This is the way it ends, with a lot of cheers, a few tears and, once again, if not an unused ticket in a ballpark sold out from first game to last, certainly a lot of unfulfilled hopes.
In this season of 2011, the year after the World Series, the Giants broke their all-time attendance record, luring 3,387,303 fans. Yet in their attempt to repeat as Series champions, they couldn’t even get to the playoffs, breaking a great many hearts.
“We had planned on working in October,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said ruefully.
But their final day of labor, and perhaps appropriately, of defeat, was Sept. 28, Wednesday, the final game of the regular schedule when the Colorado Rockies beat San Francisco 6-3 at AT&T Park, where the next baseball game is six months away.
“Not the way we wanted the season to end,” Bochy had sighed before the last game started. “We’re all disappointed in not going farther, especially with what happened last year.”
Still, what happened last year — the first World Series title — turned San Francisco into a baseball town and turned the ballpark on the edge of McCovey Cove into a carnival of good times, if not always of winning baseball.
Even Wednesday, the place was full, people dancing to the beat of the Rolling Stones and singing to the music of Journey.
“Don’t stop believin’ ...” And they never stopped.
They gave Pat Burrell a noisy farewell as, wiping at his eyes, in the seventh inning he came out of probably his last game as a Giant.
They gave deposed owner Bill Neukom a standing ovation when first his acknowledgement appeared on the video board and then he was shown near the first base dugout.
They gave one of last year’s heroes, Aubrey Huff, a noisy greeting when he came up as a pinch hitter in the seventh and singled.
Finally, around 3:40 p.m., the crowd of 41,273 rose and cheered as Justin Christian came out for what would be the Giants’ ultimate at-bat of the year, a rousing last hurrah, memories if not victory.
Moments later, the Giants, en masse, emerged from their dugout and walked to the pitching mound. And as the video screen saluted so many players, Ryan Vogelsong, Cody Ross, the injured Buster Posey, the courageous Pablo Sandoval, the players saluted the fans who were saluting them.
“Even though this season didn’t go [as] well as we had hoped,” said Bochy into a microphone, “I just want to thank you.”
Matt Cain gave a speech on behalf of the players.
Bochy had removed Carlos Beltran after two hitless at bats to keep Beltran at .300 for the year. Bochy had inserted Sandoval as a pinch hitter in the ninth, a reward for his competence (a .315 average) and conscientiousness.
“We wanted to win this game for Pat,” Bochy said, alluding to Burrell. But they couldn’t. It was that type of year, one of possibilities that went unrealized.
It was a perfect day for baseball, 72 degrees, virtually no wind. You’d love to see another game, but there won’t be another until April.
“The bottom line,” Bochy of the season, “is we didn’t play as well as we needed to.”
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.