Whoopie! Our valiant Giants are in the World Series again, for the fifth time since
they moved to the city from New York in 1958. Pretty exciting, but it can't possibly be more exciting than the first SF
Giants series in 1962.
Actually, it was more than excitement that swept San Francisco during that '62 World
Series and the regular season leading up to the series. It was near-hysteria. As a young reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle
in those days, I felt it up close and very personal.
It didn't matter what had happened anywhere in the world
during that summer and early fall, the main headline in the Chronicle and the city's other two daily newspapers, spread
in screaming black type 1 1/4 inches high all across the top of page one – day after day – was almost always about
Revolutions, wars? So what? It was GIANTS BEAT DODGERS . . . GIANTS LOSE TO L.A . . . GIANTS 4-2 OVER REDS
. . .
The city was reeling. The Giants were on the way to the World Series. A World Series in San Francisco!
Merchants filled the newspapers with ads that offered goods "the Giants look up to," promised "big
league values," and, of course, congratulated the Giants and their fans. for every victory leading to the series.
The hype was too much for some of us at the Chronicle, even me, a former ballplayer. I joined 10 others to sign an
anti-baseball petition prompted by the airing at the paper – loudly and daily – of the radio broadcasts of Giants'
"It is not that we have any inherent objection to the Great American Pastime," the petitioners
explained. "Our protest is against the unilateral establishment of an electronic device which broadcasts to a captive
city room the trivia associated with the sport. Exhortations like 'Willie Mays,' while they obviously provoke a pseudo-religious
ecstasy among fans, leave a number of us writhing in embarrassment."
We gained nothing by our petition. Worse,
the city editor added insult to injury by sending us out, transistor radios in hand, to capture the mood of the "man
in the street" during the World Series' broadcasts. I was the first to get the assignment. I was supposed to rush
up to people in the street after particularly exciting plays, get their excited comments and weave them into one of the fluffy
page one feature stories my editors favored – "wiggly rulers," they called them, after the wavy lines used
to set them off.
But I stuffed the radio into a jacket pocket and wandered aimlessly around Chinatown, where there
were few Giants fans in evidence, returning later to explain lamely that I just couldn't find any men in the street who
cared about the World Series.
The next day, the radio was turned over to another reporter, but he had no more interest
in the assignment than I. The city editor, hinting darkly that he might fire the lot of us for insubordination, got his story
on the third try – even though the reporter he sent out that day spent the whole time in his favorite drinking establishment
down the street.
The reporter returned to the office barely able to walk, much less type a story or give a coherent
excuse for not doing so. We propped him up carefully behind a desk in the far reaches of the city room, safely hidden from
the nearsighted city editor, then dictated a story to another reporter at the desk directly in front of his, using the names
of friends for our men in the street and quotes we had turns making up to go along with the names.
As he completed
a page, the reporter who was typing the story would turn and lay it on the desk of the reporter who supposedly was writing
the story, one of us would shout, "Boy!" and a copy boy would grab the page and rush it to the city editor's
desk at the front of the room.
It was a very lively story, quite possibly the best wiggly ruler the Chronicle had
run in several months.
Copyright © 2012 Dick Meister