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Giants vs. Dodgers resumes 13 decades of rivalry (and more than a little hate)

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For more than 130 years, the Dodgers and the Giants have ruined each other's seasons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUSS HODGES: There's a long drive. It's going to be, I believe - the Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant.

CHANG: In 1951, it was the New York Giants ending the Brooklyn Dodgers' season with arguably the most famous home run in baseball history. Well, 42 years later, on a completely different coast, the San Francisco Giants were knocked out of an impossibly intense pennant race on the very last day of the season by the Los Angeles Dodgers. And those are just two examples. We don't even have time right now to go into 1962, '97 or 2004 and so on and so forth. Let's just say, one of the oldest rivalries in American sports has been filled with a whole lot of bad blood. And now they will meet for the first time ever in the postseason. The Giants will host the Dodgers tonight in Game 1 of their National League divisional series. And helping us wrap our heads around this rivalry is Evan Drellich, who covers baseball for The Athletic.

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

EVAN DRELLICH: Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So all right, more than a century is a really long time. Have the Giants and the Dodgers always hated each other?

DRELLICH: Absolutely.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DRELLICH: And there's a lot of attention paid to the Red Sox and Yankees as the best rivalry in baseball, but there are plenty of people, particularly nowadays on the West Coast, who would tell you it really is the Dodgers and the Giants that deserve that mantle. And it's not just this year about the history between the teams, which is long and storied, but you have, literally, the two best teams in baseball, in either the American or National League, playing each other in the postseason after a very long regular season in which they were continually pushing the other. This is really a great crescendo for Major League Baseball's postseason.

CHANG: OK, so two awesome teams. But I have to ask - is the hatred between them more like fun, affectionate hate or like hate-hate?

DRELLICH: Well, you talk to some old Brooklynites and some people who grew up in New York in that era, and it's a very legitimate rivalry, as much hatred as you will find in sports.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DRELLICH: The Dodgers and Giants have that.

CHANG: How have the Dodgers and the Giants been able to keep up the intensity of their rivalry despite now being - what? - like, hundreds of miles away from each other?

DRELLICH: It's actually kind of unfortunate that they haven't met in the postseason before this. They've been in the same division, so they play in the regular season, but after more than 2,500 games between them, they've never actually had a postseason series. And that's reflective of the fact that they just haven't really been in contention at the same time. But then you arrive at this decade, the Giants since 2010 have won three World Series, and the Dodgers are the reigning champions. So now you've finally reached a point where they're both the class of the league.

CHANG: All right. Well, now in 2021, the Giants and the Dodgers, you know, they just ended an epic pennant race with the Giants winning the division on the very last day. Do you think we're going to see more of that same excitement in the divisional series?

DRELLICH: Absolutely. There aren't two heavier-weight teams than this. It's very rare to have two 100-win teams in a division, and you've never before had teams who've won at least 105 games apiece meet in a postseason series. So even in the broader context of baseball, this series is unprecedented.

CHANG: Well, I'm just, like, wondering what am I going to do? - because I'm from San Francisco, but now I live in LA. I don't know who I'm going to root for.

DRELLICH: (Laughter) Whatever you decide, keep it to yourself. That would be my recommendation.

CHANG: (Laughter) Evan Drellich covers baseball for The Athletic.

Thank you so much.

DRELLICH: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.