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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The World Series begins tonight, between a couple of teams that are not accustomed to the spotlight. This is the first time the Texas Rangers have made it to baseball's big event. Their opponent, the San Francisco Giants, made it in 2002 but they have not won the World Series since 1954 - when they were the New York Giants.

NPR's Tom Goldman report.

(Soundbite of spray-paint machine)

TOM GOLDMAN: With the steady hand of an artist, San Francisco Giants groundskeeper Jarred Noodle stood on the lush green grass at AT&T Park yesterday, spraying bursts of blue paint onto a World Series logo.

Texas Rangers first baseman Jorge Cantu stood and watched, mesmerized.

Mr. JORGE CANTU (First Baseman, Texas Rangers): This is, you know what? I wasn't like admiring the painting or anything. I was just thinking to myself like, wow, we are really here.

GOLDMAN: Like a bunch of New York City tourists looking up and gawking, groups of Rangers walked around the park. For some it was a first trip to AT&T; for many, a first trip, as players, to a stadium decked out with World Series bunting. New for them. New for hundreds of reporters who, needing a crash course on all things Rangers and Giants, took full advantage of yesterday's Media Day.

Clint Hurdle was helpful. The Rangers batting coach talked about how lots of parts came together to make this Texas season a success. There was, says Hurdle, the addition of veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero.

Mr. CLINT HURDLE (Batting Coach, Texas Rangers): Almost anybody I've talked to in the media is surprised at the year he's had, based on what they saw last year. Well, that's good for Vlad.

GOLDMAN: And of course signing pitching marvel Cliff Lee didn't hurt. Manager Ron Washington recounted the day general manager Jon Daniels told him about Lee coming to the Rangers.

Mr. RON WASHINGTON (Manager, Texas Rangers): My reaction was: Good job John.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WASHINGTON: You're the man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: In the postseason, Lee is the man. He is undefeated in the playoffs, in his career, let alone this season. He's a lock. A sure W, it's said. One of the reasons, along with the Rangers' powerful lineup of hitters, why Texas is favored as the series gets under way - which is music to Cody Ross's ears.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CODY ROSS (First Baseman, San Francisco Giants): Perfect.

GOLDMAN: In the getting to know the Giants part of Media Day, Cody Ross attracted lots of attention. He's been the closest thing to a breakout star for San Francisco during the playoffs. When he's not flashing his ever-ready smile, Ross is bashing home runs - two, in one game, off previously invincible Philadelphia pitcher, Roy Halladay, in the National League Championship series.

But it's not power that's made the Giants go - it's pitching. And with all due respect to Cliff Lee, with all due respect to the great Philly pitchers the Giants just vanquished, San Francisco veteran first baseman Aubrey Huff says you better not forget about our staff.

Mr. AUBREY HUFF (First Baseman, San Francisco Giants): You know that Philly series, everybody was talking about their big three. Well, hell man, we had a big four. You know, I think you get that East Coast bias, you know, and everything. And nobody really sees the West Coast. Everybody is already asleep by then. We've got some tremendous pitchers.

GOLDMAN: Some funny ones too, led by hard-throwing closer Brian Wilson. The country may not be sold on this series but putting Wilson in front of microphones will help. His bushy beard dyed boot black has spawned a Fear the Beard mania in San Francisco. Yesterday, he talked about how it started.

Mr. BRIAN WILSON (Pitcher, San Francisco Giants): Well, I know that I went on a road trip, forgot a razor, came home, cleaned up the neck, cleaned up around here, and then just missed the rest of the face. And it took a life of its own.

GOLDMAN: Kind of like these two teams that have pushed away the heavyweight New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. They're both hoping to pull in a title and maybe some skeptical fans along the way.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, San Francisco.

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