What better way for the Giants back then to beat You Know Who? The same was true in 1962, when they needed another three-game playoff series against the Dodgers to decide the National League pennant. That was before divisions for each league and Wild Card teams. It was a winner-take-all situation, and the Giants were NL winners again over the Dodgers, but only without a Thomson or a Hodges. They did it with a Willie Mays and a Willie McCovey.
Well, forget all of that for the moment, along with the current Giants trailing the Dodgers in the NL West by two games as they prepare for a three-game series this weekend in San Francisco. With baseball's schedule-makers showing their omniscience, the Dodgers and the Giants will meet again Sept. 22-24 in Los Angeles for the next-to-last series of the regular season for both teams.
The drama involving the Dodgers and the Giants of now has combined with that of 1951 and 1962 to make me remember 1982.
Joe Morgan, Joe Morgan, Joe Morgan. On the last game of that season at Candlestick Park, he broke the Dodgers' hearts. I mean, literally, and the pint-sized second baseman for the Giants did so shockingly enough that it created one of the most pronounced clubhouses or locker rooms of misery I've seen during my nearly 40 years as a professional journalist.
First, a little background. I covered the Giants back then for the San Francisco Examiner, and baseball talk through early 1982 was dominated by the Braves after they erupted to a huge lead in the NL West. They eventually plunged like crazy, but they recovered in late summer. Before long, they were joined in a tight division race by a Dodgers team that surged out of the shadows with thoughts of successfully defending its World Series championship.
What nobody expected was to watch San Francisco turn from mediocrity or less entering September into an unbeatable force for days and then weeks. Just like that, the Braves, the Dodgers and the Giants were barely separated by a resin bag in the standings with October moving closer.
Then came the last weekend of that season, and the Giants played hosts to You Know Who at Candlestick Park for three games. The place was packed and loud for each game, but it didn't help the Giants through Saturday evening. After the Dodgers dominated the first game, they repeated as much in the second one, and the Giants were eliminated. The Dodgers just needed to beat the Giants that Sunday in order to face the Braves in a one-game tiebreaker in Los Angeles that Monday to reach the NL Championship Series.
Morgan had other thoughts. This was the guy who came to a leaderless Giants team in 1981 after he built his Baseball Hall of Fame resume by capturing two NL MVP Awards with the Big Red Machine. He made eight of his 10 trips to the All-Star Game in a Reds uniform, and he grabbed all five of his Gold Glove Awards during his Cincinnati stay. Morgan also had the game-winning hit in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the famed 1975 World Series between the Reds and the Red Sox.
So there was Morgan, in the twilight of his career, facing noted Dodgers reliever Terry Forster in the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and two runners on base during a 2-2 game.
The noise was outrageous. The noise grew louder than that after Giants fans stomped and screamed themselves silly when Morgan clobbered a flat slider from Forster off the facing of the football seats in right field that were used for 49ers games. I didn't think it was possible, but that already louder-than-loud noise soared by several more decibels after Dodgers slugger Steve Garvey struck out in the ninth for a Giants win. We're talking about 50,000 folks celebrating as if San Francisco had won the World Series. I mean, their heroes had just knocked You Know Who out of the playoffs in the cruelest of ways.
Which leads me to the scene that was more striking than that: The visitors' clubhouse. It was a corpse shy of being a morgue. While players sat motionless at their lockers, Tommy Lasorda lacked his usual sparkle. In fact, he was a silent mess. Not as much as Forster, the epitome of the Dodgers' pain. After reporters entered the Dodgers' clubhouse, he still wore his uniform, his spikes and his cap while sitting in a chair in the middle of the room. As was Forster's intention, we gathered around the normally talkative pitcher to hear his thoughts on his slider to Morgan, but something became quickly apparent. He was sobbing. He couldn't stop. Forster's face was pale, and his words never came.
The Dodgers had lost to the Giants, and for Forster during this particular moment, it was worse than death.
Now that's a rivalry.