Sam

Posts Tagged ‘SF Giants’

The lost art of fan mail

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 6:32 am

I was looking through my photos the other day and came across this picture of Willie Mays reading fan mail between games of a doubleheader sometime back in the mid-1960s. I think this picture says so much about how the game has changed. Writing fan-mail is a lost art for 10 and 11 year old kids nowadays. Indeed, the very term “fan mail” seems archaic when I use it here. I imagine that if a kid nowadays wants to send a message to a player they do so via Facebook or twitter, or one of the other bloated, solipsistic social media outlets. And you wonder if a player received a letter, would they even read it? Probably not. Players nowadays are far too wealthy and their time far too valuable to take the time to acknowledge individual messages from admiring fans. Can you imagine Alex Rodriguez on the trainers table at Yankee Stadium reading fan mail as Mays is here ? I certainly can’t.

But back in Willie Mays’ day players read letters and answered them. The expression on Mays’ face says it all: the game had humanitas back then.

Boy, how times have changed.

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Baseball’s most exciting play: Play at the plate

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 5:15 pm

The headlines this week were about Buster Posey’s season-ending injury during the Giants–Marlins game the other night. Because of Posey’s increasing stature in the league – he is one of the NL’s upcoming stars – his is an injury that has generated much discussion. Many people are advocating that baseball change the rules to prevent violent collisions such as occurred Tuesday night. I have no doubt that Bud Selig will give in to these voices of change and at some point – maybe next season – there will be a rule change. And then one of baseball’s most exciting plays – the play at the plate – will be as non-existent as waxed Coke cups with cellophane lids.

In spite of its reputation as a non-contact sport, Baseball has always been a dangerous game. In the dead-ball era two players died after being beaned in the head by pitched balls and a player like Ty Cobb would routinely sharpen his spikes to intimidate the opposition when stealing a base. Although brushbuck pitches were a routine part of the game up until the 1980s batting helmets were not widely used until the 1960s and were not made mandatory until 1971. Yet even with the protection of a helmet there is probably nothing more fearful in sports than standing 60’ 6” away from a pitcher who is hurling a baseball 90 MPH at you – sometimes within inches of your head. In a sense, baseball is a lethal game on every play. But that is the beauty of baseball. It is a non-contact, finesse sport that requires a lot of guts.

Participant in baseball’s most famous home plate collision – during the 1970 All-Star game in Cincinnati – Ray Fosse does not think the rules should be changed to protect the catcher. Asked to comment in the wake of the Posey injury, Fosse said that the sometimes violent confrontation between catcher and base-runner cannot be avoided and that tradition should be respected – even though his own promising career may have been shortened by his collision with Rose. I could not agree more. The image of Rose racing down the third-base line and barreling into Fosse to score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning is perhaps the most enduring and exciting moment in All-Star game history.

So with the collision in San Francisco the other night. It is unfortunate that Posey was injured and will likely miss the remainder of the season. But it was exciting baseball.

Baseball at its best.

Doubleheaders

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2011 at 5:41 am

For no particular reason I was thinking about doubleheaders tonight. Whereas each Major League team used to play a handful of doubleheaders each season, nowadays it is unusual if a team has even one doubleheader on its schedule. And now they are called “day-night doubleheaders” the first game played in the afternoon and the second game in the evening, three or four hours after the conclusion of the first game. Fans of course must buy tickets to two separate games, what is always the coda of the announcement when the “doubleheader” is announced with great ceremony on the radio broadcast. In other words, if you want to go to a doubleheader nowadays you have to buy two tickets, leave the ballpark after the first game, and re-enter the park several hours later. Is this a doubleheader or deceitful marketing ?

Doubleheaders were wonderful because, more than anything else, it meant that you got to watch a game for free. Buy one and get one free. What was more American that. One suspects that owners did not make any money by allowing fans to buy a $ 1.00 bleacher ticket and watch two games over the course of an afternoon. But back then it really didn’t matter. Doubleheaders belonged to an era when the line between baseball as a game and baseball as a business was not so clearly drawn. Doubleheaders were just another baseball tradition that showed up on the schedule year in year out. Fans profited. Owners lost. No one cared becuse it was just baseball.

Doubleheaders gave us some of the greatest single-day performances in baseball history e.g. Stan Musial’s 5 home runs in a DH on May 2, 1954 or Roberto Clemente’s 10 hits in a DH in 1970. If you loved baseball, you especially loved Sundays – because of doubleheaders.

Doubleheaders. Yet another marvelous baseball tradition that greed has banished into obscurity.

Catchers masks; then and now

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Watching Buster Posey in the World Series, I cannot help but recall the old days when catchers would just flip around their batting helmet before putting on their catcher’s mask and that would be all the protection they needed behind the plate. That has become something of a classic look nowadays as so many catchers, like Posey, have gone to the” hockey style” catcher’s mask, a mask which looks like it was developed not in the musty office of an aging Rawlings sales rep but  in a aero-dynamics lab on an American university campus somewhere. For the old school baseball fan, like myself, who grew up watching austere receivers like Johnny Bench or Bill Freehan the new mask is an eyesore and just another useless accessory, like the ankle guard or personalized wrist band, that threatens the visual simplicity of the game.

