They hooted and hollered, they cheered every out, but most importantly for the fans across Lodi on Monday night, they celebrated a long-awaited championship. After 56 years of futility; after a seventh-inning collapse just eight outs away from a championship in 2002; after the years of Barry Bonds’ homers amounting to nothing more than footnotes in baseball history; these San Francisco Giants fans finally got to celebrate a World Series victory.
There were about 20 Giants fans at the popular Lodi Beer Co. for the game, but they roared loud enough to fill the joint with their joyful screams. As they inched closer to that world title that had eluded them for years, the excitement in the room was palpable. The whoops and whistles came with every strike, and became thunderous with every out.
“Ooooooo!” A fan cried out. “Reeee-Bay!” The rest answered, chanting the name of one of the orange-and-black clad heroes, infielder Juan Uribe.
Don Mortensen watched the first several innings at home, but went to the brewery with his girlfriend to see the final few innings amongst fellow fans.
“I used to go (to games) back at Candlestick in the late ’80s,” Mortensen said, reminiscing about the 20-plus years he’s been a Giants fan. “I’ve been here for most of the games. It gets crazy, man.”
When the eighth inning came to a close, Lodi Fire Chief Kevin Donnelly, wearing a black Giants cap, said aloud to no one in particular, “We’ve never been this close before.”
His sentiment was correct, but they’d been pretty close. The Giants had won three pennants in San Francisco before this year — was this the year they’d finally break through?
“It’s not over until she sings,” Donnelly’s wife Kathy said, referring to the chubby lady whose crooning signals that something has ended.
“She sang in the seventh inning!” Fellow fan Kelly Brown responded, referring to Series MVP Edgar Renteria’s three-run homer that the Texas Rangers would never recover from. The mighty Cliff Lee, who was hailed as unbeatable, had been felled by the veteran shortstop. The years of heartache, the close calls, the so-called “torture” — all wiped away with one swing of Renteria’s bat.
The scene was very similar at Chili’s Grill and Bar on West Kettleman Lane, where the bar area was packed with fans. Manager Toni Wichman said people were waiting for a spot in the bar during the game, despite ample seating in the dining portion of the restaurant.
Server Katie Faria said she was too busy to watch the game, but didn’t need to — she could tell by the loud cheers in the restaurant whenever something good happened.
Back at the Lodi Beer Co., when bearded fan favorite Brian Wilson took the mound for the ninth, the patrons cheered as loud as ever. But when he retired the heart of Texas’ lineup in order, and Nelson Cruz struck out to end the 2010 season, the eruption was likely heard around the block.
These fans had waited a long time for this moment. Kevin Donnelly said he never thought he’d see it in his lifetime. After the 2002 debacle, he thought the sun had set on his chances for a championship.
“I’ve been waiting for this since I was about eight years old,” he said. “It’s almost unbelievable.”
“It’s just finally come home for these guys,” Brown said. “And it’s come home for me.”
Dusty Baker is forgiven. The ghost of Bobby Bonds can now rest in peace. Barry Zito’s $126 million salary to watch from the bench? Who cares. All that mattered to these fans was the mob of Giants celebrating in the middle of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
“This is good for the whole state — this is better than the election tomorrow!” Joked fan Bob Bechill, referring to the mid-term elections happening today.
Many of these fans had come to the Lodi Beer Co. for most of the World Series, to share their joy with each other and watch history be made. Eight of them, including the Donnollys, Bechill and Brown, huddled around two tables near the bar for most of the game. And after the credits rolled on the Giants’ season, they sang Queen’s immortal victory ballad, “We Are the Champions,” aloud, which was met with applause from the rest of the brewery.
“It’s been great coming here, supporting Downtown,” Kathy Donnelly said. “This has been a lot of fun.”
More than 40 fans were celebrating at El Rancho Sports Lounge on North Cherokee Lane after the game, where bar manager Sherri Taylor kept the drink specials coming for the rowdy revelers. A lifelong Giants fan herself, evidenced by the bright orange shirt and matching wig she was wearing, Taylor attended the 2002 World Series that ended in such disaster for the Giants. But now she was pouring shots and rejoicing with everyone else.
“Everyone’s just crazy,” Taylor said. “This is so local for us, it’s awesome to be a part of.”
Curtis Daniger was one of the happy fans at El Rancho, and he said he’d been waiting a long time for this “once in a lifetime” event.
“It still hasn’t even set in,” Daniger said. “Although I don’t believe it yet, some part of me knows that it’s happening.”
And he intended to make the moment last.
“(We’re partying) until the sun comes up,” he said.
For Mortensen, who also made his way down to El Rancho, the most important thing was the ring.
“It makes up for that 2002 heartbreak,” Mortensen said. “One day, I can die peacefully.”