There has been an argument among the old coot generation about whether tonight’s Dodgers-Giants game is in fact the first time the two teams have met in the postseason, and the pedants who have nothing but time and Twitter to kill point out quite logically that the most famous postseason game ever, the Bobby Thomson home run game in 1951, falls under that category.
That’s the beauty of baseball—70 years isn’t nearly long enough for people not to find an argument.
But it is indeed true—the Dodgers and Giants learned to hate each other long before the wild card was invented, and only now, after the fallow period since Juan Marichal perforated John Roseboro’s head with a bat in 1965 over a throw back to the pitcher that Marichal found to be too close to his head (only those Giants and Dodgers could perfect the reverse beanball) has that enmity been rekindled.
The rivalry had indeed descended into a uni-directional sectarian feud—Giants fans hated Dodger fans way more than the reverse once it became clear in the ’70s that the Dodgers mostly won and the Giants mostly didn’t. Frankly, it was a rare occasion when both teams were close enough to the prize and close enough to each other to rekindle the old Brooklyn-Manhattan up-yours spirit, let alone the epic 1889 Faux World Series between the Giants and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. And yes, someone brought that up on Twitter as well, only to be yelled at that those games were considered exhibitions and not actually postseason games.
Well, let pedantry reign unchecked. Tonight’s game is either the first postseason game between the two teams or the 16th, and no matter your view of grainy black-and-white two-camera highlight films with background music provided by a trumpet/trombone/tuba ensemble, there will be enough ginned-up drama to carry you through what ought to be a series of four-hour, 12-pitcher-change games that will almost surely revolve around Cody Bellinger and Alex Dickerson, unless it revolves around Phil Bickford and Camilo Doval.
See, the pre-series narrative is typically betrayed by actual events far more often not in this sport, and the Giants-Dodgers high-speed chase through the regular season is over now, and we are left with two managers with quick trigger fingers, two teams that went about roster construction in radically different ways and still ended up with almost identical statistics, and whose records belie the fact that the Dodgers are reputationally loaded and the Giants pretty much aren’t. If this is going to break the mold of more pedestrian jousts like Astros-White Sox, Rays-Red Sox or Brewers-Braves, we’re going to need something more than old Willie Mays/Don Drysdale highlights from 1962. We’re going to need to see arguments, ejections, and maybe an emptied bench here and there.
Not that we would advocate contrived violence here; frankly, we aren’t sure how much to trust the two fan bases to keep themselves out of trouble. But the narrative is clear—these two teams are expected to overtly dislike each other even if they really don’t, and the narrative must be served even if, as it did most recently in Brady v. Belichick, it is far more likely to fall flat, even if you allow for the fact that Angel Hernandez is scheduled to call balls and strikes in Game 2 Saturday night, with all the hilarity that implies. This would be easier to achieve if either manager, Dave Roberts or Gabe Kapler, was an old-time unwritten rules/etiquette cop, but sadly, they’re both a bit too chill for this assignment, Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker are otherwise engaged and Joe Girardi is paying the traditional price for managing the Phillies.
Still, we live in hope. I mean, the Astros don’t cheat any more as far as we know, nobody is paying attention to Trevor Bauer any longer, and it’s just hard in general to fake animosity unless it is tied to vaccination status. In sum, this is likely to be a much-hyped generational event reduced to a series of baseball games. If that’s your idea of a good time, and I’ll bet it isn’t.