In this edition of our series of articles focusing on the team rivalries in MLB, we’re looking at one of MLB’s longest-established rivalries.
A rivalry that has lasted so long, both teams used to play in the same city on the other side of the country. That’s right; in this edition of MLB Rivalries, we’re looking at the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.
In this article, Dodgers fan and team contributor Freddie Law-Keen, along with Bat Flips & Nerds co-founder and podcast host Darius Austin, will break down what the rivalry means to them and their team, its long history and why it continues to endure now they’re both West Coast teams playing in different cities.
Los Angeles Dodgers
With the rivalry starting back in the 1880s between the uptown New York Giants from Manhattan and the blue-collar Brooklyn Bridegrooms, this century-spanning conflict has been one of the most riveting, ferocious and exciting rivalries in all of sport.
When Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley decided to move the team and venture out west, it is believed that he pleaded with the Giants’ ownership – who initially wanted to move into Minnesota – to move to California with them and to continue the flames of the rivalry in pastures anew. By moving out to California, both teams became the first Major League Baseball teams to reside west of St Louis.
A signifier as to how close the rivalry is can be found in the numbers, which show just how embattled these two teams have been. Currently, the Giants are 1278-1265 in the all-time series versus the Dodgers in the regular season. In New York, the Giants had the record winning 721 games to Brooklyn’s 670 wins. Since the move to California, the Dodgers have had their share of the spoils leading 594 – 556.
In postseason success, the numbers are just as tight. The Dodgers have 24 National League (NL) pennants while the Giants have 23. However, the Giants have more World Series titles leading 8-7 in franchise history.
In the past 20 years, the Dodgers have entered one of the best stretches in baseball history, winning twelve of the last 20 NL West divisions, and nine of the last ten. The Dodgers have only been able to convert this dominance into one World Series victory during this time though.
In the orange and black corner, meanwhile, the Giants have won the NL West four times in 20 years and once in the past 10, converting two of those division titles and one wild card appearance into a staggering three World Series titles.
One of the most intriguing parts of this rivalry spanning over three centuries is the fact the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have had only one playoff encounter in the National League postseason since both moved to California in the 1950s. This came in the 2021 season when the Giants (carried on the back of an inspiring farewell campaign for Buster Posey) achieved an NL West record of 107 wins. The trailing Dodgers ended the year with a paltry 106 wins. This put the Dodgers in the unusual position of losing a division by one game, and then having to put their entire post season ambitions into a single wild card game against the Cardinals, who had played sixteen fewer regular season games.
The Dodgers took the game with a walk off home run by Chris Taylor, which set up their next round against who else but the San Francisco Giants. The teams had never met in the post season, and after a year in which fans felt the importance of every single of the 162 games, just for the Giants to take the division by one solitary game, this was the perfect opportunity to make some new history.
The Series went the distance of course, and came down to a do or die, winner takes all game in the cold Pacific air in Northern California. This prompted one-time Giants fan and all-time Dodger legend Vin Scully to write the following tweet on the game:
The Dodgers ended up taking the game and, with it, the series. However, the emotional highs, lows and torment of the eventual 168 game season, as well as a climatic battle with the Giants, was just too much to take. Players were injured, fans were exhausted and the Giants, despite losing, had more than taken their pound of flesh from the victorious Dodgers. As the Dodgers left San Francisco to progress onto the National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Braves were nearly fully rested and managed to pick apart the wounded Dodgers on course to winning the World Series. Giants fans could once again proclaim that the team from Southern California couldn’t cross the line when it mattered the most.
As much as we can deride each other and butterknife records into suiting our own team’s agendas, baseball is more fun with each other though, and even better when both teams are successful. Whisper it quietly, we love the Giants.
Freddie Law-Keen is the LA Dodgers’ contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @FLK_Sports.
San Francisco Giants
For those who love the rich history of baseball, few rivalries can boast the extensive, complex relationship that the Giants and Dodgers have had across well over 100 years of baseball history.
From their early matchup in the 1889 World Series (as the New York Giants and Brooklyn Bridegrooms) to the exceedingly controversial move from east to west coast in the late 1950s, the two former New York clubs have been intertwined for the vast majority of recorded baseball history.
Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley persuaded Giants owner Horace Stoneham to make that move to keep the rivalry alive, and stayed alive it has. It would be remiss of me to not mention Bobby Thomson’s 1951 Shot Heard ‘Round the World to win the NL pennant for the Giants, still one of the most legendary moments in baseball history. I can only imagine the controversy it would have created if it had happened 70 years later, given the reports of the Giants using a sign-stealing system that coincided with their late-season hot streak and supposedly relayed the fastball sign to Thomson during the key at-bat.
For me, the lasting memory of this rivalry being different was my second game at Oracle (then AT&T) Park, one that my brother attended with me. I had told him before the game that baseball was different from football, that the away fans didn’t sit in one section and everyone intermingled in the stands. When we got to our seats in the bleachers, I turned to see that a group of vociferous Dodgers fans had bought at least 20 complete rows directly behind us. We spent the game receiving full-throated (and largely good-natured) abuse, feeling like we had, in fact, sat directly in front of the away end at a football match.
Since I became a baseball fan in 2008, I have been fortunate to see three Giants World Series victories, but I have also seen the Dodgers go from the chaos of the McCourt era to a formidable juggernaut under Andrew Friedman’s leadership. They have been the clear team to beat in the NL West for close to a decade – a status that made the 2021 regular season division title all the sweeter when the Giants somehow topped their 106-56 record by a win to snap LA’s eight-year division streak. They remain the team to beat in the division for now, but, no matter the fortunes of each club, this will continue to be one of the most hotly-contested rivalries in the sport.
Darius Austin is one of the co-founders of Bat Flips & Nerds, co-host of the Bat Flips & Nerds podcast, and can be found on Twitter @DariusA64.
As Freddie and Darius both highlight, the teams, through each of their different iterations, have been intrinsically linked for over a century.
By becoming the first two MLB teams west of St Louis, they are also the Lewis and Clark of baseball; pioneers that paved the way for all the other teams that then made the Pacific coast their home, including my own Oakland Athletics, who made the move from Kansas City to the East Bay in 1968.
It also speaks volumes about the power of rivalries in sport to attract fans and retain interest that Walter O’Malley dissuaded Horace Stoneham from moving his Giants team to Minnestoa and instead pick San Francisco, as he knew how important it was for his team, and MLB as a whole, to maintain its association with its oldest rival.
That being said, both Freddie and Darius also highlight that it is a rivalry that is good-natured and has mutual ‘love’ (to quote Freddie) at its heart. Yes, you always want to beat your rivals, and it makes your victories that much sweeter, but you also realise your team would be nothing without its rivals too.
Walter O’Malley knew that 65 years ago, and both Freddie and Darius have acknowledged that in this article too.
Come back next Wednesday for the next edition of MLB Rivalries!
Brett is the Oakland Athletics team contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.
Featured Image – John Hefti /AP