The smell of liquor filled the air in the San Francisco Giants’ locker room Wednesday night, combined with the sounds of laughter and shouting. For the third time in five years, the Giants were celebrating a World Series championship, and they were intent on making the most of it.
Friends, family and media crowded the Giants’ space at Kauffman Stadium, while players chugged beer and champagne and took pictures.
But in the midst of all of this — and let’s face it, a championship celebration in sports essentially encourages hubris — several players still had time to talk about the team they needed seven games to defeat, the last by the slimmest of margins, 3-2.
“They’re a championship team — they won the American League,” right fielder Hunter Pence said. “We said it before the game — a champion is going to lose. It was a crazy battle. I hope all the fans, everyone who was watching, enjoyed it as much as it was to be a part of.
“It was the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of.”
That’s saying a lot. Pence, who now has two World Series titles on his resume, has been a part of a winner-take-all wild card game (this year), and two deciding game fives in the National League Division Series and a deciding game seven in the NL Championship series.
That said, when told that it seemed like the Royals really earned his respect, Pence nodded.
“Absolutely,” Pence said. “They had our respect before we even got here because of what they went through to get here. Watching from the other side, they didn’t lose a game. Going through the wild card and making it to the World Series is pretty formidable.”
Like Pence, Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco, who spent a half season with the Royals in 2010, was happy to win his second World Series title.
He was also impressed with the Royals’ determination, and relieved that his team found a way to stave off what he admitted appeared to be a team of destiny.
“Seriously, I’m so proud of them,” Blanco said. “I really thought that they were gonna win it. I’m proud because I played there and I know how hard they worked to be in this position.
“I told my teammates, those guys are winners, they know how to win. But at the same time, this team, we’re the same way. There’s a lot of character on this team. We know how to do it. Even though we accomplished three World Series in the last five years, we never had an ego. We’re a humble team, and we play with heart.”
Standing a few feet over, in the middle of the locker room, was Giants starter Jake Peavy. He’d experienced first-hand what the Royals were capable of the day before, when he was rocked for five runs in only 1 1/3 innings worth of work.
Peavy was celebrating as much as anyone, a mixture of relief and joy. He’d gone toe-to-toe with the Royals, and came away the impression that this won’t be the last time they make a run at a World Series.
“Let me tell you something — the experience those guys got, it’s going to make them awfully tough in years to come,” Peavy said. “They’re a special bunch. They showed that this postseason. And they’ll learn a lot. They have nothing to hang their heads about. They’re a class organization, and they should be really, really proud about what they accomplished.”