SAN FRANCISCO -- The fog rolling in and drifting across the Golden Gate Bridge toward Alcatraz, enveloping the skyscrapers. A frothy dollop of whipped cream atop a warm mug of Ghirardelli hot chocolate. Sourdough, fresh from the oven.Well, yeah, the Bay Area, with San Francisco as its creamy center, is delectably soft and cozy. Not only that, but it's open and inviting, it's sensitive, it's diverse, and it's practically the U.S. capital of personal freedom. It's loopy, too, sure. Sometimes a little twisted. Guilty as charged on all counts. But don't confuse all that with weakness, or deference, or any sense of not being tough enough to weather any challenge.
The City has been through it all, from earthquakes and fire to historic civic unrest and civil-rights conquests. This place, despite the exceedingly accurate picture postcards that display its amazing natural beauty and cultural landmarks, is no soft touch. It will put up a fight.The Giants have worn that emblem with pride this postseason, drifting a bit like a wayward yacht in the San Francisco Bay, but eventually steering straight into a second World Series in three years like some cabbie thinking he's Steve McQueen, whipping up and down the hills of the City by the Bay, getting to the destination just in time. With a bunch of homegrown talent infused with some folks who unwittingly stumbled into their baseball paradise, the Giants are within four victories of giving the City its second World Series title in three years. Oh, and it took 52 years to get to the first one after the team moved to the West Coast in 1958. In terms of perseverance, waiting out the cold (oh, Candlestick Park had it, you can bet your croix on it), dealing with adversity (eh, almost moved to Tampa-St. Petersburg in 1992, just saying), getting so very close in 1962 and 2002 (Willie McCovey's liner in '62 still stings for many), the Giants have been through it all and then some. And this year's team, well, it has done it the hard way more often than not. They lost their closer, and went to a committee and wound up with a lethal combination that now seems to operate like clockwork. They had an MVP-caliber player blow up his season with a 50-game drug suspension, and had two new players step into big roles and another rise into the MVP forefront. And, of course, they lost the first two games of the Division Series at home, and then went and won three on the road, repeating the three-peat to close out the NL Championship Series. The Tigers, who come from an American city whose middle name might as well be Tough, know all that about this year's Giants. And they found out a little bit about how Bay Area fans respond to the postseason when the A's faithful were leaping out of their seats like a green-and-gold wave of humanity at the thrilling conclusion of Game 4 of the Division Series, one of the most electric moments in a postseason full of them. Yes, yes, these are two sides of one bay, brothers from another mother, and even the ballclubs and their ballparks tell you that. But whatever the microclimate, whether you're stuck in the Macarthur Maze or on the Embarcadero, whether you're A's or Giants, Raiders or Niners, Stanford or Cal, Petaluma Little League or Oracle Racing Team, you're in a region that devours sports, has won championships of all kinds and at all levels, and now has another World Series on its doorstep. And it really should be no wonder. This is a place for winners, for strivers, for people who find a way to get it done. From the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley and from Jack London to Jerry Garcia and George Lucas, movers, shakers and creators have made their way to and through the San Francisco Bay Area for decades. Inventions, movements, lifestyles, all sorts of influences have emerged from the cities and counties that surround a unique body of water that opens up to perhaps the country's most spectacular borderline, the Golden Gate. Along the way in the last century and a half, one of the world's most cosmopolitan, scenic and world-renowned tourist areas has emerged, fighting through various natural and man-made turmoil into a 21st century in which it stands as an unparalleled American beauty. Ah, but don't let that beauty fool you, and don't let it lull you into a false sense of security. San Francisco will wine you and dine you, but it'll knock your socks off, too. It's Tony Bennett crooning about his heart and where he left it, and it always will be. But it's also Metallica's James Hetfield rocking the mic before Game 6 at AT&T Park considerably more aggressively. It's smooth like a Napa Valley Cabernet or a Russian River Pinot Noir, but with a bite to it like an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. It's edgy, agitating and downright annoying in some places, and that's just the traffic and parking. Oh, and there's an island they call Alcatraz where they send all the little boys and girls who don't eat their vegetables. OK, so it's not that mean. But the Bay Area is no softie, and the Giants are showing a bit of that irrepressible, undeniable and, well, tough-as-nails side this October.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.