As every Giants fan knows, few experiences are more riveting than participating in a “Beat L.A” chant as it resonates throughout AT&T Park and into McCovey Cove. The extraordinary experience of shouting these three syllables exemplifies the glory in sports rivalries. In sports, rivalries give every team and their fans another purpose, in addition to winning their league titles. Rivalry games act as mini-championships and allow even the most dismal teams to salvage some respect and sense of accomplishment from an otherwise uneventful season. Along with our passionate dislike for the fans from smoggy “So-Cal,” the Bay Area plays host to some other intense rivalries from the high school level to the big leagues.
Battle of the Birds
Although Lowell is best known for its excellent academic reputation, we Cardinals still take pride in our key rivalry: Battle of the Birds. Every team’s biggest regular season game is played against the Eagles from George Washington High School. What these games lack in hostility, they more than make up with intensity. The Eagles and Cardinals are traditionally two of the best teams in the Academic Athletic Association (AAA). Often players compete against other players who were their teammates on their middle school and club teams. Both the basketball and football games draw the largest crowds. The football game is the only night game played in the AAA each year at Kezar Stadium, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers. In boy’s varsity basketball, Washington has gone 3-2 in the past five years. The Eagles are also 3-2 in the five most recent varsity football games. As one of the fiercest high school rivalries in the city, Lowell-Wash games are always exciting and intense.
Cal Berkeley vs. Stanford
The Bears versus the Cardinal. The Blue and Gold against The Red and White. This rivalry began when the first “Big Game,” the annual football matchup between the two, took place in 1892. The competition has only gotten fiercer since then and has led to a historic series of riveting pranks and amazing games.
From dropping anti-Cal flyers to stealing mascots, the two teams have had a rich rivalry since day one. In 1938 Stanford students burned a huge “S” into the ground of Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium. In 1984 Cal students released blue and gold mice into one of Stanford’s libraries. And then of course there is arguably the most famous event between the two schools: The Play. At the Big Game in 1982 Stanford led 20-19 with 4 seconds left in the game after a miraculous last minute drive. After they kicked off to Cal, members of the Cardinal band rushed onto the field, thinking that they had won the game. The Bears, however, had a different idea. With five laterals and a lot of dodging, they scored a touchdown on the kickoff return, winning the game 25-20. In response to the victory, Stanford journalists printed thousands of fake copies of the Daily Cal with the headline: “NCAA Reverses Outcome of Big Game.”
The Big Game has always been exciting, as it is the most popular college football event in the Bay Area. Stanford leads the series 58-46-11 and has won the past three meetings. Since 1933 the winner of the game has received the Stanford Axe. Both teams have stolen the axe from each other multiple times. The Stanford-Cal Rivalry is one of the greatest college football rivalries of all time.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angleles Dodgers
When the most heated rivalry in baseball history began, Chester A. Arthur was the President of the United States and the Brooklyn Bridge had just been completed. The first game between the present-day San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers was played in 1884 in New York. The rivalry has endured 128 years, over 2000 games and almost 6000 miles of relocation. The all time series between the two teams was much less intense originally, as the Giants dominated every decade through the 1940s. Then, before the 1958 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles. The New York Giants, who at the time were considering relocating to Minnesota, moved to San Francisco to preserve the rivalry. Thus a cross-city rivalry became a cross-state rivalry and the California chapter of this famed series began. The competition has had its fair share of nail biters, as 699 of the contests have been decided by just one run. While the Dodgers have won 350 of these close games to the Giants’ 349, the Giants lead the all-time series by a tally of 1190-1166-17. But perhaps most importantly, the Giants lead the Dodgers in World-Series victories, 7-6, thanks to their recent championships in 2010 and 2012.
The two teams have had more than their fair share of fights and bad blood. In 1965 Giant’s pitcher Juan Marichal hit the Dodger’s catcher, Johnny Roseboro, in the head with his bat, sending the bloody Los Angeles backstop to the hospital where he needed 14 stitches. The incident started when Marichal was batting, and Roseboro’s toss back to the pitcher almost hit Marichal in the head. More recently, after a Giants-Dodgers game on March 31, 2011, a Giants fan named Bryan Stow was critically injured by two Dodgers fans. Stow suffered serious brain damage and went into a coma. He is currently trying to recover from this horrific incident. While rivalries are exciting and make us feel proud to be fans of our favorite teams, we have to remember to not lose control of our emotions.
Rivalries in sports are sometimes what fuel us to continue rooting for our teams. Even in dismal years when everything is going wrong, there is always a big game. Whether it be at China Basin, Memorial Stadium or even Kezar, true fans will always support their clubs no matter the season record. So go out and sport your orange and black, your blue and gold or cardinal red and white. Scream and shout and dance and cheer and jump; let yourself go a little crazy. That is what sports are all about.