The San Francisco Giants are three games into the 2011 season, and they’re still partying like it’s 2010.
Not the players, mind you. But the celebration roars on for the fans, and for the worship of a silver trophy that stands 24 inches tall.
“The holy grail,” said Bill Neukom, the Giants’ chief executive officer.
The Giants sold World Series memorabilia by the truckload, and yet the most wanted artifact was the one that was not for sale. The championship trophy was the official manifestation of that glorious eradication of half a century of frustration.
When more than 1 million fans crammed into the streets of San Francisco for the championship parade, club officials were startled — not by the raucous ovations for Tim Lincecum or Buster Posey, but by the awe and reverence that greeted the trophy.
Fathers hoisted sons atop shoulders, pushing forward for a better view of the trophy. Mothers waved pictures of dead relatives in its direction.
“It’s not just a piece of hardware that symbolizes a victory,” Giants President Larry Baer said. “It symbolized months and years of people going to games together, of generations bonding together, a shared experience for so many.”
The Giants landed on the shores of San Francisco in 1958, but never had they won the grand prize — not at Seals Stadium or Candlestick Park, not at Pacific Bell Park or SBC Park.
All that pent-up jubilation could not be spent in one day. No sooner had the parade ended than the calls and e-mails started, requests from fans far and wide for the trophy to make an appearance in their town.
So the Giants put the trophy on tour, happy to share the spoils of victory with a victory-starved fan base, not really sure what to expect.
They got a clue on the first stop, in Sacramento. Staci Slaughter, the Giants’ vice president of communications, had told her father to come say hello on the day the trophy went on display at the State Capitol.
Her father works across the street, but the lines were so long that he finally called to say he could not get into the building.
“Even the Senate sergeant at arms was gracious about the whole thing,” Slaughter said. “And he was a Dodger fan.”
The trophy traveled all over the San Francisco Bay Area, north into Oregon, east into Nevada, south to San Luis Obispo.
“It’s always been a Dodger place,” said Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who has lived in San Luis Obispo for 21 years, “but there was a lot of orange and black that day.”
The trophy traveled to New York, the ancestral home of the Giants. Baer sat in Seat 2A on a flight from San Francisco. The trophy sat in Seat 2B, and Baer finally had to walk through the cabin with it so as to keep order in the skies.
“People were jumping over seats to get a picture,” he said.
In New York, the Giants took the trophy to the elementary school on the site where the Polo Grounds once stood, and where their greatest player graced center field.
Willie Mays came too. So did Posey, although he admits he cannot entirely comprehend the emotions of the fans that told him how they had waited 56 years for this moment, to see this trophy.
“I can’t,” Posey said, “since I’m only 24.”
The trophy has made 50 stops, with more to come. It has traveled 20,000 miles, with more than 100,000 fans posing alongside for a picture.
“It’s like a rock star,” Slaughter said, “but it doesn’t talk back to you, and you can schedule it whenever you want.”
The road show continued into this spring. Brian Wilson, the Giants’ colorful closer, marched the trophy to Twitter headquarters.
In May, the Giants will fly the trophy to New York, to the town of Rome, where the franchise was founded as the Troy City Trojans in 1879. The trophy also will spend a day with each of the Giants’ minor league affiliates.
And then, someday, the Giants might actually have time to get the trophy engraved.
You see, none of those thousands upon thousands of fans has taken a picture with a trophy that carries the inscription of the Giants as World Series champions. The Giants happily accepted the generic trophy from Bud Selig in the visiting clubhouse in Texas on the first day of November, and the engraving had to wait for the delirium to subside.
It might be difficult for Dodgers fans to take comfort in any of this, except for Slaughter’s explanation of why the Giants have been so careful in planning the tour for their trophy.
“It’s the only one we have,” she said.