- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
SAN FRANCISCO -- A blue-and-white beach ball made a brief appearance at AT&T Park on Saturday. The intruder bounced once before being immediately greeted with a wave of boos and then quickly confiscated. One fan held the ball while another applied a sharp object, and that was that.
They don't do beach balls or the wave in San Francisco. Both are viewed here as part of the party platform of the enemy.
Mike Krukow has pitched for the Giants, first on the mound and now in the broadcast booth. But he grew up in Southern California as a Dodgers fan, and he talked about how his goal as a young player was to have his name used in a Vin Scully broadcast. As he prepared to throw his first inning at Dodger Stadium, then as a member of the Cubs, he heard Scully's voice play on the word "Krukow" through the transistor radios held in the stands. "It was surreal," Krukow said.
He and fellow broadcaster Duane Kuiper love to sit with Scully and listen to his memories. "It's like story time for two 12-year-olds," Krukow said.
Scully shared with them a moment from the days when he was preparing to broadcast a Dodgers-Giants game in the Polo Grounds. The clubhouses for the home and visiting teams were beyond center field in that park, and Scully stepped into the visitors clubhouse and started walking down the stairs into the room -- those same stairs that Ralph Branca lay across after giving up Bobby Thomson's home run to end the 1951 season -- when he noticed only two players remained in the room, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson.
The two Dodgers knew from experience that the Giants fans would greet them with boos as they stepped out the clubhouse door, and they debated who would draw the nastiest response. Reese stepped out first, and the boos were extraordinary. Then Robinson stepped toward the door and extended his bat so that the bat was the only thing the fans saw, and the mere appearance of his bat was booed. Robinson looked at Scully and laughed, with his high-pitched laugh, and then he stepped into the vortex of the rivalry, again.
This weekend, the rivalry really means something.
The Dodgers are trying to find their footing in the aftermath of their big trade with the Boston Red Sox, and maybe Adrian Gonzalez's big triple Saturday -- the key hit in the Dodgers' 3-2 win -- will be a crossroads for them. Clayton Kershaw gets the ball against Barry Zito on "Sunday Night Baseball" with a chance to take the series. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly remembers sweeping a series in St. Louis last season, remembers how the St. Louis Cardinals were left for dead, but not long after that the Cardinals were all spraying champagne over one another.
But the Dodgers will have to play without Matt Kemp on Sunday and in the immediate future; the All-Star center fielder is having problems with his right shoulder, and the Dodgers really don't know what they'll get out of him the rest of the way. Mattingly met with Kemp the other day and told him that he appreciated him trying to tough his way through and stay in the lineup. "But it's really not helping us," Mattingly said.
So the Dodgers will have to rely on Gonzalez at a time when teammates say his swing is coming around, and on Andre Ethier, who began choking up on the bat a couple of weeks ago because of a blister in his palm and has come to feel comfortable with that, liking the bat control.
This has felt like a big series, with the Dodgers barely hanging on in the NL West race and trying to gain ground in the wild-card race. But it's Dodgers-Giants, for starters, and that's always going to feel big, beach balls or not.
Kemp hopes to be back Tuesday. From Dylan Hernandez's story:
- Based on the results of an MRI exam he underwent Saturday, Kemp was optimistic he would cease being an observer Tuesday for the opening game of a three-game series in Arizona.
- The exam revealed bruising and inflammation, which trainer Sue Falsone said was expected. The theory of the team's medical staff is that Kemp jammed his shoulder when he used his left arm to cover his face as he ran into center field wall in Colorado on Aug. 28.
The Dodgers and Giants have a long and rich history, and as Buster Olney writes, it means a lot this weekend, as the Dodgers are barely hanging around in the NL West race.