The New York Giants played their first game in San Francisco on April 15, 1959, an 8-0 win over the hated Dodgers, late from Brooklyn. The game was played in a faded gem, Seals’ Stadium at 16th and Bryant. Two years later the Giants moved to Candlestick Park, a monstrous boondoggle, where they stayed for almost 40 years. In 2000, after three bitter ballot battles, the Giants built a new stadium on the north bank of Mission Creek.
Press Box. I have a press pass so I go to the press box. Yesterday I was admonished by one reporter to restrain my emotional outbursts to events like strikes and hits. Today I am resolved to act like a grown-up.
First Pitch 7:15, 61°
Inning One: Pitches
Matt Cain is neither a Diva nor Freak. He is Matt. Cain. You can smell the pancakes, steakandeggs, toast, butter and milk as he takes to the mound. He’s been a solid pitcher over the past four years and is off to a good start again today. He throws 11 pitches, mostly strikes, and he’s finished. Cain’s opposite number, Clayton Richards throws just 10.
Inning Two: Hits
Although 6-3, 230 lbs., Cain seems to be losing weight and height as the inning progresses. This can’t be a good sign. He walks a guy, gives up two hits and two runs, barely getting out of the inning before shrinking into the mound. In the bottom half of the inning, after two outs, Juan Uribe ignites an uprising, followed by singles from Nate Shierholtz and Andres Torres whose hit scores Uribe. Nate Schierholtz then walks across the plate when Richard balks. It’s 2-2 and the end of 2.
Inning Three: Stadium Struggles
New stadiums bring new money to baseball owners. When the rubes from Wall Street strutted into town in 1959, they expected a big new stadium. They got one – stuck in one of the worst places on Earth to play baseball. By the early 90’s the Giants were itching to leave Candlestick, and settle into an intimate urban ball park, like Seals’ Stadium, the place they ditched in 1961. Of course they expected the City to pay for the new stadium. But voters said no. The Giants promised jobs, taxes and tourists, but the voters said “no.” The Giants threatned to move to Stockton, but the voters said “adios.” Finally, in 1996, the Giants said OK, we’ll pay for it and the voters said “yes.”
Inning Six: The View
Got to leave the press box for a bit. Forty mostly men bent over laptops, beating on them as if they were bongo drums. Not even cynical cheers; just work. Very dull. I move up to the third floor, the view deck. Sitting behind homeplate, not only do you get a great view of the diamond, but an equally great view of the bay, the boats, and the lights of Oakland. The way in which the architecture incorporates water into the baseball motif makes the ball park uniquely enjoyable among American sports stadiums.
Except after the Padres score a run in the top of the sixth to add to the run they got in the fourth. The Giants now have more hits than the Padres, but they’re weak and sporadic; they don’t produce runs. In the bottom of the sixth, down two runs, bases loaded, two outs, Shierholtz grounds to second.
In the grandstand, people howl, cheer and boo. Behind me a guy from Oakland says the Giants should be outlawed, “because this is torture.” A Padres’ fan from Campbell tries to console his Giants loving wife. He could work on his sincerity. It’s a lot more fun up here but it’s also a lot colder. In the top of the 7th, after throwing 110 pitches, Cain throws a wild pitch and gives up another run before he gets the hook. No more pancakes for you. Matt.
Inning Eight: The Steal
In the top of the eighth, Jerry Hairston singles and steals second. It is the third time tonight the Padres have stolen second on the Giants. Molina’s throws are consistently too slow and too late. Later in the inning, the Padres pull a double steal; but Denny Bautista gets David Eckstein to ground out.
By the late 1970’s, the rail freight yards that comprised Misson Bay had fallen into an urban ruin of empty warehouses, dark alleys, crumbling walls, rusting railroad tracks and trailer park between 3rd and fourth, King and Townsend. The now seriously chic South Park was a dilapidated outdoor drug market. Owned by Catellus Corporation (another name for Southern Pacific Railroad), one of the biggest landowners in the Western United States, Mission Bay became a prime candidate for “redevelopment”. Especially since Catellus did not just own the property, it also wanted to develop it, a project that could be worth as much as $4 billion by some estimates.
In the early 90’s, Catellus proposed a major anchor tenant for the development, an entertainment complex including a ball park. Although that deal fell apart, in 1996 voters approved the ball park, while Willie Brown, legal counsel for Catellus, and chairman of the approval campaign, became Mayor. The northern anchor for the development had been set. Four years later the Willie Mays Gate opened and within a decade the Mission Bay community had sprouted.
Inning Nine: Anti-Climax
The Giants have now lost five straight to the Padres, who win with speed, tough pitching, and wily hitting. Benjie Molina looks old (he is). Aubrey Huff looks old (he’s not). Pablo Sandoval still can’t find his groove. Nobody can. Late word in the press box is that oft-injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez may be back next week. Do you think he’ll make a difference, I ask the reporter who frowned when I displayed emotion last night. She looks at me like I can’t be serious.
San Diego 5 San Francisco 2 Richard the winner; Cain the loser. Today’s game at 3:45.