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Battle By The Bay

With Division Title on Line, Dodgers, Giants Have Another Chance to Revel in Their Rivalry


SAN FRANCISCO — Then, it was borough against borough. Now, it is city against city.

Then, it was for a pennant. Now, it is for a division title.

Then, it was Coogan's Bluff and Flatbush Avenue. Now it is the Ravine and the Stick.

But it is always the same. From Durocher and the Duke, the Say-Hey Kid and Sal the Barber, down to Koufax and Drysdale, and Marichal and Cepeda, and Barry and Dusty, and Chan Ho and Hideo, it is the Dodgers and the Giants, one of the century's longest, most bitter sports rivalries.

The current editions of these clubs don't need any historic ties to inflame their passions. The fact that they have been running within reach of each other for weeks now in their race for the National League West title, first one on top, then the other, is reason enough.

Now, with the finish line in sight, they will meet in a two-game showdown series beginning here tonight.

It was only natural that teams representing the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan would become furious rivals in New York in the first half of this century, when baseball was king.

Recreating that rivalry on the West Coast, where those teams relocated in 1958, required two cities that already had little or no regard for one another.

Los Angeles and San Francisco were perfect.

Carmen Policy, president of the San Francisco 49ers, enumerated a few differences while discussing the fierceness of the old 49er-Los Angeles Ram rivalry.

"San Franciscans consider themselves to be stable, solid, articulate, classy and substantive people," Policy said. "Whereas L.A. is viewed to be tinsel, pizazz, Hollywood, trendy and less real."

Trying to get a response from most Angelenos about their northern neighbors is difficult. Most don't think poorly of San Francisco. As a matter of fact, they don't think about the city at all, unless they are planning a vacation there.

But ask those who have been around the Dodgers for many years about the Giants and there is no problem getting a response.

Six members of the Dodger family were asked to pick their most memorable Dodger-Giant game.

DON NEWCOMBE, Former Dodger pitcher, Cy Young Award winner and now the team's director of community relations

He picked the third and final game of a 1951 playoff series between the Dodgers and Giants at New York's Polo Grounds, a game won by the Giants' Bobby Thomson with a ninth-inning home run off Ralph Branca.

"I started that game," Newcombe said. "I remember after I came out in the ninth inning, I was in the shower in the Dodger clubhouse. Now, in the old Polo Grounds, the two clubhouses were next to each other.

"There was a group of reporters waiting outside our clubhouse to interview us when it appeared we were going to win.

"When Bobby Thomson hit the home run, I didn't know it. But when I heard the stampede of reporters running from our clubhouse to theirs, I knew we had lost. I didn't have to ask. I just stayed in the shower for about 45 minutes.

"I remember coming out and here was Ralph Branca sitting on some steps with his head between his legs, crying. I remember looking at him and thinking, 'My God, what baseball does to people.' I didn't realize what you had to do to win a championship.

"It was real competition between the Dodgers and the Giants, but we understood. I remember one time I was told I had to throw at Willie Mays with my first pitch or it would cost me $50.

"I warned him, 'I've got to throw that first pitch at you.'

"He said to me, 'That's OK, I can hit the second pitch.' "

VIN SCULLY, Dodger announcer

He also picked the 1951 game.

Said Scully, "One thing I always remember about that day is seeing a guy down in the stands at the Polo Grounds who had a big horseshoe of flowers that he was holding. And across it was a ribbon that read, 'GIANTS, R.I.P.' for rest in peace.

"I often wonder, when the Giants came back to win, what that guy did with that horseshoe of flowers. That's not something you can hide.

"When it was over, Branca, who was a personal friend of mine, was stretched out on some steps in the clubhouse. And I remember Pee Wee Reese saying, 'The one thing I'll never understand is how this game hasn't made me crazy.' "

BILL RUSSELL, Dodger manager and longtime shortstop

He picked the final day of the 1982 season when Joe Morgan, then a Giant, hit a home run off Dodger Terry Forster at Candlestick Park to eliminate the Dodgers from postseason play.

Said Russell, "I remember watching that ball go over the fence. It was sad, one of the saddest things I've seen on a field.

"The reason I think the rivalry stayed so strong in the years when I played was because we were battling each other for so long in the minors before we ever came to the big leagues. In those days, we were at Spokane and the Giant minor leaguers were at Phoenix. And then we'd face each other as Dodgers and Giants.

FRED CLAIRE, Dodger executive vice president

He chose the last game of the regular season in 1993 when the Dodgers eliminated the Giants from postseason play for a change.

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