By: Scott Shafer
When it comes to sports rivalries, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one than the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the San Francisco Giants. The 2012 baseball season is in its final stretch and all year long the teams have battled for first place in the National League West Division.
Two weeks ago, with the Giants and Dodgers still locked in a fight for the pennant, San Francisco hosted LA for a crucial three game series. In her seat near the field along the first base line, Giants season ticket holder Mary Jane Mornette is wearing her team's colors.
"I always wear orange and black to every game. And I wear the same necklace, orange and black necklace, orange and black bracelet," Mornette says. And like many Giants fans, Mornette says beating Los Angeles gives her special pleasure.
"Yeah, there is a special feeling," Mornette explains. "It's two really good teams going at each other. I don't have hate for the Dodgers but I really would love to see the Giants beat them. It's fun when they beat them."
In the upper deck, Fred Victor and his girlfriend Susanna King are walking evidence that this Giants-Dodgers rivalry can be complicated. She's from the North Coast and likes the Giants. He's from Riverside-a lifelong Dodgers fan. She tries to split the difference-wearing an SF cap that's Dodger blue. But he isn't having it.
FRED VICTOR: So it kind of causes conflict here and there, but no big deal.
SUSANNA KING: I kind of like both teams. But I'm mostly a Giants fan.
VICTOR: Not a real fan. If you like both teams, you're not a real fan.
SCOTT SHAFER: It's got to be one or the other.
VICTOR: One or the other, especially when it comes to the Dodgers versus the Giants.
On occasion, that fan rivalry gets out of hand. Last year Giants' fan Bryan Stow was severely beaten outside Dodgers' stadium. He nearly died and is left with serious brain damage. Two men are being tried in that case.
Dodger and Giants fans enjoying a game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Now, security for these games is much tighter. But on this sunny day at least, the fans' rivalry was overwhelmingly good natured and fun. The roots of the rivalry go back more than a century, to the East Coast, when they were the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Sports casting legend Vin Scully has been calling Dodgers games from the broadcast booth since their days in Brooklyn. He says the rivalry back then was up close and personal.
"Because in New York, let's just say you worked for the post office, a job that I held at one time, slotting mail. You were shoulder to shoulder maybe with a Giant fan, a Dodger fan, a Yankee fan, and of course there'd be constant bickering who was better than whom," Scully said.
In 1958, both teams were having trouble getting new stadiums in New York. And so, they both decided to go west, bringing their history with them.
"Rivalries are really important for an organization, if you have one. I think if you don't have one, you look for one. You want one," Larry Baer says.
Larry Baer is the Giants team president. He says while the competition is hot on the field and in the stands, the two front offices have always been close. In fact he notes, the Dodgers convinced the Giants to move west with them, to preserve their rivalry.
"We are able to stay in business only by selling tickets, and getting people to watch games on television, and get sponsors to engage and all that," Baer explains.
In other words, that friendly competition generates a ton of money for both teams. And, of course, plenty of fun for fans.
The California Report host Scott Shafer (L) and legendary Los Angeles Dodgers sportscaster Vin Scully at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Mike Krukow pitched for the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco before retiring in 1989. And now, he's a color commentator for the Giants.
"Both organizations are great organizations. Both fan bases are great fan bases," Krukow says. "But both teams absolutely detest losing to the other team. And I think that is extremely cool."
Krukow says any player who is part of a rivalry is lucky and even players new to one of the teams figures out quickly what's what.
"You just have to hang around the outfield during batting practice to hear what is being said to you by the people in the stands. And by the end of that batting practice session, you're into it! You get it and you're ready to join the club," Krukow says.
The Giants 24-year-old first baseman Brandon Belt is in his second season with the team. But even when he played with the Giants minor league team, the rivalry with LA was bred into him by the team organization.
"Once you start getting up into Triple-A, you start to really feel the intensity," Belt says. "When people start filling out the stadium and stuff like that to see the Triple-A rivalry, you know it's going to be something special when you get to the big leagues. And it definitely is."
In the Dodgers dugout before the game, I ask coach Don Mattingly how playing San Francisco compares with other games on the road. "It's definitely different here. Just a little rowdier here than some other places you go to," Mattingly explains.
But Mattingly adds that while the fans are louder, he tries to maintain an even keel for his players no matter who they play. Giants coach Bruce Bochy says the same goes for him, and yet, "It's right up there as far as the biggest rival. I mean, you look at New York and Boston and the two Chicago teams, but there's more history probably and fights between these two teams than any other two teams," Bochy says.
The Dodgers and Giants were neck and neck most of the season but in the past three weeks San Francisco has pulled away and could clinch the division as soon as this weekend. But former Giants pitcher Mike Krukow says no matter how far apart the two teams are, any time they meet there's intensity and excitement in the stands.
"If you're a player, you're lucky if you're part of a rivalry. It's really what is the spice of our sport. We don't take it for granted and the fans don't either," Krukow says.
The Dodgers and Giants finish up the regular season against each other, with three games in Los Angeles the first week of October.