Over the next (potentially) seven days the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet in the best of five 2021 National League Division Series.
There will be two games at the Giants’ Oracle Park on Friday October 8th and Saturday October 9th. After an off-day Sunday, they will pick up the NLDS at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles on Monday October 11th and Tuesday October 12th. If needed, a Game 5 tie breaker would be played in San Francisco on Thursday October 14th.
Incredibly, it will be the first time in their collective 131-year histories that these teams will face each other in the post season.
When both teams moved to California in 1958 it seemed their East Coast rivalry would only get more intense. And it did for several decades. But by the 1990s and early 2000’s, any competitive fire was nearly nonexistent, mostly because the Dodger organization and fanbase no longer considered the Giants a competitive threat. While that further infuriated Giants fans, the rivalry slowly disappeared.
In reality both teams eventually developed a more robust, and at times fierce, rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals, who became perennial roadblocks whenever LA or San Francisco managed to get into the playoffs.
There is a somewhat tattered history between the Dodgers and Giants playing spoilers to each other’s attempts to make the MLB postseason. A number of times, each team has successfully prevented the other from making the playoffs in the final week of the regular season.
Everyone recalls the famous 1951 showdown between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Both teams finished the regular season with matching 95-59 records. A three-game tiebreaker was played, and the Giants took two of those three games and went on to the World Series. But tiebreaker games are counted as regular season games, not postseason playoff games.
And of course in the final game of that three game playoff, the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit the game winning homerun that became known as “The shot heard ‘round the world”.
Years later it was discovered that the Giants had cheated not only during the three-game playoff with the Dodgers, but for the entire second half of the 1951 season.
A military-style telescope had been secretly placed in the center-field wall of the Giants’ Polo Grounds Stadium to steal the opposing team’s catcher signs. An electronic buzzer system relayed the pitch signs to the Giants bullpen bench where a player or coach would signal the pitch call to the hitter. The whole process took seconds.
After years of denials, near the end of his life Bobby Thompson finally admitted the cheating scam was used, and tacitly acknowledged that the final pitch thrown to him by by Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca had been signaled to him. (Read all the details in Joshua Prager’s “The Echoing Green”)
But this is 2021, and 63 years after these teams relocated from New York the promise of a true Giants and Dodgers postseason showdown will finally be fulfilled.
And think about this: the Dodgers (106-56) went 50-21 after the All Star break and only picked up one game on the Giants (107-55). Not only will these games potentially be the highlight of this season’s MLB playoffs, the hope is they will reignite a dormant rivalry that once fired up millions of baseball fans in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
And 2021 is likely just the start of these two teams battling each other for baseball dominance over the next decade.