They have no Mays or McCovey or Cepeda. No "Hac Man" or Chili or "Will the Thrill." No Bonds or Kent or their MVP trophies.

They have no profound managerial identity, no catchphrase like "Humm Baby," and no iconic visual.

These Giants have no legends in the lineup and no profile in the dugout, despite the magnitude of Bruce Bochy's head.

These Giants are missing what we've long suspected were essential requirements for sports popularity in the Bay Area. They don't light up scoreboards with offense, and they don't light up marquees with big-name personalities.

Yet, as they prepare for the NL championship series against the Philadelphia Phillies, this roster is building a case for being the most popular in San Francisco Giants history.

In a region known for gravitating toward the "big event," with famous individuals and some form of sparkle, the 2010 Giants represent perhaps the unlikeliest sports phenomenon we've ever experienced.

"We don't have a superstar," general manager Brian Sabean conceded as the team sweated through a workout Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. "We don't have a star player in the lineup."

The biggest crowd in the history of their gorgeous ballpark by the bay came not in 2000, during the playoff series against the New York Mets. It did not come during the 2002 World Series against the downstate Angels. Nor was it during Barry Bonds' pursuit of the all-time home run record or for the 2007 All-Star Game or for the very first game in the yard then known as Pacific Bell Park.


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The single-game attendance record for this ballpark, 44,016, came last Friday in Game 2 of the NL division series, against an even more nondescript group of Atlanta Braves.

That's because, to those within the team's rapidly expanding fan base, the opponent doesn't matter. This team is shattering its records for local TV ratings, making it apparent fans are embracing a roster with which they are largely unfamiliar.

It's not as if we've grown up with this group; this bond is not years in the forming. Zero players remain from San Francisco's last playoff team, in 2003, and only four were here before 2007. No one in the everyday lineup has experienced more than two Opening Days with the Giants.

The No. 3 hitter, Aubrey Huff, says he signed in January mostly because no other team made an offer. The No. 4 hitter, rookie Buster Posey, began the season in Triple-A. The No. 5 hitter, Pat Burrell (Bellarmine Prep-San Jose), was dumped by the Tampa Bay Rays in May and jumped at the opportunity to join his hometown team.

The Giants, one of baseball's final four, have at the heart of their order a suspect, a prospect and a reject.

The leadoff batter, Andres Torres, is a 32-year-old who has spent 13 years with six franchises.

"You know what, though, I think we're a family here," Torres said.

"Everybody's together in here," said Mike Murphy, the clubhouse manager who has been with the Giants since they arrived in San Francisco in 1958.

Understand, though, that unique personalities and standout characters abound. Huff is the prankster. Juan Uribe, the team leader in home runs, is the comedian. Pablo Sandoval, the portly slugger who has slumped for most of the season, remains a jolly and effervescent presence. Brian Wilson is recognized as much for his weird beard as his tendency to rack up uncomfortable saves.

The chemistry on the Giants seems to be exceptional, and fans are responding to the no-star environment. With the exception of Tim Lincecum, the attraction is less to the artistry of the individual than to the beauty of the collective.

"All 25 players have been called upon, at one time or another," Sabean says. "We're built around our pitching. But like the phrase about life, it takes a village. That's us."

This team wings it and prays. Consider its fans captivated. Regular jocks in the Bay Area have never felt such love.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.