Opening Day 2011 at A T & T Park for the World Champion San Francisco Giants

Ah, Opening Day. To me, there is nothing more special than Opening Day. I just love the smells of the ball park: the freshly cut grass, the hot dogs and the fraternity of fans who are banded by their love of baseball now coming together for another new season. It is, like seeing friends that you haven’t seen for a awhile and you get reacquainted with them.
However, Opening Day 2011 was even more special than any opening day that I had ever been to before and ever will be. However, I will get more into that later on…



Opening Day 2011, for me, actually started the night before the game. There was a book reading in San Francisco at Books, Inc. on Chestnut Street. The book reading was for a wonderful book called, “Candlestick Park” by Ted Atlas, a Bay Area native. The book is not just about Candlestick Park as a baseball ball park, but also as a football stadium, a concert venue which hosted the last live Beatles Concert  and where Pope John Paul II once performed mass. I will always hold Candlestick Park fondly in my memories as the place that fortified me to become a baseball fan and to support the team that I love through thick and thin over the course of many years. It was also a place that I had gone with both sets of grandparents who, in their own way, taught me the enjoyment of baseball, along with my childhood friends.

While at the book reading, I met a man who is working on a baseball project, writing a book on the 1971 Giants. He lived in upstate New York when he was a kid, and got a book on Giants legend Willie Mays. The 1971 Giants won the division on the last day of the season, and they did so without a twenty-game winner or a .300 hitter, a very difficult accomplishment. I, too, have a project. I have a 1979 SF Giants Media Guide which I am trying to get signed by every player in it and I am down to only needing five more players. I chose the 1979 Media Guide, because I picked it up when I was a child, and it has the 1978 Giants team, which I originally fell in love with. The most notable players that I am missing are reliever Randy Moffitt and back-up outfielder, Hector Cruz, along with Vic Harris, Greg Johnston and minor leaguer Mike Glinatsis. It is my hope to one day have these remaining autographs in my Media Guide.



While I was at the book store, I saw an orange pamphlet book entitled “O, Gigantic Victory! Baseball Poems: The 2010 Championship Season” by Steve Hermanos. As I flipped through it, I just fell in love with it. It is one of those things that I believe one can only find in San Francisco. I’m a firm believer in karma: I just think that too many things happen in life to be coincidental. It is how people fall in love through a chance encounter and how things happen for a reason; like fate or destiny. At the end of the book, in the book of poetry, the man wrote that he had chemotherapy and survived cancer in 2010. I could not help but think that the Giants’ 2010 season somehow helped this man fight and survive cancer. This book of poems will have significance later on…

After going to Books, Inc., I went home after stopping at Lefty O’Doul’s Bar & Restaurant in San Francisco for a beer and to socialize with out-of-towners and those visiting San Francisco. My love of the Giants grew out of my love of San Francisco. What can I say?! It’s a spectacularly beautiful city and I am truly blessed to have been born and raised here. It’s also, in part, hereditary as well, since my father was head of the San Francisco Historical Society and he has written several books on San Francisco history and architecture.

I got up very early the next morning to go to Opening Day at AT & T Park. Two local sports dj’s on the Giants radio station, KNBR, “Mac” and “Murph” were broadcasting from the Public House, a bar located next to AT & T Park and I knew that it would be a fun event. I won a trivia contest, although I knew the answer before the question was even completed and got a free copy of Brian Murphy’s new book, “Worth the Wait”. It is an utterly beautiful book, which chronicles in photos and words, the 2010 Giants Championship season. I gave this book to my neighbor and one of my baseball buddies, Diane. She is no longer able to go to Giants games nor get around easily due to health reasons, but we still share a deep love of the Giants.

 

Finally, the doors opened for the ball park and the huge assortment of people, of which I was one, entered the cathedral otherwise known as AT & T Park.  I do recognize that for a lot of people, other than ballplayers, that it is the place where they work: the vendors, the ticket takers, the security people, the writers and the ushers; they are all part of what makes the ball park experience so special. I was standing around near the press box, waiting for Andy Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. He had written a book called “A Band of MiSFits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants”. As I was waiting, I chatted with one of the ushers and asked her how she enjoyed the post-season. She replied that she stopped working in August to have triplets, and proudly showed a photo of them on her camera phone. We joked that she named them Felipe, Matty and Jesus, a reference to the brothers who were Giants outfielders of the 1960’s. Andy Baggarly finally got there and signed his book for me. I commented how much I loved the ending, the Giants winning the World Series. He thanked me and graciously signed the book.

