Baseball hasn't forgotten me. I go to a lot of Old-Timers games and I haven't lost a thing. I sit in the bullpen and let people throw things at me. Just like old times.
~ Bob Uecker
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NOT YOUR FATHER'S BASEBALL
21 June 2004
I didn't go to a lot of baseball games in my youth, but enough to remember what it was like, starting with the San Francisco Seals and then the excitement when the Giants came to town.
There was nothing like going to a ball game, getting a hot dog and a drink (or, if I was over 21, a beer), and watching the game.
Now it seems that the game itself is almost secondary to all the hoopla that surrounds going to a professional game.
We spent Father's Day at SBC Park or whatever the hell it's called these days, with the Lamplighter tech crew, watching the SF Giants play the Boston Red Sox.
As you enter the gates, if you're carrying a bag you're stopped and your bag is searched. When they decided I wasn't carrying any weapons of mass destruction, they allowed me to pass through the turnstile, whereupon I was given ... a barbecue set, the free gift to the first sebendy-'leben patrons to enter the park. I'm willing to bet if I had carried large metal implements for use in skewering meat in my bag, it would have been confiscated!
Once inside, we headed off to the stand where they sell garlic fries, our favorite. Greasy, too salty, drowning in chopped garlic, and $5.25 each. Add to that a meat-thing (sausage dog for Walt, Philly cheese steak for me) and a drink and this is what we got for only $37.50:
(I'm not kidding!)
We made our way to our seats and tried to balance the little trays on our laps and eat the huge sandwiches without spilling the drinks into the row ahead of us. A couple of guys were coming up the stairs as we settled ourselves in. These were a couple of San Francisco's finest, a bit more effeminate than some. It was just too perfect that they sat there with their designer salads and bag of cherries while we were chomping down on all this junk food.
You know, I've been to ball games on "theme" days before. I've been to "dog day" and "bat day" and "picture day" and "kids day" and all sorts of days.
I think this is the first time I've been to a ball game on "Prostate Cancer awareness day."
Everyone got a pamphlet on prostate cancer awareness and a blue ribbon decal to put on our cars. We heard a message on prostate cancer, and then watched a commercial for The Stepford Wives and then saw several stadium employees get honored as "employees of the week" (or month or day or something).
The mascots came onto the field and people got to have their photo taken with them. Now, I'm from Cal-Berkeley, where the mascot is Oski, a bear. I've seen Indians, and other animal types. Today was also "Emerald Nut Day" and so the mascot du jour was a can of mixed nuts and some kind of a nut with a crown on its head. Times they are a-changing!
We watched 3 kids try to catch pop flies, and saw the worlds shortest team take the field.
Eventually, they did actually get around to playing some baseball, in between the commercials, the game of "The Price is Right" (a commercial for Old Navy shorts), screen shots to celebrate the official dental plan of the San Francisco Giants, and all the "hellos" flashed on the screen for just about everybody in the stands. (Of course there was a hello to our group too.)
(My very favorite endorsement of the day came when I learned that there is an "official spam filter of the San Francisco Giants.")
In truth, the first six innings weren't very exciting. It was like cricket, only shorter. They were getting sides out so quickly that though the game started at 1, I told Walt we might be out of there by 3. (In truth, it was only a little after 3:30 when the game ended)
At some point around the 5th inning, a family arrived--Mom, Dad, baby Miles, toddler Chase, and a daughter with Diana Ross hair--and sat in the empty seats in front of us. They were late because their babysitter never showed up, so they had to bring the kids with them. From then on, this is the view of the field that I had most of the time, because Little Diana Ross kept standing up and her hair blocked my previously perfect view of home plate.
Since nothing was happening on the field anyway, my reduced vision meant that I could concentrate on the more important things--like the vendors going up and down the stairs. I swear they all have to take speech classes to talk like that. It's a special baseball elocution. "Ayleminadere!" translates (I think) into "Hey--Lemonade here." The people around me seemed to understand the dialect because things were selling like hotcakes.
Particular popular was cotton candy.
Now, when I was a kid, cotton candy came on a cardboard paper cone that fell apart before you could eat the cotton candy. The spun sugar itself was light and airy and melted in your mouth (and all over your face as you tried to get it in your mouth). Now you get this huge bag with spun sugar all smushed together into a blob and when you pull it you don't get the light airy stuff, but something kind of, well, blobby. But it still has that "stick to your fingers" quality (at least it seemed to--we didn't buy any. We had already shot our wad on garlic fries).
Patience finally won out. In the 7th inning, Barry Bonds' single loaded the bases and then Edgardo Alfonzo hit a Grand Slam.
Finally there was a score, the only one of the game.
At the end of the game, Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" played over the loudspeakers and someone in the stands whipped out a trumpet and started playing along. (One should always travel with a trumpet; you never know when you're going to need one in a hurry!)
It was a far cry from the baseball games that I used to attend in the days when I did this sort of thing more regularly. I suspect that the guys who are most honored in SBC Park--Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and the rest of the guys from that era, find it difficult to identify today's baseball game with those of yesteryear, but there's no denying that these games offer something for absolutely everyone.
(And it's always a good day when the home team wins!)