Yesterday, I watched the Cleveland Indians battle the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The Tribe started out strong, and led into the fifth inning – that’s when things started to fall apart. Thanks to big hits by Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey (HR), the Giants came back to win 5-3.
I’m always a little torn when the Giants and Indians play each other. For this series, in the name of fairness, I got one ticket near the visitors dugout (Saturday) and one near the Giants dugout (today). I bought them quite a while ago, not knowing who would be pitching. There I was, in my red and blue Tribe gear, while my favorite Giant Timmy Lincecum was on the mound. I felt like a monster.
Back then I also had no idea the games would coincide with the worst cold I’ve had in years. For the past two days I’ve felt like someone is riding a pogo stick inside my sinuses, my throat is raw and glands in my tongue are so swollen I can barely talk. Luckily I didn’t buy a ticket to Friday night’s game. The Indians played poorly, and if the preponderance of stocking caps, scarves and down jackets I saw on TV were any indication, it was FAR too cold out there for a sickie like me.
So to recap: I stayed home for game one, and the Tribe lost. Yesterday I sat in Tribetown and wore my Indians gear… and they lost again. Today I have a ticket near the Giants dugout, and I suppose I’ll wear Giants gear.
If the Tribe doesn’t get the win, it’s possible that whether I go to a game – and what I wear to it – has no bearing on how well a team performs. In other words, the outcome has nothing to do with me, and my many superstitions?
I’m on lots of meds right now, but that would really be a bitter pill to swallow.
On April 2, I caught the second half of a double-header between the Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians. (The game had been rescheduled from the previous evening, due to rain.) I sat close the Indians’ dugout. The cheeks in my section’s seats were just as likely to belong to a Tribe fan, as an A’s fan. My people showed up well, and in respectable numbers. Even so, after the game I felt lucky to escape Oakland Coliseum with my Indians jersey intact.
What is UP with Oakland fans? Some of them are crazy, and I don’t mean in a zany, entertaining, endearing way. I suppose if I had to watch baseball in a dilapidated stadium with regular sewage back-ups and remnants of the Raiders’ gridiron still visible in August, I’d be bitter too. In fact, I have traditionally favored building the A’s a new stadium south of San Francisco, because they are an excellent team and lifting them up would be good for baseball. Now, I’m not so sure.
Forget the bleachers, it would seem that the nastiest A’s fans prefer to sit near first base, close to the visitor’s dugout — for maximum heckling effect. They don’t just ridicule opposing players; they also deride their fans, should they dare to cheer audibly. It’s as if they enjoy HATING the opposition more than they like cheering for their own team, which seems twisted and sad.
First baseman Nick Swisher joined the Tribe two years ago, and I’ve seen him play in Oakland before. Each time, A’s fans hurl hateful insults at him like I’ve never heard. I mean it, and I’m from CLEVELAND, where LeBron James committed his crimes against humanity. I understand justified vitriol of fans who have been wronged – but LeBron voluntarily took his talents to Miami in 2010. Since then, like most Cavs fans, I have pulled myself together and moved on.
Nick Swisher left Oakland six seasons ago, and not even by choice! He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2008, before again being traded to the New York Yankees. One particularly odious Oakland fan heckled Swisher over and over for his greediness, how much he got paid per strikeout etc., so I assume he thought Swisher had jumped ship to the Yankees for their deep pockets. Unfortunately this ill-informed joker didn’t shut up all night.
Another bad, bad fan sat nearby, solo. (I was also a party of one, but at least I have decent photos to show for it.) This guy drank a lot, and appeared to seethe even when the A’s led on the scoreboard – which was often. His favorite taunt? “You WEEEEEAAAAAK!” Not “you are weak” or “you’re weak”. But “YOU WEAK”. He even called Indians catcher Carlos Santana weak after he got a hit. A double. Whatever.
This sad little man belittled Santana with racist insults I won’t repeat here, because they honestly made me sick to my stomach. (I heard similar taunting, to a much lesser extent, at a spring training game in March.) As if that wasn’t bad enough, strangers around the idiot LAUGHED. I overheard another heckler say, “This guy is so funny, he could keep me going all night!” Oh.My.God.
I refuse to accept the “nervous laughter” defense here. If you are nervous try biting your nails, grinding your teeth or indulging in emotional eating like a normal person. Do not giggle or chuckle. It only encourages a bigot.
Meanwhile, Oakland Coliseum “Guest Services” personnel stood around looking bored. I still am not sure what services they provide.
Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. This last heckler also went after shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera a few times, but inadvertently referred to him as “Melky”. Such was the level of aptitude I was surrounded by. I was tempted to point out that Melky Cabrera is a different player who has never worn an Indians uniform, but the risk of a “they all look alike to me” comeback was just too high.
So it was only fitting that the Indians turned things around in the 9th inning, with the help of A’s pitcher Jim Johnson. Things got very quiet, except for an occasional insult redirected at Johnson, instead of my Tribe. The Indians won, 6-4. As I packed up my camera equipment, I couldn’t help but notice that the heckling mob had already dissipated. Guess they were worried about traffic on a chilly Wednesday night. In Oakland, California. At 9:30 p.m.
