The Giants-Dodgers Rivalry




As the years go by and the seasons change, two teams remain deeply entrenched in their hatred for one another. Rivalry in and of itself has helped lift sports to new heights as two teams go at it on the field of play battle for supremacy. However, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers share a rivalry more unique than others because they both have a deep history with one another on both coasts of America. This is a rivalry steeped in the history of the game and embedded in the hearts of fans all across the nation.


Beginning on May 3, 1890 at Washington Park in Brooklyn, New York, the New York Bridegrooms defeated the Giants 7-3, beginning one of the oldest rivalries in the sport. The rivalry was lopsided for much of the first five decades with the Giants consistently boasting one of the most talented rosters in the majors led by a manager as authoritative as he was short. Under the leadership of John McGraw, the Giants won ten pennants and three World Series.



Meanwhile, the Dodgers struggled to pick a name, from one year to the next choosing names such as the Grays, the Bridegrooms, the Grooms, the Superbas and the Robins until finally settling on the Dodgers moniker in 1932. By 1941, the Dodgers made it to the World Series where they would lose to a crosstown rival who was devastating the hopes and dreams of both the Dodgers and the Giants, the Yankees.


The Dodgers began adding talent as the decade progressed, with names such as Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson soon gracing the halls of Ebbets field with their presence. While the Dodgers were busy assembling one of baseball's deepest rosters, the Giants were also adding quality talent such as Willie Mays and Monte Irvin. With all of this talent, it was only a matter of time before the two teams were destined for one of baseball's great pennant races.


In 1951, the Dodgers built a seemingly insurmountable 13 game lead by the middle of August. However, the Giants knew that they had the ability to catch up to their arch-rivals; as long as they stayed focused and played a little better each and every day. Slowly, the lead began to dwindle as the Giants won one game after another while the Dodgers began to lose their momentum. By the end of the regular season, both teams were tied for first place, meaning that they would have to play a best-of-three playoff.


The rivals split the first two games, setting up an epic clash at the Polo Grounds on October 3, 1951. In a pitcher's duel, neither team scored until scored once in the seventh. The Dodgers scored three at the top of the eighth. Though the Giants scored once in the bottom of the ninth, all hope seemed lost until Bobby Thompson hit a walk-off home run off of Ralph Branca. The shouts of joy from Giants radio broadcaster Russ Hodges stills echoes loudly in the long history if the rivalry.



It was the greatest era of baseball in New York, with at least one team from that region going to the World Series each year from 1949 to 1958. Though the decade was thoroughly dominated by the Yankees, the Giants and Dodgers routinely battled for pennant supremacy. After the Giants won their last title in New York in 1954, the Dodgers won their lone title in Brooklyn the following year. By 1957, both teams had grown weary of dwindling attendance and sought to travel west, together.



As the two rivals traveled to a new venture in the Golden State, neither organization knew what to expect. After all, they were ambassadors for the game, bringing the Gospel of Major League Basaeball to streets lined with palm trees and not a flake of snow in sight. Despite their unfamiliar surroundings, both teams adapted well and were soon fighting for pennants. By 1959, the Dodgers were World Series champions, having defeated the White Sox in the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum.


Three years later, the Giants and Dodgers enjoyed a pennant race which brought an air of familiarity from the 1951 pennant race. Again, both teams finished tied atop the National League, again, there would be a best-of-three playoff series between the two foes and again, the first two games were split, forcing a deciding third game. Exactly 11 years to the day since "the Shot Heard 'Round the World", the Giants were down by two when they scored four runs in the top of the ninth to clinch the National League and crush the Dodgers' soul in Los Angeles.


Though the Giants still boasted one of the more talented rosters in all of baseball, the 1960's would prove to belong to the Dodgers as their star pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax dominated virtually every lineup they faced. In total, the Dodgers would go to the World Series three times, winning twice. Meanwhile, the Giants slowly slipped into mediocrity, with their once great depth of talent aging and attendance dwindling by the year.


Despite their different stories, both clubs continued to clash every year for supremacy in the National League. August 22, 1965 provided the ugliest moment in the rivalry. Before a packed crowd of more than 42,000 at Candlestick Park, IN the bottom of the third inning, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal was facing his third strike when Dodgers catcher John Roseboro intentionally threw the ball back to Sandy Koufax a little too close to Marichal. Enraged, Marichal clubbed Roseboro in the skull with his bat and both dugouts quickly emptied. As a result of the melee, Roseboro missed two games due to his injury and Marichal was suspended eight game days (or ten games due to doubleheaders).



As the decades went, so did the rivalry. The Dodgers began to thoroughly embrace the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and would win over a rabid following in balmy Chavez Ravine. Though the Giants would enjoy a winning season once in a while in the 1970's and 1980's, the unusual wind and cold of San Francsico's Candlestick Park caused many fans to stay home.


Still, the rivalry had its' moments. Late in 1982, the Dodgers eliminated the Giants from playoff contention. The following day, the Giants returned the favor when Joe Morgan blasted a three-run homer to break the Dodger's hearts. It remains the only time that both teams eliminated each other from the playoffs in the same season.


Late in the 1990, season, the Dodgers looked like they would be going to the playoffs until the Giants played spoiler and swept them. The cap things off, Dodger great Fernando Valenzuela gave up eight runs in four innings, ending his time in Dodgers blue. ON September 18, 1997, Giants catcher Brian Johnson hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to tie the two teams atop the NL West. The Giants would go on to win the pennant by two games that year.


In 2001, Barry Bonds broke the controversial single season home run record against the Dodgers, hitting home run numbers 71 and 72 in the game. Late in 2004, the Giants and Dodgers were once again in the midst of a tight pennant race. Meeting each other in six of their final nine games, the Dodgers won three of those contests to win the NL West by two games over their hated rivals.


As the new decade dawned, no one could have foretold of the greatness that both teams would exude. Neither organization had won the World Series in decades and it seemed likely that neither would do so for the foreseeable future. When the Giants won the World Series for the first time since 1954 in 2010, they unknowingly began the next great chapter in one of baseball's oldest rivalries. From 2010 through 2020, the clubs would combine for four World Series titles, six appearances in the Fall Classic and nine National League West pennants.


In 2021, they embarked on one of the greatest pennant races in recent memory. Before the season, the Giants had been looked at as third best in their division, at best. However, they shocked the baseball world and won 107 games, winning their division by one game over the Dodgers. In the history of the major leagues, no division has never had two teams that have won so much in the same year..


Amazingly, despite their long, long history, the rivals had never faced each other in the playoffs. Sure there had been playoff games to determine pennant winners in the past, but they had never meet in baseball's current playoff format. The Dodgers won their first official playoff series over the Giants five games in their best-of-five division series.


Now the teams continue on their collective journeys of hate for one another. Led by managers who had once been teammates on the 2004 world champion Red Sox, the Giant's Gabe Kapler and the Dodger's Dave Roberts have shown time and again that they know how to win games and have successfully developed winning cultures in their respective ballclubs. When the first pitch is thrown in either Oracle Park or Dodger Stadium, the world stops and everything ceases to matter. All that remains is a rivalry entrenched in the history of the game.





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