Giants vs. Dodgers: A Clean Sweep

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain on the mound, May 5, 2013.
Matt Cain

The San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers three times last weekend. Swept the floor with them, you might say.

I caught Sunday afternoon’s game — the last of the series and a 4-3 victory for my guys.  My seat was near third base — a more favorable location this season, since the team has found its offense.  In years past, when only one or two Giants players even made it to third base, let alone scored, it could feel like the loneliest, saddest place on earth.

Matt Cain — who was winless in April — looked strong.  Hunter Pence was en fuego. (Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, after all.)  Andres Torres ran very fast.  And Pablo looked… like a fat panda.  His online bio puts his weight at 240 pounds, but these photos don’t lie.  The guy is a house.

Right now Sandoval is batting .323, but you have to wonder how long he can maintain that when he huffs and puffs around the bases… and can no longer see his toes while doing it.

On a lighter note, being back at the ballpark on a warm day — camera in hand — brought me all the usual joy.

And as my tagline says… I have the pictures to prove it.

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Spring Training Days 3 and 4: Nice Weather We’re Having…

Gregor Blanco

Day three of 2013 spring training passed without major incident.   Tim Lincecum was scheduled to start, but had to bow out due to his blister situation.  There were a lot of kiddies in 55 jerseys — and one slightly older woman — scuffling along dejectedly before the game as a result.  The only one who was pretty pumped about the whole thing was Chad Gaudin, who started in Timmy’s place.

The Tribe beat the Giants 6-4.   On San Francisco’s end, Gaudin, Kontos and both Brandons looked in fine form.  And for the Tribe?  Two words – Nick Swisher.  Another homer.  He’s a fantastic acquisition – and he seems thrilled to be back in Ohio. (He’s a former Buckeye from THE Ohio State University.)  I am very excited to see the effect he has on the team this season.

A Giants vs. Indians World Series.  It could happen!

Some of the best photos of the day were of Bruce Bochy, as he signed baseballs before the game.  He was extremely gracious with fans, as was Ron Wotus.

No good deed goes unpunished, though.  Their reward was even more fans calling out to them during the game, begging for autographs.  Now, I understand that spring training is pretty casual compared to the regular season but… um, the game had started.  The guys were kind of busy managing the team.

How can so many self-professed die-hard fans wearing head-to-toe Giants gear be that clueless?

This morning, my last in Scottsdale, I awoke to rain and wind.  Instead of heading to the ballpark to watch the Giants battle the LA Dodgers as planned, I played hooky and drove to Sedona… where I experienced every form of bad weather imaginable: torrential rain, sideways hail accompanied by thunder and lightning (a weird combo), and a full-on whiteout somewhere around Prescott.  But I also got a rainbow at the end of it all so I guess everything balanced out.

I also got the satisfaction of knowing I made a good choice to play hooky.  The Giants game was cancelled.

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Spring Training Day Two: Naming Names

Day two of spring training took me to Goodyear, Arizona where my old hometown team the Cleveland Indians welcomed (and ultimately shut out) the evil Los Angeles Dodgers.  A good and just baseball outcome in a very dry heat.

There was less power hitting than in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over my current home team, the San Francisco Giants:  No home runs today vs. five yesterday.  But there were two botched pick off attempts by Dodgers pitcher Matt Palmer that allowed the Indians to score.

Even worse, two Indians players were hit by pitches.  In fact Matt Carson — up from the minors — got beaned, and was escorted to the locker room by Manager Terry Francona and a trainer.  He seemed OK, but wow the sound of a ball on a batting helmet is a terrible one.

Poor Carson. I realized today that some guys like him, non-roster or minor league Indians players, have neither a photo on the scoreboard nor a name on the back of their jerseys.  I suppose that’s to prevent fans like me from forming too much of an attachment to players who might not be around in April.

Too late.

Indians fans sitting around me really had a soft spot for these young guys, shouting encouragement — rather than insults — when they pretty much swung at every pitch that didn’t hit them in the head.

I have a new baseball crush, left fielder Tim Fedroff.  As I said in my last post, he is Hunter Pence in a different uniform.  Yesterday he was the guy to know, if you were under 14 years of age and wanted an Indians player to autograph your baseball.  Fedroff would take a kid’s ball, ask which player’s signature he or she wanted, descend into the dugout and badger that teammate until he signed.  The kids were busting.

That said, I asked one young boy which player had autographed his ball and he replied, “Honestly I have no idea.  I am a Dodgers fan.”  Boo!  Apparently they let anyone into Scottsdale stadium these days.

Today Fedroff was again effusive.   He didn’t start, and spent the early part of the game hanging over the dugout railing—apparently having a blast.  When he was called to play, he BOUNDED across the field.  He zigzagged like a kid pretending he was an airplane, and the other players laughed.  This is why I love spring training.

At one point I think he, Lonnie Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds may have been trying to get my attention.  (I was the woman with the biggest camera, three rows back.)  They were sort of miming that someone—possibly me—should take their photo.  I wanted to, but… the only thing worse than missing that opportunity would have been thinking it was directed at me, only to discover that they were talking to some hot, buxom chick in daisy dukes a few rows behind me.

