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The Place Was Jammin, The Crowd Was Hecka Crammin

(originally written 10/27/12)

With the San Francisco Giants 27 outs away from a championship and the Detroit Tigers 108, it seems fair to say the Orange and Black will likely emerge victorious. Anticipation of a second World Series parade in the last 24 months inspired me to revisit the unforgettable 2010 celebration.

I knew exactly what I was about to put myself through when vowing that nothing short of my murder would stop me from at least attending the Giants’ celebratory parade in…shudder…downtown San Francisco, a region I detest with every fiber of my being and avoid like a crazy ex. I was acutely aware of the expected turnout—people from not only the Bay Area, but up and down the state and even outside of the state felt the same way as I did…

They HAD to be there.

Given the projections by local T.V. news, I half-expected Giants fans from Costa Rica, Africa, and Neptune to turn up. Hell, by the time I got through listening to KRON’s reports, I was convinced Wilma Flinstone, MC Skat Kat, and perhaps even Moses himself would drop in to pay tribute. (Trust me, if KRON’s anchor was told Moses was coming, she’d see no reason to be skeptical.)

But I HAD to be there. I hadn’t rooted for a Giants’ World Championship for 20 years only to not salute them in person when they achieved it. Besides, as a fledgling sports writer, it was something of a professional obligation to report to the scene for the purposes of taking my readers there with me. 

So I hopped in the car and took off—fully expecting to not hop out for two hours or more due to the crush of traffic. Surprisingly, I-280 did not jam at all; I made it clear to The City in less than an hour from my San Jose home. Knowing streets would be closed and traffic in the area would be five times the nightmare it usually is, I parked a mile away and hiked to the scene. 

I ended up at the three-way intersection of Market, McCallister and Jones, where the parade route veered off Market St. toward Civic Center Plaza. That was NOT where I intended to post—the mass of human flesh basically impeded any further progress. 

From there, it only grew. Bodies literally pressing against bodies hundreds deep—compared to a lot of others, I didn’t have the WORST view in the house, but I could not see any cars. Only the cable cars, UPS vehicles, and double-decker buses which led the motorcade were visible to me—and even then only partially, as dozens of camera-clutching hands raised high for the best available angle. (Somehow, I get the feeling this problem didn’t exist in 1958.)

There were kids climbing a fire escape across McCallister, making it all the way to a rooftop before police ordered them down (but not before the crowd urged one of them to “jump”). There were people perched atop pedestrian traffic signals and mailboxes. One guy even scaled the side of a building a la Spider Man using the thinnest of window sills. I have no idea how he got down. 

The meat of the parade did not start at 11am or even 11:30 am. It wasn’t until about 11:40 that the first “real” vehicle progressed, carrying a number of folks including Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. Admittedly, at this point, I was seriously considering leaving. You have to understand, there was NO wiggle room. It was body-on-body and people continually kept trying to worm through—plus the sun was beginning to heat up. I got so sick of hearing “Excuse Me” and scrunching up that I started telling people “I can’t move!” just so they’d go away. It’s not like they were going to get a better sightline. If I’m 6’2” and can’t see, Holt from The Cleveland Show isn’t going to see anything, either.

One laugh came when an older Filipino lady attempted to clear through from the front of our pack to the back. She advised all within earshot “Don’t try to go up there. They STINKY!” waving her hand in front of her face for emphasis. Sure enough, when parade vehicles began to appear and arms raised to snap photos, that lady’s statement proved to be 100% fact. Eventually, the body funk began to compete with the “Prop 19” funk for aromatic control of the area. I’d call it a draw.

Alcohol was strictly banned at the festivities. And by banned, SFPD meant no alcohol unless you really want it and promise to leave empty containers behind.

Eventually, cable cars carrying Mike Murphy, the “Front Office”, and the coaching staff made their way past, interspersed with media cars, UPS trucks, a car carrying past Giants standouts such as Jeff Leonard and Rich Aurilia, and tour vehicles. At long last, around 12:10 or so, the first players’ cable car appeared, with Cody Ross and Aaron Rowand the occupants. A number of others passed through with Madison Bumgarner, Javier Lopez, Chris Ray, Jeremy Affeldt, Juan Uribe, Panda Sandoval, Jon Sanchez and others. I was disappointed when a few clowns felt it prudent to jeer Barry Zito in a moment like this. One guy not far from me even chanted, “What’s the matter with Zito? HE’S A BUM.” Hey, how bad could Zito have hurt the Giants if you’re jeering him at a World Series victory parade?

More cable cars followed: Freddy Sanchez/Ryan Rohlinger. Willie Mota/Ramon Ramirez. Andres Torres/Darren Ford. Sergio Romo/Brian Wilson. Buster Posey/Mike Fontenot. Pat Burrell/Aubrey Huff. Tim Lincecum/Dan Runzler. And finally, Edgar Renteria/Mark DeRosa. Naturally, Posey, Lincecum and Wilson received the hugest ovations. I was unable to clap. You know, being squished and all.

An oddity: folks kept turning to ME for information, for some reason. Maybe because I was in reporting mode and one of few people who didn’t look confused, high, skanky or plain shady. 

“Hey, are they letting people cross the street?” How should I know? I’m 10 rows deep! 
“Hey, which way is Sixth Street?” It’s either west or east of here. “Thanks, bro!”
“Hey, is the parade still going on?” No, we’re all just hanging around in case another parade breaks out.

Even though I was curious to witness what was sure to be an event at Civic Center Plaza, my body ached from standing in one spot for almost 90 minutes, and standing for over two hours overall. Plus, rather than decreasing, the size of the crowd was increasing. I decided that I came to see what I wanted to see—my beloved Giants “up close” in a victory parade—and I’d head home. 

Listening on KNBR, I felt better about the Zito treatment when the Civic Center crowd gave him huge applause upon his introduction. Outgoing Governor Schwarznegger spoke (amidst a majority of jeers), as did outgoing S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom. Sabean summed it best when he told Giants fans that we “deserved it”, meaning the championship, and joked about Bochy’s head size. 

Mike Krukow urged us to pay this story forward, ensuring the Giants have generations of followers to come. Brian Wilson wasn’t sure if he was high off the big win or “Prop 19”. And Aubrey Huff famously made sure to dig into his pants and procure a rally thong. 

I loved the Giants then, I love them now, and I always will love them. I know this like I know I can’t have babies. But if the next title parade (likely next week) draws a crowd the size of Minnesota’s entire population, yours truly will absorb it from the comfort of his couch. GO, GIANTS!!!

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