Saturday, July 29, 2023

Remember The Original Swifties?

Attention: Swifties. I’m going to shake it off and piss you off.

With all the hype and hoopla and TV news reporter gushing hilarity surrounding the sold out concerts at Levi’s Stadium this weekend featuring your gal pal Taylor Swift, the Goddess of Popness, lest we not forget that another group of so-called Swifties took over this town in 1993 when the Giants won 103 games before losing the National League pennant of the final day of the season to the Atlanta Braves. 

I’m talking Billy Swift. B-Swift. He pitched beyond wildest dreams for the Giants after being traded from the Settle Mariners in 1992 two days before T-Swift was two years old. Swifty, as Dusty Baker started calling him, led the National League with a 2.08 earned run average in 1992, won 21 games and finished runner-up to Greg Maddux for the NL Cy Young Award in 1993, and ended his Giants pitching career in 1994 with a gorgeous three-year record of 39-19 and 2.70 ERA before telling the Giants we are never ever getting back together and signing as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies.

The righthanded pitcher born in Portland, Maine, a product of the University of Maine, captivated fans at Candlestick Park, especially in stretch run in September in 1993 when he went 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He was the man. Swift’s final game at Candlestick that year was a masterpiece before a crowd of 46,348 to beat the Padres, allowing one run in eight innings as the Giants extended their lead over the Braves to 1 ½ games. His final start was on September 30, when he beat the Dodgers in L.A. for the Giants’ 101st win of the season to remain in a tie with the Braves. Three days later, the Giants lost on the final day of the season when Baker started 21-year-old rookie pitcher Salomon Torres and the Giants knew they were in trouble when he couldn’t finish the fourth inning in 12-1 loss that created more bad blood with the rival Dodgers who poured it on and rubbed it that day . Despite a franchise record of 103 wins that season, the Giants failed to make the playoffs, a position Giants fans know all too well over the years.

Swift would have been the one and started the playoff game against the Braves if there had been one. The Giants would have been safe and sound with Swifty on the mound. Imagine if he had the chance. What a love story that would have been.

B-Swift came to the Giants as a relief pitcher in 1992 but Giants manager Roger Craig took him out of the bullpen and turned him into a starter. The change was good.  It took Giants fans a while to warm to that. Only 12,157 fans were on hand to see Swifty beat the Phillies on May 2 at Candlestick Park in a game chilly enough for fans to wear cardigan sweaters. Swifty fans back then didn’t come to the ballpark with friendship bracelets, but they did leave with Croix de Candlestick buttons if the game went into extra innings at night.

Swift’s annual salary in 1992 was $2.3 million which Taylor Swift probably earned for one song in Levi’s Stadium. The Giants gave him a $1 million raise the next year, but his salary dropped back down to $2.3 million in 1994 which must have had him seeing red. However, going from the Giants to the Rockies, left a blank space in his career, which drooped like a willow tree. Compared to San Francisco, B-Swift was the anti hero in Colorado. You could call his time there the Errors Tour because Swifty came to San Francisco on a white horse and left a better man.

Finally, with his off-season heading back to December, Swifty realized everything has changed. He retired from baseball during spring training in 1999, about the time 10-year-old Taylor Swift was thinking about moving to Nashville to pursue a country music career.  Injuries to his shoulder and back ultimately left B-Swift feeling like he had no body but that’s no crime.

In time, T-Swift emerged as a pop cultural superstar and the Giants got their Swifty back. In 2006, when the Giants drafted Tim Lincecum, Tay Tay released her self-titled album. She released new albums in the even-numbered years 2010, 2012, and 2014 which happened to the years that the Giants won the World Series. However, the coincidence became a curse. Instead of releasing her next new album in 2016, T-Swift waited until 2017, an odd-numbered year, which threw the Giants off their game. They haven’t won a World Series since. It’s a losing streak that has lasted longer than the rest of the field vs. Joey Chestnut in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

But you need to calm down, Giants fans. It’s not about you. It’s about ME! ME as in the abbreviation for Maine. Those original Swifties at Candlestick in the 90s didn’t have to pay $400 to park or $1,000 a ticket to attend a Bill Swift performance. Those Swifties came without any fanfare wearing Giants sweatshirts and not sequins.   

If you’re a Bill Swift fan, you should be a Swifty forever. 

If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, look at what you made me do. Count the number of her song titles in this column of mine.


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