World Series: Closer Brian Wilson epitomizes Giants' 'castoffs and misfits'

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2010; 10:19 PM


One day in late August, the local Fox Sports channel in the Bay Area was conducting an interview with Brian Wilson, the San Francisco Giants' notoriously flaky closer, who was at his home on a webcam. Wilson, holding his pet dog on his lap, was in the middle of an answer, when all of a sudden the TV host, and the entire viewing audience, got an unexpected eyeful.

A man appeared in the background, naked except for a leather thong, leather harness and leather mask. "What was that!?" gasped the flabbergasted host. After first playing dumb, Wilson finally deadpanned, "Oh, that's the Machine. He lives next door. He doesn't say much. He comes over for sugar every once in awhile."

If "torture" - the Giants' self-described style of play, which this weekend has them on the verge of the franchise's first World Series title in 56 years - had a face, it would be Wilson's: wild-eyed, mohawked, with a beard dyed jet-black for no apparent reason. And these days, it would also be wearing a huge smile.

Throughout this season, and especially the postseason, the Giants - who will seek to move one win closer to the championship when Game 3 is played Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark - have earned a reputation, well-deserved, as a ragtag band of "castoffs and misfits," in the words of their manager. But the Giants' roguish charms go beyond even that.

Their first baseman, Aubrey Huff, has been known to parade through the clubhouse in a red "rally thong" for laughs. Their ace pitcher, Tim Lincecum, has become a counterculture hero in San Francisco, in part because of an offseason marijuana-possession arrest - which has led proponents of Proposition 19, a proposed statute that would legalize marijuana statewide, to use his face on placards and T-shirts that say, "Let Timmy Smoke."

"This club has a lot of character," said veteran outfielder Aaron Rowand. "Character and characters."

They have a hedonistic bent to them, these Giants, but Wilson managed to kick it up another notch with the introduction of the Machine, which has since become a minor sensation on YouTube. Some of the Giants may be wild and crazy, but even his teammates admit Wilson is in another league altogether.

"I don't think there's anyone out there like Brian Wilson," Lincecum said. "I don't think it's an act or anything. I think that's just his bright personality."

"He's a little out there," said Manager Bruce Bochy.

For the Giants, "torture" means nothing ever comes easily for them. (Forget for a moment that their wins in both Games 1 and 2 came with relative ease.) They generally play low-scoring games that hinge on late-inning drama. And Wilson has provided plenty of that this postseason.

He has made eight appearances this postseason without giving up a run, but he has allowed at least one base runner in all but one of them. The ultimate expression of his high-wire act came in the ninth inning of the Giants' clinching win in Philadelphia in Game 6 of the NLCS, when he put the go-ahead runs on base with walks, only to strike out Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to end the game and put the Giants in the World Series.

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