ARLINGTON, Texas -- So this what it is like when your team finally wins a World Series.
Barely 20 minutes after the final out Monday, stadium security closed the San Francisco Giants clubhouse to additional visitors. There was only so much space and the clubhouse was maxed out on happy. While reporters already inside attempted to gather quotes and dodge champagne, the rest of us stood outside as if we were waiting to get into the most popular nightclub in town. There was even a velvet rope, though given that we're baseball writers, no security guard was giving anyone a pass based on our looks. "It's the fire codes,'' said a major league spokesman. "We can't do anything about that.''
I've covered the World Series since 1989, but this is the first time I've come across this situation. It made complete sense, though. When you wait more than half a century to win your first world championship in a city, not even the Pentagon would be large enough to hold all the people who should have been there to celebrate.
Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Felipe Alou, Matty Alou, Jesus Alou, Mike McCormick, Jim Ray Hart, Jim Davenport, Herman Franks
When I finally got inside the party, I saw Brad Horn and Jeff Idelson of the Hall of Fame weaving their way through the players and looking for artifacts to take back to Cooperstown. They wound up with, among other items, the bat with which Edgar Renteria hit his game-winning home run and the jersey Tim Lincecum wore while pitching his brilliant game. Those are nice mementoes, but no single item in that clubhouse could adequately capture what this World Series means to Giants fans.
No, to adequately capture what following the Giants all these years felt like, you would need the glove with which Bobby Richardon snuffed our hopes in the 1962 World Series. The standings showing all those second-place finishes in the 1960s despite a roster with five Hall of Famers, and again in 1993 despite 103 victories. A capful of Croix de Candletsick pins given to fans who endured entire extra-inning night games at that frigid stadium. The moving vans that were all but loaded when the Giants nearly moved to Toronto and St. Petersburg. A piece of concrete shaken at Candletsick by the earthquake in the 1989 World Series. A kayak from McCovey Cove where so many of Barry Bonds' home runs splashed. The broken TV screens kicked in when Scott Spieizio's home run cleared the fence in Anaheim in the 2002 World Series.
Those are the things Giants fans always thought about before Monday. But what will they think of now? "They'll think of this team, 2010,'' J.T. Snow said while wearing a champagne-stained world championship cap. "They'll think of all this."
Snow was the first baseman in 2002 when the Giants came so close to winning the World Series that he saw the clubhouse crew duct-tape plastic over the lockers to protect them from champagne showers and then saw them take it down. This time, however, the plastic stayed up and the players doused the clubhouse with champagne and beer. And then several people grabbed some bottles and took aim at Mike Murphy, who has worked in the Giants' clubhouse since they arrived in 1958, and ran after him as he good-naturedly fled though the doors leading to the field, the Giants present chasing away the San Francisco past.
Bobby Bonds, Chris Speier, Tito Fuentes, Charlie Fox, Ron Bryant, Gary Mathews, Garry Maddox, Randy Moffitt, Ed Halicki, John Montefusco, Darrell Evans, Jack Clark, Vida Blue, Frank Robinson, Chili Davis, Joe Morgan, Atlee Hammaker
Eventually, the rest of the team left the clubhouse as well, moving the party to the field for a curtain call in front of several thousand Giants fans who stood and cheered by the dugout. The fans had waited three quarters of an hour for the Giants to return to the field, but what's another 45 minutes after you've waited 50-some years?
Patrick Toland, a fan who was proudly wearing a McCovey jersey, tried to explain what rooting for the Giants has been like. "A friend of mine told me about five years ago that the Giants would never win the World Series in my lifetime. And I got legitimately concerned.'' At the start of the postseason, his friend sent him a text that read: "I'm hoping this is the year for the Giants. I feel bad for what I said many years ago.''
"He called me last week and he said, 'I hope you guys win because I still remember what I said and if you die tomorrow before the Giants win, I'll feel really bad for you.''
No worries. Toland can die in peace now. The torture is over.
While the players celebrated in front of him and the fans chanted "Beat L.A.!'' behind him, Shawon Dunston sat alone in the Giants dugout and took it all in. He was there in 2002 when the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the series and a 5-0 lead into the seventh inning and still lost the game and the series.
"My kids always tease me, 'Daddy, you've got to get over it,'" Dunston said. "But when you play a team sport and you all have the same goal and you wind up short, it hurts. I see these players come through and win it for themselves and have me be a part of it, it's beautiful.
It's better than playing. This is nice.
"I just wish all my 2002 teammates could be here. I had J.T. with me. We soaked it in together. Now I can put 2002 to rest. It still hurts, it always hurts, but it feels much better.''
I grew up in Washington state rooting for the Giants, listening to their games on the radio (we could only pull in night-game broadcasts) and begging my parents to take us to San Francisco for a summer vacation to see them play. My mother never relented, telling me that if we went to San Francisco there would be an earthquake. And when I covered my first World Series and got tickets for my father, brother and brother-in-law, and finally got to Candlestick Park for the first time, sure enough there was an earthquake. (Always listen to your mother.) The Giants always rattle you.
As a baseball writer, I don't actively root for any team anymore, though I have a rooting interest in a couple teams -- the Twins and the Mariners (whom I covered for years), and, of course, the Giants. I was driving back from Eugene, Ore., one night early in September and trying to find the Mariners' game on the car radio. Instead, I came across the Giants game and was instantly transported back to my childhood and all those nights listening to my heroes. And the old Giants fan in me rose to the surface and took over. And it's been there ever since.
So that fan in me was there Monday night, sitting in the auxiliary press box in the left-field upper deck and nervously watching Lincecum (a fellow Washington Husky) pitch a superb eight innings, and happily watching Renteria's home run sail out of sight below me and into the stands. And as I counted down the outs to the championship that I and so many millions had long awaited, I found myself smiling for my team, my Giants.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.