Barry (husband of my grandfather’s sister Justina) would take him to a Seals game. Uncle Jack was a big spender and they always sat in the box seats.
Dad graduated from Cal in 1932 and then went to law school for a year before dropping out. It was in the middle of the Depression and jobs were scarce and Dad just hung out with his pals Will O’Connell and Bob Siebert and played pinochle all day. All day, that is, when the Seals weren’t playing. Then they went to Seals Stadium (built in 1931) and watched the game.
Dad followed the Yankees more than any other major league team because so many San Francisco players went on to star for the Yankees — Tony Lazzeri, Frankie Crosetti, Lefty Gomez, and, of course, Joe Dimaggio. Joltin’ Joe was my Dad’s favorite player and he watched almost all of the home games in 1933 when Joe was on his 61-game hitting streak. 1934 was Dimaggio’s last year in the minor leagues and a great year for the Seals. Dad and his pals went to most of the games that year, too.
Dad finally got a job in 1935 and he worked at the US Assay Office in the SF Mint for the next 34 years. He married his college sweetheart in 1936 and began to raise a family, all the while rooting for the Seals. In the mid-1950s we began rooting for the Boston Red Sox when the Seals became a Boston farm team. Then in 1958 the Giants came to town and Dad was reborn!
They called it “torture ball” this year when Brian Wilson would let two men on before finally getting that last out in the 9th inning. Well, it was torture ball right off the bat for the new Giants fans, too, for more than ten years. The Giants had very good teams in those years but only once made it to the World Series only to lose to the Yankees in seven games in 1962. In the other years they were always second best. Juan Marichal was the second best pitcher in baseball for ten years. Too bad he pitched during the Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson eras. The Giants batters were fearsome – Mays, McCovey, Cepeda. But they just couldn’t win the crucial game.
As the years went by Dad went to fewer games but faithfully listened to them on the radio or watched them on TV. The last game he attended a game at Candlestick Park was Willie McCovey’s last game and he thought it was fitting that McCovey drove in the winning run to end his career.
Well, McCovey’s last game in the 70s gave way to the Will Clark years in the 80s. And then Barry Bonds came to town in the 90s. In April of 1994 Dad sent me a note. This was in the middle of his lonely years. My Mom was in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and he was now alone in the big house where we all grew up. “I know not what ails Bonds,” he wrote to me. “Just hope whatever it is goes away soon. Life is sad enough for me these days without the Giants messing it up more.”
On the evening of June 8, 2000 we were told that the end was near and a family vigil began. By the midnight hour the crowd dwindled as some people had to go to school or work the next day. But my family and a couple of my sisters stayed on. Is there anything I can do for you, Don?” the caregiver asked my Dad. “Hold my hand,” said Dad. Then a few minutes after 12 he passed away but not before crying out the immortal words of Russ Hodges, the famous Giants announcer, whenever a Giant hitter would blast one over the wall: “Bye Bye Baby!”