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interview

A Conversation With the Founder of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society

The New York Baseball Giants, prior to the 1933 World Series.

The Giants baseball club moved to the West Coast after the 1957 season, but the supporters it left behind still have a way of interacting thanks to the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society. And so with the San Francisco Giants set to face the Tigers in the World Series beginning tomorrow night, the Sports Section spoke with the group’s founder and leader, Bill Kent, about sticking with the team after the move, hating the Dodgers, and why being in the society is like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
We’d scheduled a meeting of the club tonight, but I just canceled it because of poor attendance expected. Some of the guys are going to San Francisco to see the World Series.

Ah. So the question everyone must ask you is, why stick with the Giants as a fan even after they moved to San Francisco?
Well, I could turn around and say, "Why not stick with them?" We were Giants fans of various ages, some since the mid-forties. And it’s the same team. Football teams move all the time, and the fans may abandon their interest or they may continue it. In fact, our club is split. There are many guys who don’t want to hear about the San Francisco Giants. And there are other guys that do. So I happen to follow San Francisco, too.

Were there a lot of bad feelings around the time they left?
There were, there were. Yes, definitely. And everybody blamed Walter O’Malley. The thought was that Stoneham was a lush, and that he’d go along with anything. Look, there was a Twilight Zone episode that had a bunch of old guys sitting around, I guess it was an old people’s home, and they’re thinking about the old times and how they played ball as kids. And then a few of them say, "Gee, I wish we were kids again." And of course they enter the Twilight Zone, and they were 10, 12 years old, and they were playing. Well, we’re in the Twilight Zone, particularly during meetings. And we relive our childhood and youth by following the Giants.

How did the organization come together?
Well, there were two or three of us that thought about it. I felt that we should have some group where there were meetings, where we’d get to schmooze with others. Some of us have been writing e-mails around, and we’re still very active on e-mail. Very active — six, seven, ten a day, every day, about the new team or about the old team.

How many members are in the society now?
172.

What’s the split between guys who follow the San Francisco Giants and guys who want no part of them?
I would say 60 to 65 percent that follow both San Francisco Giants and the old Giants. The San Francisco Giants came to New York a year ago, bringing Willie Mays, and the CEO of the team, and various people — even Buster Posey — and had a separate meeting for us. They gave us all books on Willie Mays, and he signed them. So they recognize us. They tip their cap to the old team.

What was it like in the group when the Giants won a couple of years ago?
Well, some of the games were blacked out in New York due to a dispute [between Fox and Cablevision]. So we scattered around, and a bunch of us met at a bar in Riverdale, and I picked up a few members there. That was a lot of fun.

What are your plans for the World Series this year?
Oh, I’m going to watch it at home. I’m not going to San Francisco on the hope of getting a seat or paying some ridiculous amount of money. The Yankees are both loved and hated in New York, and we mostly hate them. But our members were hoping that the Yankees would win the [American League] playoffs, so that the Giants would play them in the World Series, and then kill ‘em.

It seems there’s more nostalgia for the Brooklyn Dodgers than for the New York Giants. Why do you think that is?
What team was that?

The Brooklyn Dodgers.
I didn’t get the name of the team.

The Brooklyn Dodgers.
Yeah, I think there’s interference on the line. [Laughs.] No, we don’t care. We’re not interested in the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Brooklyn Dodgers were fun. The Brooklyn Sym-phony was fun. But we’re Giants fans, and we hate the Dodgers, and we hate the Yankees. Probably hate the Dodgers more.

Anything you want to say about this year’s Giants, or about last night?
Well, what the Giants did in Cincinnati, and in San Francisco, is guts. It’s clutch. I mean, you’re down in both cases [3–1 to the Cardinals, and 2–0 to the Reds], and you come back and win? The Yankees would do just the opposite. They stiffened up in the clutch. Not just Rodriguez — Cano wasn’t hitting. I mean, nobody was hitting. And the Giants — Posey wasn’t hitting in this series. You don’t get all the guys hitting. But Pablo, Scutaro, even Pence chimed in. So the answer is, the Giants have guts, and I guess you could say we have guts to follow teams from the forties. We stick it out.

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Photo: Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images