Funny, Nick Swisher appeared to find the post-game atmosphere quite comfortable. Very satisfying.
I could say “suck it”, but I won’t. Instead I’ll say, Roll Tribe.. and congratulations to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract with the Indians today — one day after his 27th birthday.
I called it first: He’s a keeper. Happy birthday Jason.
Mike Aviles has a crazy swing ritual in the batter’s box
Carlos Santana, aka “Weak”
Tito returns from pulling Zach MacAllister
Asdrubal Cabrera thinks about it… I love this photo because it looks totally staged. Daric Barton could not strike a more studly pose. He’s almost Tebowing. He’s Bartoning.
Closer John Axford. Big feet, or dainty ankles? You be the judge… could be both.
I returned from Scottsdale and Cactus League baseball less than 48 hours ago, and am clinging desperately to the last shreds of my spring training vacation buzz. I didn’t have much time to blog and post photos while I was away, so now I’m playing catch(!) up. (Playing catch? See what I did there?) I also have some reflections on my five days in the Arizona desert.
America’s pastime isn’t always pretty: I often hear Bay Area dwellers caveat something going on around us with, “but of course, we live in a bubble.” It’s a good economy bubble, thanks to the Silicon Valley, as well as a great weather bubble – and as a result, San Francisco attracts a lot of young, educated, physically active people. Live here long enough, and you can lose sight of how the rest of America actually looks and behaves. Spring training in Scottsdale delivers an eyeful of reality.
I am not a perfect physical specimen, and I struggle to maintain a healthy weight, yet when I’m at Spring Training I often find myself both reassured (“Hey, maybe I’m not in such bad shape!”), and alarmed by the amount of morbid obesity around me. Listen, like most fans I indulge in ballpark food with relish (and mustard) – but it’s shocking to see so many overweight, middle-aged people sucking down multiple beers, foot-long chili cheese dogs and double cone soft serve ice cream… then hiring a golf cart to ride – rather than walk — .8 miles to their hotel. A few of these folks may have an injury or disability that impacts their mobility, but not THAT many.
If you see a slim person at Spring Training, it’s dollars to doughnuts (pun intended) that he/she is under 25 years of age, with a metabolism that is still working overtime. And if she’s a woman, she’s probably wearing false eyelashes, a push-up bra, a skin-tight tank top and very short shorts. One such young woman stood next to me before Sunday’s Giants/Indians game, as I took some of the photos below. Flashing her ample cleavage and a button declaring “It’s My Birthday”, she got lots of autographs from Indians players, despite not knowing their names or the positions they play. I SUSPECT it wasn’t the birthday button that did the trick. Speaking of autographs…
I don’t get the autograph thing: Maybe I’m bitter, because the first (and last) autograph I ever got — from Chris Evert, who I adored as a kid and still think is pretty awesome – I misplaced almost immediately, and was heartbroken. I guess I was so scarred by the loss, it soured me on the whole autograph-getting experience. So I am fascinated by grown men who jostle and elbow their way to the edge of the field each day, hoping to get a signature on a ball or cap brim. Many of them enjoy telling players stories as they sign, like “I was at the game where you hit that homer off Clayton Kershaw”, or whatever. The players politely nod and say things like, “Oh yeah? That’s cool.” Once they have an autograph in hand, these men beam like little boys.
To each his own, right? The autograph frenzy only bothers me when I see a father pushing his kid HARD to get a signature, and it’s clearly the dad’s thing. The kid doesn’t care. In fact, before the aforementioned Giants/Indians game, a dad – who I’m pretty sure is an otherwise good guy and loving father – forced his super-shy son to the front of the crowd. When the kid hung back and an Indians player missed him as he moved down the line signing for fans, the dad got overly enthusiastic and shouted “little boy right there, you missed a little boy to your right, little boy, little boy”. The player stopped cold, glared and asked, “You telling me to sign?” He eventually signed the boy’s ball, and father and son thanked him. It was awkward. I was sorry for the dad, getting schooled in front of the crowd. But I also sympathize with players, who must get fed up with pushy fans treating them like employees who OWE THEM an autograph.
Shop much?: The only thing at spring training that’s more frantic than a line of autograph hounds, is the San Francisco Giants shop in Scottsdale Stadium. Step inside and it’s like you’ve been sucked into the famous Running of the Brides at Filene’s basement. There is pushing, shoving and general rudeness by fans who are seemingly unaware that there are Dugout Stores all over the Bay Area, or that most Giants swag is available online. Not sure how they manage to function in society in the off-season. The weird thing is, while the Cleveland Indians/Cincinnati Reds shop at Goodyear Ballpark is always crowded, it lacks Scottsdale’s mob-like, looter vibe. I wonder what the Cubs team shop in Mesa is like? Cubs fans are rabid too, but Chicagoans have Midwestern manners so…
There it is. A recap of my easing into baseball season, in fewer than 1,000 words. Despite wearing 50 SPF sunscreen I picked up some color (in the form of freckles), and I took good photos, consumed a few warm-weather cocktails, and shook off a load of work stress.
Next step: Opening Day! Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!
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.