A strange feeling appears to be overcoming Giants fans on the eve of their team’s home opener Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
After more than five decades of hair-pulling failures, crushing losses and general heartbreak, a fan base that prides itself on enjoying the torture of Giants baseball is now exhibiting a new emotion: contentment.
For the first time since 1955 — when the team was still located in New York — Giants fans will be cheering on the defending World Series champs, a situation that has many backers taking a decidedly more relaxed approach to this season.
“I think there is a true sense of gratification right now,” said Jim Tomasello, a 58-year-old San Francisco native who has been a lifelong Giants fan. “We have an incredibly frustrating history here, and winning the World Series last season is something we can enjoy for years and years to come.”
Even with a strong core coming back — including two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and promising second-year catcher Buster Posey — Giants fans don’t seem to be clamoring desperately for a trip back to the World Series.
“No matter what happens in the future, San Francisco can never again be considered just the bridesmaid or the also-ran,” said Samuel Goldman, a retired journalist who works in the Giants’ media room and was on hand for the team’s first game in The City in 1958.
Before last season’s dramatic World Series run, the Giants’ history in San Francisco was confounding, and at times tragic.
In 2002, the team was just eight outs away from a World Series title against the Anaheim Angels, only to see a seemingly insurmountable lead crumble late in Game 6. That Barry Bonds-led team lost the Series the following day.
Just before the start of the 1989 World Series, in which the Giants faced off against the the cross-Bay rival A’s, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck, killing 63 people in Northern California. The Giants would go on to lose the series in four games.
While many fans are still beaming from last year’s triumph, that’s not to say they have absolutely no stake in how the team fares in 2011.
“Oh, I think we always want to see a winner, and this year’s team has all the makings of one,” said Gary Locke, a Bay Area resident who has been following the team for the past 40 years. “Last year was nice, but this year’s team could be even better.”