A week ago tonight, the Giants organization won its first World Series since 1954 — and its first since relocating to San Francisco. Cheering them on was Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, a longtime Giants fan who spent nineteen years partnered with Mike Francesa on WFAN before starting his own show — and channel — on Sirius XM. (As Russo said on his show Tuesday, “Listen, I understand that … I’m the one that sort of represents a lot of the Giant fans outside of the Bay Area. But that doesn’t mean I’m the best Giant fan. It just means I’m the loudest.”) The Sports Section spoke with Russo about how he celebrated, when he knew they were going to win, and whether Francesa has called to congratulate him.
So how did you celebrate?
It wasn’t like I drank a bottle of Champagne or anything, or dumped Champagne over my kids’ heads, but I watched it. I got thoroughly into it — immersed into it — post-games and all those kinds of things. Kept all the newspapers, read all the stories, I’ll frame a couple things. I played all the music on the radio here, did the big open. As far as doing anything specific, did I go out there and have a celebratory dinner? No, I did not. Did I go out there and drink seven beers? No, I did not. Did I make calls to people around the country? Not really. I basically looked at it like I look at everything as a sports fan: I sort of internalize it, and think of it from that perspective. It creates memories, but I don’t go out there and actually emote — as far as going out there and having expressions of joy. I do it a little differently.
At what point did you really think they were going to win? After Game 2? After the Renteria home run?
I thought once the Giants won Game 3 against Atlanta, the way they won it in the ninth inning with Freddy Sanchez’s two-out single, then Huff’s two-out single, then Brooks Conrad’s error — once they won that game, I thought the Giants had a tremendous chance to win the whole thing. I liked them against the Phillies — I’m not trying to tell you I felt comfortable with them against the Phillies; I was very worried about Game 6 — but I liked them against the Phillies. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They won every odd game. They won two out of three at home. But I loved them against Texas. I loved them against Texas. Giants had home field, Giants had the better manager, Giants had better starting pitching, Giants had the better bullpen, and the Giants had karma.
Had you ever gotten that feeling before, that you really thought they were going to win the World Series?
Yeah, I did, one other time. In 2000, when the Giants played the Mets, I thought that team was a great team. When J.T. Snow hit a home run there against Benitez in the ninth inning of Game 2 to tie the game at 4–4, I thought the Giants were on their way. So that one really bothered me, losing that series. In 2002, I knew the Angels were going to be very hard to beat. I thought they’d beat Atlanta — and have a long series, but I thought they’d beat the Braves. I thought they would beat the Cardinals. In ‘89 I did not like them against the A’s. But I did think they were going to beat the Mets. I thought that team could win the whole thing. Plus remember 2000, the Yankees won only 87 games. So I thought the 2000 Giants were going to win the whole thing. They had the best record in baseball, they won 90-something games. That one really surprised me.
Was it harder as a Giants fan working in New York?
No, easier. If I was on FAN, this would have been a major problem, because I don’t know if I’d have been able to lead with the Giants on Monday at 1 o’clock, with the Jets losing to Green Bay. I think I got an actual, tremendous break that I’m here at Sirius during their championship, since it didn’t come against the Yankees. If it’s Giants–Yankees, different story — but it wasn’t. I think I got a tremendous break that I’m here because it gives me the flexibility to do anything I want. I think being here enables me to do Giant baseball any way I want. Nobody can say anything. While if I was on a local station, on FAN, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Speaking of FAN, have you spoken to Mike Francesa?
I have not spoken to Mike. I could not go on Mike’s show — and this was my decision, not Sirius XM, they had nothing to do with it, nobody knew. I didn’t go ask Mel [Karmazin] or my boss or anything like that. I could not do him before I did my own audience. I’ve been here for two-and-a-half years. I got people buying subscriptions on Tuesday, calling up Sirius: I gotta buy a subscription. I gotta hear what he says at 2 o’clock. I can’t have people do that, and then go run and do Mike at 1:25. I can’t do it. It’s not the right thing to do. The ten people out there who bought Sirius because of me, who want to hear me talk about the Giants, I gotta let them get first crack at me. This is paid-subscription radio. They deserve first crack at me. I was there with Mike for nineteen years. That rant in 2003 was with Mike, but I gotta give my audience first dibs with me on Tuesday. That was my call. That was nobody else’s call.
Did you get calls from other people you’ve worked with? I imagine you’ve gotten quite a few congratulatory calls.
Oh, I got a million calls. A million calls. I did a show on Tuesday: Costas called, Selig called, Joe Buck called, Chris Carlin called, Joe Torre called, Duane Kuiper called, Peter Magowan called. We did basically a congratulatory type of show. I’ve been amazed the amount of fans from New York who have chimed in. They’re happy for me. And I’ve been very surprised by that. I didn’t think too many people would be into that, and they are.
Were you surprised that Mike didn’t call?
I’m not surprised. I guess he congratulated me on the air, which I didn’t hear, but that’s what somebody told me, that he said good job to Dog. And I thought he’d do that. But for Mike to pick up the phone because the Giants won — I didn’t call Mike last year when the Yankees won. So I didn’t necessarily expect that. I could see Mike being a little annoyed that I could not go do 1:25. I offered Mike 6:15 here, but I could see him not wanting to do that. But am I shocked that Mike didn’t call me? No. He did mention it on the air, and again, I didn’t call him last year when the Yankees won, so there you go.
So what happens next? How does the mindset of a Giants fan change now?
It’s gonna change, and I’m very worried about that, whether I’m going to have the same obsession with the team next year, if I’m going to fret over that loss. I can remember on August 30 when the Rockies beat the Giants this year, when they got two in the ninth off Wilson, I was unbelievably annoyed that night. I couldn’t sleep. Will I have that same kind of feeling next year? And I want that feeling. You know, you want to be annoyed. Will I have that next year? I can’t answer that question. I’m a little worried about that — if the obsession level diminishes. I hope it doesn’t.
Anything else you want to say about the Giants?
It’s a tremendous story. It’s a ragamuffin team. I was absolutely amazed, being out there for the four days I was out there, I was amazed how many people love this Giant team, this particular group. This is a typical, perfect San Francisco team. Lincecum gets high, Wilson wears his beard, it’s Cody Ross, whose father was a rodeo clown. It’s a ragamuffin team. This team represents the psyche of San Francisco absolutely superbly. You couldn’t imagine a team with a city better than this team with this city.