Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Lincoln Mitchell's "The Giants and Their City"

Lincoln A. Mitchell is a native San Franciscan and has been a Giants fan since the mid-1970s. He is an adjunct research scholar at Columbia University’s Arnold A. Salesman Institute of War and Peace Studies and the author of several books, including San Francisco Year Zero: Political Upheaval, Punk Rock, and a Third-Place Baseball Team.

Mitchell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Giants and Their City: Major League Baseball in San Francisco, 1976-1992 is a description of the eighth inning of a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the last day 1982 baseball season. The page begins with a description of Dodgers’ manager, the late Tommy Lasorda, deciding to pinch hit for his ace pitcher Fernando Valenzuela with the score knotted at two. I then describe the Giants’ rally in the bottom half of the inning. The page ends just as Joe Morgan is coming to the plate. Spoiler alert-Morgan hit a three-run home run and the Giants knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs that day.

In some respects, page 99 provides a good sense of The Giants and Their City as the book is, in large part, about baseball and the Giants. I recount numerous anecdotes and important games from the seventeen seasons covered in the book. The particular game described on page 99 captures something else about the Giants and the book. The Giants were not a very good team during most of the period covered in the book. From 1976-1985 they never finished above third place. Morgan’s home run was one of the two biggest moments for the Giants on the field during these years, but it did not launch them into the playoffs. It simply knocked the Dodgers out, but for Giants fans like me in those years, that was almost as satisfying. A theme of this book, which can be seen on page 99, is that even bad teams have stories and moments that mean a lot to their fans. The book also covers the better Giants years including their World Series appearance in 1989-and the earthquake that disrupted that World Series.

This page does not capture everything about the book, because The Giants and Their City also focuses on the Giants off the field. This includes how the franchise, and the team’s owner Bob Lurie, navigated the changes in the game such as free agency and strikes. Another major off the field focus of the book is the relationship between the Giants and San Francisco, and their struggle throughout this period to find a new home. During these years they played at Candlestick Park, a cold unwelcoming stadium poorly served by public transportation. Because of Candlestick, the Giants always struggled to draw fans and were frequently rumored to be leaving the city, building a ballpark downtown, doming Candlestick or something else. The Giants and Their City is a fun and readable book about the Giants and San Francisco during a fascinating and overlooked period that includes anecdotes and baseball stories and also draws on interviews with several players, executives and others around the Giants.
Visit Lincoln Mitchell's website.

The Page 99 Test: San Francisco Year Zero.

--Marshal Zeringue