Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Deathtour begins~!

Baseball is a game unlike any other. A tradition dating back over 150 years referred to as our national pastime, baseball stands apart from those other sports. A game played with passion and patience, not urgency. A game not restrained by time but played in the moment. If basketball is played by 7 foot giants, football by 300 pound behemoths and hockey by, uh, Canadians, then baseball is played by children. It is the only sport that can so completely strip away the husk of adulthood to reveal our inner child. To lift us off our feet and carry us back 30 years in time to our days on the sandlot.

Seasonally separating itself from the other sports, baseball hogs the summer spotlight filling stadiums with children of all ages, inviting them to relax and enjoy the cool summer breeze. Away from school, away from work, away from all your worries.

Even the dimensions are unique. Football, no matter where you watch it, is played on the same 100 yard field, basketball on the same 94 foot court and hockey on the same 200 foot rink. The interior or the stadiums and arenas vary slightly from location to location but for the most part they’re remarkable similar.

Not so in Baseball. No two parks have identical surfaces, each with walls and fences of varying heights and lengths, contours of every design that help to create the ballpark’s identity. The Green Monster, The Ivy Wall, Tal’s Hill, McCovey Cove – Each of those names conjours up images of a specific place, features of a ballpark not found anywhere else in the country. These features help give each stadium a life of its own. No one can mistake Camden Yards for Comisky Park or The Ballpark at Union Station for Wrigley Field.

Since I was a kid I have dreamed of visiting these sites. To see the House that Ruth Built, or the Green Monster, or be where Cal Ripkin stood when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. Until now I’ve only seen pictures. Sometime last year I got the crazy idea in my head to fulfill those childhood fantasies and travel around the country to each and every one of those stadiums. And that, at the risk of my sanity, became my goal for 2008. 30 major league teams and 30 major league stadiums, and appropriately it started at home on opening day.

The Ballpark at China Basin

Maybe it’s because I’ve coming here year after year. Maybe it’s because it’s my home city. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been anywhere else. Maybe it’s because I don’t know any better. But to me, the Ballpark at China Basin, regardless of which phone company you attach to the marquee, is the best park in the country. It may not have the history of Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Wrigley but aesthetically it is unsurpassed. The park is not even ten years old yet but already its legacy is far reaching. It was not the first of the new age ballparks to ditch the feel of the multi-purpose stadiums from the 60s in favor of the classic early 20th century look, but it set the standard for all future ballparks. Since it opened, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Diego, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and St. Louis have all built new parks with Minnesota and both New York clubs set to open their new stadiums next season.

The Giants have one of the richest franchise histories in the game and you’re made aware of that before you even step inside the gate as you pass the statue of Willie Mays, whose name and number double as the address for the park. Once inside, everything harkens back to the past - from the old glove in left field, the brick wall and hand operated scoreboard in right, the cable car in center, the bullpen along the foul lines (a true relic these days). Retired numbers, and there’s plenty of those in this organization, adorn the top of the first deck in left field. It’s a who’s who of Giants history: Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Mathewson, Ott, Cepeda, McGraw, Terry and Hubbell. Two legends of broadcasting, Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges, have had their mics retired. And a list of the Giants personal 500 Home run club is posted in right-center.

This was the second time I’ve been able to attend opening day and there’s nothing like that experience of rebirth in April. Despite knowing how bad this year’s team is likely to be (and on the 50th anniversary of coming to the city) I still got caught up in the pre-game festivities and deep down I almost felt a hint of optimism creep into me. But that soon dissipated with the start of the game as the Padres scored twice in the top of the first and the Giants hit into a double play with their first opportunity in the bottom half of the inning.

It's the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco Giants and we're celebrating with our worst team yet. Thanks for still supporting us.

It's a parade of legends. At this point I think the 1958 Giants could give their 2008 counterparts a run for their money.

Brian Bocock has 8 whole days of Major League service. Ed, upon seeing this, "I'm surprised they don't have that calculated to the hour." I was focused on the lineup. Our lead off hitter is hitting .133.

The coke bottle, 1927 vintage glove and a bleacher section still packed in the 3rd while the game was still competitive. Below, a new 50th anniversary commemorative sign in place of the Bonds sign from last season. On it are several Giants legends no longer with the team. Not one of those legends: Barry Bonds.

Announced attendance was 42,841 but someone forgot to tell the fans there was a game today. We hadn't even hit the seventh inning stretch yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I'm looking forward to you wearing your Giant orange and black when we hit Busch III next weekend!