SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — When Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith drove in the Giants’ victory parade last fall, players on San Francisco’s championship baseball team hoped they might be able to return the favor if the 49ers could win it all a few months later.
Now, the Giants might just get that very chance with the NFC champion Niners headed to New Orleans to face the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Titletown USA very well could be moving out West — and soon.
“For sure!” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Sunday night.
San Francisco is trying to become the first market to win a World Series and Super Bowl in the same season since the Boston Red Sox accomplished it in 2004 and the New England Patriots followed suit in February 2005.
What’s more, even the NBA’s Golden State Warriors are giving Bay Area fans an awful lot to cheer and hopes of a playoff season.
The 49ers beat Atlanta and made it this far with a second-year quarterback boasting all of nine career starts to his name — 25-year-old Colin Kaepernick. The Giants captured their second championship in three years behind the play of an All-Star catcher who won the NL batting title and MVP after missing most of 2011 with a season-ending left leg and ankle injury — 25-year-old Buster Posey.
The teams have taken a similar path, too.
The Giants rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the NL division series to beat Cincinnati, then from a 3-1 hole in the NL championship series against the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals before manager Bruce Bochy’s bunch pulled off an improbable World Series sweep of the well-rested Detroit Tigers.
On Sunday, the 49ers traveled to hostile Atlanta, erased a 17-0 deficit and held the Falcons scoreless over the second half for a 28-24 victory.
“One thing about our team is that all year we continued to find, and even through adversity, we continued to fight,” linebacker Patrick Willis said.
With second-year coach Harbaugh leading the way, San Francisco is headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since after the 1994 season, when it won its fifth championship during a remarkable run through the 1980s and 90s.
When the Giants rallied to beat the Reds, they became the first team in major league history to come back from a 2-0 deficit by taking three straight on the road. The 49ers snapped a five-game postseason road losing streak Sunday at Atlanta.
In late September, San Francisco’s baseball players autographed a hat for Smith, the quarterback who had been fined $15,000 last season by the NFL for sporting a Giants hat after games — though the fine was later dropped. Bochy wore a 49ers hat in the dugout before a game to show Smith — who later threw out a ceremonial first pitch during the playoffs — that the Giants appreciated him.
“We’re having fun with this. It’s our way of supporting him for supporting us,” Bochy said at the time. “We’re all 49er fans here. This is in honor of Alex. I’m glad he didn’t have to pay the fine. That’s good news.”
Infielder Ryan Theriot also bought 49ers hats for his teammates, while quirky reliever Sergio Romo dressed in full 49ers garb after one of his games. He sported a red Aldon Smith No. 99 jersey, and also attended a 49ers game and met players in the locker room afterward — even seeking a few autographs and getting a hug and handshake from tight end Vernon Davis.
San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt rode with Harbaugh in the Halloween victory parade through the city.
“He might have gotten more claps than I did,” Belt said, only half-joking.
Harbaugh quickly nixed that notion a couple of days later.
Giants CEO Larry Baer’s favorite sign he saw on parade day read: “San Francisco, Happiest Place on Earth.”
Hard to argue this is the place to be right about now — especially for the avid sports fan.
“San Francisco fans need to sit back and enjoy,” former Giants first baseman J.T. Snow said Sunday. “They have no reason to ever complain again! Be happy! San Francisco has two great leaders in Boch and Harbaugh.”
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