Day 26: Take me out to the Ball Game

Trip Start May 25, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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What I did
San Francisco Giants Baseball

Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 26, 2011

Today it was time to do one of those truly American things - go to a ball game....or baseball if you prefer. I had been to one game when I lived in Milwaukee - to the Brewers - and they lost that day..... infact I don't think that they had a particularly great season. But I remember it being fun :)

I'd been following ticket prices online for some time, and managed to find seats for $15 - not bad for something I don't get the chance to do often in life. Plus, the season here is nearly finished, making room for the winter sports of American Football and Basketball. So it was now, or never.....

With three days to the game, I tried to purchase tickets - but due to my bank messing up my name (grrr!) on my card (grrr!), nothing would work. I went and visited a branch over the weekend, but they couldn't help, as it was part of a greater network of branches, and not actually belonging to my own.

By the time that Monday came, I was getting worried - the game was happening that night, and I still hadn't managed to get tickets for either myself, or for my friend who was joining me. It would suck to plan an activity and then have to tell her that it was a no go........

Having politely explained to the bank phone helpline of my difficulties, and subsequently to Kevin, the manager of the nearest branch that after a month of not being able to use my account, I needed it to be resolved today, I walked back to my office with a slightly greater sense of hope.

Booting up the ticket website, i noticed that the tickets had dropped to $7......this was due to the fact that the San Francisco Giants had been eliminated from the World Series playoffs over the weekend.... but still, it would be a great atmosphere, and I was determined to go.

Selecting the best seats I could find, I plumbed in my details, only to be told that my details were incorrect. Finally, by using my incorrect name, the banks address and other information that didn't really make sense, I managed to beat the system. Downloading the tickets, which look remarkably like airline tickets, with the barcode, I was so happy. Tonight would happen after all......we were going to the ball game.

________________

Meeting at the BART station, I had downloaded every map I would need to ensure we got to AT&T park in San Francisco. First a quick change in Oakland, and then to the Cal Train - or light rail as it is known here. This proved easier than I could imagine, with desks set up at the Embarcadero BART Station selling round-trip tickets at $4 each. This was a bargain, and involved none of the walking to a local station that Google had suggested.

We hoped on board, and were immediately surrounded by fans wearing the orange and black of the Giants. Everyone was excited, and didn't seem worried that the season was effectively over for the team. With a run of three home games in three nights, it was a great celebration, and the last chance to attend a game while the Giants retained the World Series Title they gained last year.

'Where are you from?' asked an older chap standing next to me - his wife seated between us.
"Well, I'm from England, and I live in South Africa, and my friend is from Iceland."
'That explains why you don't have jackets then....' he laughed....

'First ball game?' he inquired
"Well, yes, the first one here in San Francisco. It should be a lot of fun."
'You're going to have great fun. This is one of the nicest places to watch baseball, not like some of the other stadiums around here - they don't even have cup holders in the back of the chairs for you! AT&T park is beautiful - beautiful!'

"Have you been a fan here your whole life?" I asked. His accent didn't sound anything like those from this area. Infact, it reminded me of the Brooklyn drawl, and expected him to say New York.
'Yep. Born and Bred'
Just shows how wrong you can be.....

The Cal Train pulled up outside the stadium - it was an amazing sight. Bright red neon lights showed the AT&T sign. Fans were approaching from every direction, waving banners and sporting baseball shirts embroidered with the names of their favourite players. To our left we could see the Bay Bridge stretching across to the northern Bay. Seagulls were flying around the boats that were moored in the marina. Yachts were heading out into the bay for a lazy evening on the water. It was now 6.30pm.

After a brief walk along the jetty, we headed past the statues of former baseball stars, and went inside.
'For you' - said a guy as we went through the barriers
"Thanks" - i said.
He had handed us a plastic commemorative cup with a flyer inside

"WELCOME FANS..... In appreciation of the tonight being the highest attendance of fans at a SF Giants Baseball game for any combined season, please take this cup to any concession stand for a free glass of soda."

Well, considering that is worth $5, and the  tickets cost $7, it was already a great and very cheap night out..... Of course what you don't realise is that the smell of gorgeous chunky garlic fries, with their skins still on, makes you fork over another $5 when you collect your free drink - but with a few hours of baseball ahead of us, it seemed the right thing to do.

