San Francisco Giants Experience, 7/24/2021
(originally written 7/25/21)
I last attended a Giants game in March 2018. It was a late Spring Training clash at Oracle Park, almost surely against Oakland. My mom and daughter joined me, and we all got bobbleheads!
But once inside the park, a drunken lout immediately to my right fouled up the whole experience. He couldn't have cared any less about the game; he just wanted to drink and run his mouth. Which he did. A LOT.
In addition to his constant verbal stream, the guy kept putting on...then taking off...then putting on...then taking off his coat. Which meant physical contact with him. After about six innings I couldn't take any more and dragged my family out of the park, unsure I'd ever return.
Well, this past Saturday (7/24/21) I DID finally return to Oracle Park after several weeks of kicking the idea around. My old pal Juan is not a true baseball fan, but he enjoys Oracle Park's atmosphere as well as its menu and beer selections, so we loaded up his two daughters (AKA my nieces) and his mother—all of whom were visiting the park for the first time—and voyaged to San Francisco.
Just to add a layer of drama, traffic issues—specifically, a wreck just before the Bay Bridge—threatened our timely arrival to the ballpark. Which was a problem since the kids really wanted the Lou Seal beanies being given away to the first 15K fans. All our planning couldn't be ruined by some idiot texting behind the wheel...could it?
Juan, who was driving, hadn't been to this area in a while, either—much of the scenery/routes around Oracle Park was new to both of us. The Willie McCovey statue has been moved. Old reliable Parking Lot A was half its previous size and already seemed full. Luckily, forking over a couple extra bucks got us a "luxury" space close to the exit.
Still, said exit was not close to the park. After walking for what felt like a mile, we breached the gates and YES...we got our beanies!!!
About five minutes before first pitch, we parked ourselves in the left field bleachers, with my oldest niece and I wearing our mitts just in case. Since the Giants were the league's top homer-hitting team facing a pitcher with an ERA in the 7's, odds were we'd have at least one opportunity to snag a ball, right? Wrong.
I was seated for all nine innings and can remember exactly two fly balls being hit to even semi-deep left field. Home run? HA! (Juan and his daughter did almost catch a warmup ball tossed into the stands, though.)
The bleacher "bums" at Oracle Park are known to continually—but respectfully—harass the visiting left fielder, and tonight was no different. Pittsburgh's Ben Gamel absorbed all sorts of heckling over his shoulder, but most of it was in good fun. When one young man in our row thought it appropriate to badmouth Gamel's wife (who may or may not exist), however, he and his two flunkies were escorted away for a time. I'm assuming they received a stern lecture because after returning an inning later, they made practically no sound at all, not even when applauding. Were they replaced with cutouts???
Supposedly, much was happening around us, because at least five different times during the game our entire section quit paying attention to the field in order to gawk at happenings elsewhere in the bleachers. I didn't care at all about happenings in the bleachers or anywhere else in the park. I was there to A) enjoy the game, B) stuff myself, and C) teach/update the newbies there with me. I couldn't have cared any less about proposals, fights, falls, rapping, etc. I didn't fork over $50 to watch any of that; I paid to watch the ballgame. Anything else important enough would be posted on sfgiants.com later. Or talked about on 95.7 The Game.
Before entering the ballpark, I told the others "The Pirates are an awful team. And tonight the Giants' best pitcher, Kevin Gausman, is starting. And my won-loss record at attended games is off the charts. So all signs point to a Giants win!!!" Naturally, the Giants were blown out 10-2 and Juan no longer trusts any of my sports judgment.
Still, I got to spend the evening grubbing out at the best ballpark in the land with some of my favorite folks alongside me. Fellow fans didn't ruin the experience (I actually had a good chat with a 4th-grader seated in front of us). The Giants might not have won, but this Giants fan sure did.
A lil' extra:
I later found out the McCovey statue has been put into storage until likely 2023 due to construction in the area. Pretty sure I knew that, but forgot.
Giant hot dogs are now "just" $10 at Oracle. I was blown away—semi-reasonable food prices are just not done at this place, at least not when I made regular appearances there 2003-18. Later, I regretted not buying extra dogs to grub on later.
The Coke-bottle slide and mini-Oracle Park remained closed for pandemic reasons, so I promised to take my nieces to the slide as soon as it re-opened. Even if they're teens by then.
I'd hoped to obtain a daytime photo of Peter McGowan's plaque outside the park, but in a mad dash for beanies, stopping would NOT have gone over well with the nieces. And even immediate park re-entry is a no-no. As Juan would say, "Next time, Gadget." (BTW, McGowan was the Giants' former owner instrumental in keeping them in SF when a move to Florida was all but official back in 1992. He passed in early 2019, but I won't let anyone ever forget his efforts.)
The above picture suggests out-of-control seagulls. The Birds Of Oracle Park are often right out of a Hitchcock movie, but on this night they laid very low until after most of the crowd vacated.