(Have you ever seen the Southwest Airlines commercial in which a woman thinks a handsome colleague is professing his love for her before a big meeting?  She gushes her feelings in return, but he’s actually talking to his girlfriend via his bluetooth headset.  OUCH.  That’s what I was thinking about. ”Wanna get away?”)

Plus I didn’t have the heart to tell them that my camera was actually focused just behind them, on Jason Kipnis poised to steal second base.

That’s the kind of thing that happens at Spring training, though, when players and coaches are a little more loose and very accessible to fans.  Yesterday in Scottsdale, Will the Thrill Clark was channeling Shecky Green.  He knew all the regulars in my section and kept a running banter going with them.  He even threw fistfuls of gum into the stands.

Tomorrow the Giants and Indians will meet again, this time at Goodyear.  I’ll have no conflicting loyalties, because spring training is a time when you just want everyone to play well.

Especially the faceless new guys, wearing nameless jerseys.

2013 Spring Training: Day One

No witty commentary today, due to writing time wasted searching for my USB cord to upload these photos.  Bottom line:  It was a good day one… and not just because I (obviously) found the cord.

Now, off to Goodyear to see the Cleveland Indians take off the LA Dodgers. (Boo Dodgers!)

In the Ballpark

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SF Gate posted a very fine series of photographs today, tracing the history of San Francisco baseball.  Some photos are vintage dating back to the Seals Stadium days, plus a few shots from the 2012 World Series thrown in.  Check it out!  There are 40 photographs in all, and these are a few of my favorites. 

Question: Can you imagine what AT&T security would do to Sadie Case today, if she started chasing an umpire around home plate with a pair of glasses?

Jack Hannahan Gets a Stocking Full Of Kryptonite

IMG_2850I am sad that Jack Hannahan — a.k.a. Cleveland Indians third baseman Supermannahan — has not been tendered a contract by the Tribe for 2013. There had been rumors about this for a while; The team wanted to make way for Lonnie Chisenhall at third.

Jack Hannahan batted .244 with four homers last season. Chisenhall played less than half as many games, and batted .268 with five homers.

Hannahan was gracious, as always.  “The writing is on the wall as far as Lonnie getting a chance to play every day,” he told “I’m excited for him to get that opportunity to showcase what he can do.”

“I had two great years in Cleveland.  I love playing in Cleveland. I love the fans of Cleveland… I really believe in what they’re doing there as far as getting a team that can contend and play in October.”

From your lips to the baseball gods’ ears, Jack.

Hannahan is renowned for being a great teammate in the clubhouse.  Fans will remember the story of Indians players passing the hat to pay for a private plane, so that he could be on hand for the premature birth of his son in August 2011.  He will be missed.

Tribe pitcher Vinnie Pestano reacted on Twitter; “Upsetting news about Hanny. Part of the business but he’s the best teammate I’ve ever had. Not gonna find anyone who cares more for his guys.”

Over the first 30 games of 2012, before being sidelined by a back injury, Hannahan batted .287 with three homers.  Here’s hoping he lands well, and can do it again.

Enjoy some of my favorite Supermannahan photos, taken when the Indians played the Giants in June 2011, and last season when they took on the Oakland A’s.  Wonder if Jack would fancy northern California?  The weather that day in Oakland was unreal.

He wouldn’t be the first to be bitten by the Bay Area bug…

With World Series Parades, I Win Some, I Lose Some

Pat Burrell
Pat Burrell

How do I put this?  I went to the World Series Parade in San Francisco today, and was a bit underwhelmed.

Winning the World Series for the second time in three years feels amazing, and is cause for great celebration in the Bay Area.  I come from a city (Cleveland) that is positively starved for a national championship of any kind, so I feel a bit guilty for nit-picking about the parade.

I don’t want to be THAT PERSON: The one who whines about some ridiculous non-hardship, as if I’m really put out.  And I really don’t want to be labeled a humble braggart.

You are familiar with the term humble braggart, right?  They are those falsely modest folks who say stuff like…

  • Bummer, the limo that drove me to my appearance on Letterman hit a pothole, and I spilled my glass of Swarovski-studded limited edition luxury vodka all over my Vera Wang dress.  I hate it when that happens!
  • I never gain weight, no matter how much ice cream I eat.  It’s really frustrating.
  • My husband and I braved Hurricane Sandy in our Greenwich Village brownstone.  It was terrifying.  I mean, I had to move my red carpet gowns to a different closet because of a leak!  (A real celebrity made this statement today. I’m not kidding.)
  • Why aren’t OUR World Series parades that good anymore?

All that said, 2012 parade organizers made some changes that I didn’t really consider enhancements.

This year, players rode in convertibles rather than motorized trolley cars.  I’m not sure why.  To be fair, there is a downside to trolleys; a player can only be seen well from one side of the street as they pass.  In 2010 Matt Cain was on the “wrong” side of the trolley for me, and I was disappointed not to get a good look at him.

