PHILADEPHIA -- The Giants are heading to the World Series for the fourth time in their 53-year San Francisco history, and hopefully for the orange-clad faithful, this one against the Rangers won't end in heartache like the previous three.
There have been three ownership groups and two general partners whose fervent desire has been to bring a World Series title to the little city by the bay. It hasn't happened yet, and hasn't happened at all for the franchise since 1954, when the Giants made New York's horseshoe-shaped Polo Grounds home and swept the highly favored Indians.
Bill Neukom, who replaced Peter Magowan as general partner after the 2008 season, is spearheading the same cause.
"We're going to work hard at it. We're going to work hard, that's for sure," a champagne-drenched Neukom said after the Giants defeated the Phillies on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, 3-2, to close out the National League Championship Series in six games.
It was the 18th NL pennant in club history, 14 of them coming between 1905-54, which tells you all you need to know about more recent club history.
"Winning the pennant is a rare thing," Neukom said. "Thirty teams started the season wanting to get where we are and only two teams are left. We are humbled by this."
Rare it is. The Giants won the pennant in 1962, '89 and 2002. One of Major League Baseball's oldest and dearest franchises, they went to the brink of winning the World Series in '62 and '02, and they were rattled by a massive earthquake in '89 that delayed the only Bay Bridge World Series in history by 10 days.
The quake occurred on Oct. 17, only about an hour prior to the start of Game 3 at Candlestick Park, which swayed back and forth, up and down, but held its own on the expansion joints that were installed when the old stadium was retrofit. The A's swept that series, and in the process had to use only their two best pitchers twice: Dave Stewart and Mike Moore.
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Most World Series appearances by a National League club
In 1962 against the Yankees, Game 7 came down to the bottom of the ninth inning with New York leading, 1-0, Manny Alou on third, Willie Mays on second, Ralph Terry on the mound and Willie McCovey at the plate. McCovey's scorching line drive landed in second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove for the final out. A little further to the right, and the Giants would've had the championship. They had won 103 games that season.
In 2002, the Giants had a 3-2 Series lead on the Angels, and held a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the seventh of Game 6 in Anaheim. Nine outs away from the championship, the Angels started whittling at the lead. Four San Francisco relievers couldn't stem the bleeding. The Angels won that game, 6-5, and the next day wrapped up the Series. It was the Giants' only shot at it during the era of Barry Bonds, who hit four homers and drove in eight runs in the Series. Bonds, who passed Hank Aaron at the top of the all-time home run list in 2007 and finished with 762, has been gone for three years. Now the Giants are back.
This, of course, has a distinctly different feeling than '02.
"In '02, we were defined by a different element -- power and, of course, the Bonds era," said Brian Sabean, the team's general manager since 1996. "Now we've distanced ourselves from that and we've gotten to a point where -- I've said it over and over again -- it takes a village and it takes a whole team to win a series."
Right now, with the start of the World Series against a team that's never played in one only three days away, there's a hint of euphoria.
"This franchise has been around for 130 years, but I think this is one of our finer moments," team president Larry Baer said. "This moment is pretty cool, pretty cool. We've had other wonderful moments, but this is right up there. We have a lot of players who just want it badly and they fit. They are complementary pieces and want to play for each other."
The team has been saved from leaving the city twice -- to Toronto in 1976 and Tampa/St. Petersburg in '92. They survived at least four ballot initiatives that were voted down in an attempt to build a new ballpark using public money. The ownership group, headed by Magowan and bolstered by the popularity of Bonds, finally built AT&T Park using mostly private funds, opening it in the China Basin in 2000.
It's no small surprise that this may be the most successful era financially and artistically in the history of the franchise since legendary manager John McGraw led it to back-to-back World Series titles over the Yankees when both teams shared the Polo Grounds in 1921-22. The Giants lost to the Yankees in 1923, the first year of the new Yankee Stadium.
"This is a lot of fun," Neukom said.
Perhaps this time the fun is just beginning.