And then there are the special oversized helmets for players who have suffered a head injury or concussion, like David Wright, or Francisco Cervelli. Every time I see Cervelli in that ridiculously oversized helmet I cannot help but think of  Marvin the Martian from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.  I wonder how would Freddie Patek, all 5’4″ of  him would  have looked in one of those ?

This proliferation of specialized helmets is, I suspect, a reflection of our over-protective society and baseball’s propensity in recent years to fashion a new look for itself in an effort to attract younger fans.  Fortunately, I have not met anyone who likes this trend.

San Francisco was once a good baseball town.

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2010 at 8:56 pm

There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle a few days ago about the insanely astronomical prices of World Series tickets. According to the article prices on one popular website tickets for Game 1 in San Francisco run from $ 390.00 for standing room up to $ 91,000 for a premium box seat behind the plate or dugout ( yes, folks, that’s ninety-one thousand dollars to watch a ballgame ). On another website mentioned in the article prices were more “reasonable,” starting at about $500 for standing room and going up to about $12,000 for a prime seat. Oddly enough, while the Giants themselves sanction this type of activity on websites like Stub Hub, where season ticket holders sell their tickets usually for two or three times the face value. if you go to AT&T Park you will see signs outside prohibiting scalping. Don’t ever ask the Giants about this and expect to get an answer. I have tried.

San Francisco used to be a fan-friendly baseball town, meaning you could always walk up to the box office on the day of the game and get a ticket. Even for playoff games tickets were available to the general public ( this term no longer means everyone unfortunately but your average working stiff who is making under $40.000 and sending his kids to an under-performing public school because that is all he can afford ) Unfortunately all this has changed since the team moved to AT&T Park. Locating the ballpark on the edge of the Financial District has attracted a new demographic to Giants games: The Yuppie. Because the Yuppie tends not to be knowlegable about baseball and thinks nothing of spending a hundred dollars for a ticket, he/she is targeted by the ticket broker who buys up all the seats. This is the law of supply and demand at its most basic. Yuppie demands, Ticket broker supplies. Price increases.

All the while, the people who really make the city run, the people who have lived in San Francisco most of their lives, the people who have paid taxes and raised their children in San Francisco, the people who spent their childhoods at Candlestick and know who Jim Ray Hart is, the Muni drivers, the clerks at City Hall, the concierges at the city’s hotels are priced out of enjoying a ballgame.

There is something just not right about this.

Pom Poms

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 3:09 am

I tuned into the Giants – Phils game five today. Good game but for the likes of me I cannot understand why teams are handing out pom poms. It looked as if everyone at ATT Park tonight had a bright orange pom pom. It is hard enough trying to watch a game nowadays when the 11 year old kid in front of you has a foam finger and oversized foam rodeo hat and the vendor with the rainbow cotton candy ( it is no longer pink , folks)  is obstructing your vision every couple of innings. But can you imagine trying to watch a ballgame when EVERYONE in your section is waving a bright orange pom pom ? I certainly can’t. Unfortunately, most of the teams encourage this pop frenzy. There are a few exceptions like the Yankees and Red Sox. Indeed, the vibe at the ballpark these days – with the blaring music, dot racing, kissing contests, food courts, and pom poms is more similar to an amusement park than to a ballgame. Contrast this to the baseball crowds of old, like the photo above of Milwaukee Braves fans lining up for the World Series in 1957. Do these look like the kind of people who would be waving pom poms ? I think not.

Red baseball caps ?

In Pet Peeves, Satire, Traditions, Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm

There is nothing I love more than plopping down on the couch on Friday evening and watching a ballgame. After dinner tonight I turned on Giants-Astros game, Lowenbrau in hand ( a beer actually brewed in Germany, not one that  says “Imported” and is, in fact, brewed in Canada.  Read the labels carefully and you will see what I mean ) and just about had a cardiac when the Giants took the field wearing red caps !  So confused was I that it took me a few batters to figure out that the Giants were wearing these hats in observance of the 4th of July ( even though today is not the 4th of July but the 3rd, obviously what threw me off  in the first place)

Even my wife was confused when she walked into the room and glanced at the TV screen. Seeing the red hats, she asked me ” weren’t you watching the Giants game ?” I replied that I was and that the Giants were wearing red hats in observance of Independence Day, to which she shook her head and walked away.

The Giants franchise dates back to the 1880s and the teams have always worn either blue and orange ( occasionally in Mel Ott’s day) or black and orange from the early 1950s.  In short, the Giants have no business in red ! In fact, the only teams that should wear red caps are the Reds, the Phillies, the Cards and maybe a couple of other teams.

When I switched over to ESPN during a commerical I saw that other teams were wearing the  caps as well.  Giants Broadcaster Duane Kuiper mentioned that teams were wearing the red caps this weekend as a show of support for the Armed Forces.  But I suspect this is nothing more than marketing behind a veil of patriotism.  The cap is one more product – among a dizzying array of cheap memorabilia, tacky replica jerseys and chatchkis- that MLB can market to a growing fan base  ignorant about the history of the game. Sure enough when I went to the MLB website this morning, there they were, the “Stars and Stripes Perfomance on the field hats.”  If you want one it will only cost you $ 36.99.

Because this is America.