But the upside of a trolley is the riders are elevated, making them much easier to see if they are facing you.  While I didn’t see Matt Cain in 2010, I saw Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and others very well, even though I was pretty far back in the crowd.   I got some fantastic photos that day, which set the bar pretty high.

This year, I waited for more than two hours but barely saw any players for more than one or two seconds, because fans standing in front of me blocked my view.  Also, the cars drove by pretty fast.  I think they were running a little late.

Big surprise: Pat “The Bat” Burrell provided the best photo-op of the day!  He was riding in the scouts’ trolley.

Organizers also chose to intersperse players’ cars, and slower moving trolleys carrying family members and Giants staff.   There were sizeable gaps between vehicles, which made the parade feel kind of long.   Besides, while I’m sure members of the Baer family are very nice I’m not really all that interested in them, even if they are throwing Halloween candy in my direction.   Next time, let’s put THEM in the cars that zip by at 20 mph.

Starting tomorrow, baseball will be 100%, officially over for 2012.  No more crowds wearing orange and black, streaming towards Third and King Streets.  No more detours, or street closures, or parades.  No more ballpark bratwurst, or trips to the dugout store.  (I can’t promise this last one.  It’s aspirational.)

It’s NBA season now, and time to turn my attention to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.  Sadly, I don’t think either team stands to fare as well as the Giants did this year.

So I guess it may also be time to start planning my trip to 2013 spring training.


How Many Games To Skin The Cats?

This year’s Giants have the knack

They win… from two or three games back

They pitch with grit and take their hacks

Delighting fans of orange and black.

Opponent one: The dreaded Reds

San Francisco’s bats looked dead

Fans’ hopes were hanging by a thread

But…lose?  No way!  They won instead.

Next up: Matt Holliday and the Cards

Three straight losses left them jarred

But doubters they paid no regard

And won game seven in our yard.

Now they are World Series bound

With game one played right here in town

Barry Zito’s on the mound

Skin the cats, they’ll get the crown.

Let’s go Giants!

Weekend On The Rocks, Part I

George Kontos
George Kontos

It was a Big Weekend in San Francisco.  Some might say, it was the Bermuda Triangle of weekends, as more than one million visitors paid a visit to our fine city to take in sporting events (San Francisco Giants and 49ers, the America’s Cup), the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and Fleet Week.

For the first time I can recall, I’m actually thrilled that tomorrow is Monday.  All these people will have gone home by then, right?

The most vexing parts of my weekend were two packed and plodding Muni bus rides to AT&T Park, followed by two miserable performances by the Giants.  For now I will focus on Saturday’s game, because quite honestly… I am too depressed to process tonight’s loss, let alone write about it.

I had planned to watch game one of the NLDS from my couch, but an amazing seat near the visitor’s dugout popped up on StubHub. It was out of my price range, but I decided to stalk it for a while.  As game time approached, the price dropped precipitously.  Forty-five minutes before Matt Cain’s first pitch, I made my move.

When I got to the park in the bottom of the 2nd inning (thanks again, Muni), the previous owner of the ticket was sitting next to me.  He immediately pointed out what a great deal I’d gotten.  He paid more than twice what he got from me.  Awkward!

The guy was pretty nice, all things considered.  I nearly bought him a beer, since I figured he was feeling a little light in the wallet, but by the 3rd inning it seemed like he’d already had plenty.

I wish I had a slew of photos of great Giants at-bats and base running, but alas I’m a photographer not an abstract artist.  Or a magician.


On Saturday Night, SF Giants Were One and Done


The San Francisco media began its “magic number” countdown about a week ago — the magic number being the number of wins required to clinch a playoff spot, regardless how well/poorly the runner-up team (i.e. the LA Dodgers) performs.  By Thursday morning, the San Francisco Giants’ magic number was five.

Because I had tickets to both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games against the San Diego Padres, I did more math than is advisable for a history major, trying to pinpoint the likelihood I’d be at AT&T Park to see the Giants win the National League West.  It’s not really about statistical probability, of course.  Barring some kind of Red Sox-style collapse, it was only a matter of time before they clinched.  But how MUCH time would depend on how much torture the baseball gods chose to inflict.

The gods were merciful, and the Giants beat the Padres handily on Saturday night to win the division.  Nervous energy hung in the air like the Bay Area marine layer, but the team played like vets who had been there before.  No torture necessary.

When Angel Pagan caught Mark Kotsay’s pop up to end the game, the place went insane.  It’s hard to describe the electricity and elation in such an enormous venue, where everyone is pulling for the same thing (or, “on the same rope” as Zen master/GM Brian Sabean likes to say). Everywhere you looked, fans were smiling, high-fiving and hugging, and no one was rushing for the exits to beat the traffic.  I stuck around until Giants’ president and CEO Larry Baer got hold of the microphone, and began his shameless plug for playoff merchandise.

The fact that starters – including my particular favorite, Tim Lincecum – didn’t play on Sunday was a bit of a disappointment, although no one could begrudge them their day off.  It gave the rookies some valuable playing time.  It also allowed people like me, who have been laser-focused on the playoffs, to just relax in the stellar weather, unclench our jaws, put down our cameras…. and enjoy the game.