We climbed higher and higher into the stands.
'Need some help miss?' said one of the staff
"Sure." i replied, showing him our tickets.
'Just go up and up and up to the top. Your seats are right there.'

A kid walked past us wearing a false rubber beard that read 'FEAR THE BEARD', while others bought 'Hat daaaags' (Hot Dogs), 'Cotton Candy' (Candy Floss), 'Cocoa' (Hot Chocolate with squirty cream) and a whole host of other goodies.

We climbed and climbed, watching the view of the bay get more and more breath-taking. Building the stadium on the edge of the bay was a great idea, and brought that little extra bit of excitement when the balls went over the stadium into the ocean - 59 times this season!

Seals floated in the water, competing with cormorants and gulls for the fish. I looked around - the stadium was packed, and a small wind band played some tunes to keep the fans entertained.

'Da, da, da, daaaaa, da, daaaaa'

The  organ started up - everything here is random. The noises, the playing of notes - to me they always remind me of slogans from my childhood....

'Da, da, da, daaaaa, da, daaaaa' means 'Puppy Poowwweeeerrrrrrrr' - not 'GIIIII AANNTTSS!'

'DA, da, DA, da' is 'Funtime Frankie' - not 'Let's Go GIANTS, Let's GO!'

People started to clap in rhythm, and then the music would stop half way through a phrase. We laughed, not really knowing what was going on.

Out came the players, and the crowd went wild. It really was as American an experience as you could  get. The fans yelped, danced, and were shown in close-up, live on the big screen. People held up their babies, swaying them in time with the music. Old men really did shake their booties! It was a lot of fun.

Being not quite sure of the rules of the game, apart from the obvious ones of 'hit the ball as hard as you can', 'run fast between the markers' and 'don't get caught or run out!'..... we tried to understand why the teams would switch between batting and fielding. To begin with, we thought it was based on the number of people who were out, or were struck out, or caught out - but in the end, we decided it was a combo of the number of plays.

Out came a player with a beard.... their best hitter of the season..... now I understood the 'Fear the Beard' slogans. It turns out he was pretty instrumental in the Giants winning the World Series last year......

'Da, da, da, da, Da, da, da, da......Da, da, da, da, Da, da, da, da'.

Between every  part of the game there were fan games - some were based on answering questions live infront of the entire crowd, others were simply accepting a free hooded sweatshirt for being a season ticket holder for the last 30 years.

During one break, a new Dodge Cherokee drove around the entire field, followed by the orange furry mascot.....

In another break, a man drove his fiancee around in a different vehicle, while proposing to her - luckily she said yes!!!

The game continued...... after taking the lead 1-0, the Giants looked to be doing fine, until the Colorado Rockies brought it back to 1-1.

'Da, da, da, da, da, daaaaaaaaah'

A Mexican wave started to weave its way around the stadium, once, twice, three times, four, five, six, seven....... by now people were shouting to 'Make it STOP!!!!'

The Giants were in play. They had a man on every base.... the bases were 'LOADED'..... and so it was the turn of 'FEAR THE BEARD' to sock the ball, not get caught out, and allow the rest of the team to run all the way home......

Whack....... up went the ball, the players began to run..... and the music started up.

Giants 2, Rockies 1

It was getting near the end.... the seventh innings.... so it was time for one of those traditions that you know exists, but you didn't know you knew existed...... it was time for the ball park song.....

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

written in 1908 by two chaps who had never even attended a game....... that's quite a legacy.

The mood turned sentimental - the Giants should win, and the season was nearly over. People started to move out and along the stairs. I didn't want to leave - it had been such a great night. With so much excitement, we decided to follow the fans back along the waters edge to the BART station. The Cal Train was running, and was packed, but the night was warm and the setting utterly beautiful.

The enterprising t-shirt sellers lined the gangway...... '$3 a t-shirt or two for $10' .... we stopped to have a look, along with the other thousands of fans who were milling past.

This is one of the reasons that I like America..... everyone can try to do something.
Everyone can talk to each other.
You can be who you are, and enjoy the things that you like - no pressure.

What a fantastic night - it's a shame that is the end of the season on this side of the country..... I would love to do it all again :)
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