Ghosts at the Double Play

One: Winning Is Something, Isn’t It?

Hey, what’s the heavy fog all about this morning? The Giants won the first game of the NLCS — in Philadelphia, no less! So where’s the sun, the bluebirds, belgian waffles and applewood smoked bacon? I invest time, money, fantasy and emotion into this game, and I don’t even get a nice day when “we” win?

What’s up with that?

That was just one of my questions for San Francisco’s baseball ghosts, if I ever get the chance to speak to one.

Two: A Walk in the Park

My doctor says I’ve been watching so many Giants games that I can no longer take anything for granted. I live in a world where the margin of error seems so small that one slipup, one bad pitch, and it’s curtains.

Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants’ starting pitcher, strikes out the first Philly batter and walks the second. Oh, it’s going to be one of those nights: a walk, a steal, an error, an intentional walk — bases loaded and two strikeouts. Is Sanchez trying to avoid a mistake? If so, it’s not a good strategy, and on a 3-1 fastball, low and inside, the Phillies take a run with a walk.

A terrible call, as replays clearly show.

Three: Wind in the Willows

What happens when a bat swings through the air in Philadelphia? Do we feel a cold breeze in the Mission and think that Andres Torres must be striking out in his first at-bat? That’s never a good sign.

Something is seriously wrong with Torres and has been since late August, before his appendectomy. Earlier in the season he hit, but he also had good at-bats, meaning he fouled off pitches and drew walks. Since August his on-base percentage has fallen precipitously, as pitchers appear to have found a hole in his swing.

Yes, Torres has problems, and his problems affect the team, but the whole plodding offense and faux power thing can’t be blamed on one player. A manager, yes; a general manager for sure. And maybe a ghost or two.

Four: Sounds of Sausages and Beer

I’m walking through the Mission to the sacred ground of San Francisco baseball, listening to Jon Miller’s Hall of Fame vocal chords vibrate through the evening fog. You hear the same voice bouncing off the concrete when you’re wandering through the interstices of Mission Creek ballpark. Hearing it, I can smell the sausages and beer.

Rina and Debbi wave from their stairs on Folsom Street: “Go, Giants!” Frank, Mary and Mary’s brother listen to the game on Frank’s car radio. “Fu@! the Phillies!”

Just a one-run game, says Neil, who lives down the street from Dirty Thieves, where he hangs out to watch the game. Par for the course. Neil is here for the playoffs. So is Torrey; when the Giants won the Western Division, it woke something up in her, she can’t say exactly what, but something long ago forgotten. She doesn’t like watching the games at home.

Five: The Difference

In the top of the fifth, Phillie pitcher Roy Oswalt has a one-run lead and the Giants have yet to hit him. He’s throwing off-speed pitches: sinkers, sliders, curveballs. But he’s more than a simple junkie. He’s got fastball in the mid-90s, and he’s not afraid to use it.

And guess who’s looking for it? Cody Ross. A similar pitch to one he got yesterday from Roy Halladay winds up, like yesterday, in the cheap seats. Cheers in a bar in San Francisco, silence in a stadium in Philadelphia. The game is tied. Oswalt walks Mike Fontenot, but gets out of the inning without further damage.

With a double and two fly balls, the Phillies retake the lead. Despite his control issues, Sanchez is doing well, but the Phillies just gave an abbreviated master class in how to create a run.

Six: Sacred Ground

San Francisco’s first baseball game “according to New York rules” took place on February 22, 1860, at Center’s Bridge. That bridge would have been two blocks down from 16th and Bryant, where Harrison, Treat and 16th currently meet. Burrito Justice provides a drawing of the area, showing Center’s Bridge and the Potrero Center plateau, where Seals Stadium once stood (scroll down to see the drawing).

The game played at Center’s Bridge, between the Eagles and the Red Rovers, is the first recorded game on the West Coast. The Eagles, formerly the San Francisco Base Ball Club, had been put together by transplanted members of Alexander Cartwright’s New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, including Cartwright himself, “the father of modern baseball,” who came to San Francisco but got sick and left.

Neither team had problems hitting; the game ended in a 33-33 tie.

Seven: Sin

The Phillies still lead Cody Ross 2-1 in the top of the seventh inning. If there are other Giants, they are hiding, or should be.

Still, it’s only a one-run game. Anything can happen with these guys.

Like, Sanchez could open the bottom of the seventh by giving up a single to Oswalt. This is a sin, Jonny, putting the pitcher on base. Bishop Bruce Bochy quickly sends Sanchez to the showers, but he can’t wash away the transgression, nor its repercussions. Why Aubrey Huff falls asleep, letting Oswalt score, I don’t know. And why Santiago Casilla gives up a three-run, two-out double to the struggling Jimmy Rollins, only the baseball ghosts can say.

Eight: Confession

By the time I get to the Double Play, guys are talking about the 49er game, trying to make themselves feel a sloppy 49er victory against the East Bay’s dysfunctional dynasty balances a Giant defeat in he NLCS. How narcissistic can you get?

Bill remembers that the Yankees came back from 5-0 a couple of days ago to beat Texas. Ken mumbles the obvious: The Giants aren’t the Yankees. “It’s not over,” shrieks a woman in the other room.

Alex, who works at the Sports Basement, quietly confesses he thinks Oswalt deserves a lot of credit.

Nine: Time to Come Home

Worried the Giants can’t hit? Don’t be; this offense was made to sputter. If the Giants could hit, they wouldn’t be nearly as maddening.What fun would that be?

Game Three, Tuesday afternoon at Mission Creek Ballpark. The best is yet to come.

(Note: some ghosts still need tickets.)

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Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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  1. Thanks Burrito. BTW i think the field was probably up toward the 16th and Bryant plateau, but who knows. Thanks for your stuff. It’s been a revelation.

  2. It could very well be – I’ve struggled to triangulate the “on Center’s bridge” and 16th/Harrison references. I really need to dig around the 1860 newspaper archives some more to see of anything interesting pops up.

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