 

After this, I went to the outfield promenade. I wanted to be close to where the Giants were going to raise the 2010 Championship flag. Streamers were fired off and two banners dropped down on both sides of the score board, proclaiming the Giants as the 2010 World Series Champions. As I stood out there and waited for the ceremony, I chatted with another usher. A man came up to me, said that he was writing an article and he asked me what the Championship meant to me. I actually started to cry. All those years of going to Candlestick Park and AT & T Park with my friends and my grandparents just meant so much to me and it was now, finally being rewarded. The man handed me his card – it was an orange card and the name on it was Steve Hermanos, the same person who wrote the wonderful book of Giants poetry! I told him how much that book of poetry meant to me and how glad I was that he beat cancer. He gave me a free copy of his book of poetry, and inscribed it to me, “To Charles, A Man who bleeds orange. Let’s win it in ‘11. Great meeting you, Steve Hermanos.” This is exactly what I meant about karma!

I waited out in the bleachers, and enjoyed the pre-game ceremony. They announced the Cardinals players, their manager and the starting line-up. Then, it was time for the World Champs! Cheers went up for the medical staff, the coaching staff, the manager and finally…the players. The championship flag was passed down the line until it ended up in the hands of the closer who finished off the Texas Rangers along with the 2010 baseball season, Brian Wilson. Wilson is the quintessential closer– slightly nuts and brilliant with ice water in his veins and the ability to close out ball games, albeit with some drama at times.
He ran out to center field with the championship flag and he was hoisted up into the center field stands. He gave high five’s to fans as he went up the bleacher stairs and around the cable car in centerfield to the podium there, where the flag pole was located. I watched with tremendous pride as the 2010 World Series Champions flag went up the flag pole. It was just great!!

In 2010, the brand of baseball that the Giants played was literally torture for most, if not all, Giants fans, except when it got to the playoffs. And Opening Day in 2011, was no different. The Giants had a slim lead throughout most of the game. The Giants kept leaving runners on base unable to score them throughout the whole game. Brian Wilson came into the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead. He got the first two Cardinals’ hitters out and walked the next hitter, catcher Yadier Molina, brother of former Giants catcher, Bengie Molina. The next hitter, Steve Descalso, a local guy from Redwood City, hit a ground ball to the right of second base. It should have been fielded by Freddy Sanchez who could have flipped to shortstop Miguel Tejada for the out. Tejada came over, passed second base and tried to make the play, and threw to first base too late. The batter was safe at first and Molina was safe at second. The next batter, Jon Jay, was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After a long battle between Brian Wilson and Cards’ shortstop Ryan Theriot, it (the battle) was won by Theriot, who singled in two runs to give the Cards a 4-3 lead, going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth inning, Aaron Rowand came up and hit a single up the middle. Rowand went to second base on a wild pitch and Buster Posey worked Cards’ reliever Ryan Franklin for a walk, but not before hitting a loud foul ball down the left field line that created excitement for the crowd. Up to the plate came Pablo Sandoval. He had a great year in 2009 and a bad year in 2010  due to weight issues. He had lost range at third base and his hitting suffered. In 2011, Sandoval looks slim and trim and he had been having a good game. Sandoval hit a single into right field to tie up the game, but they still couldn’t win it in the bottom of the ninth.

And, the torture continued… In the eleventh inning, Giants center fielder Andres Torres lead off with a triple. Torres, the possible winning run, stood at third base with nobody out. The Cards’ moved their left fielder in to play third base, which meant that the Cards only had two outfielders. Freddy Sanchez struck out and Aaron Rowand hit a ball down the third base line which was speared by the left fielder, playing out of his normal position, who got Torres in a run down and Rowand advanced to second base. However, they still couldn’t score!

The Cardinals kept putting runners on base and they were not able to score their runners either. Finally, in the bottom of the twelfth inning with one out, Miguel Tejada hit a single and was forced at second base by Nate Schierholtz. Torres reached first base on an Albert Pujols error with Schierholtz going to third base. Freddy Sanchez was intentionally walked bringing up Aaron Rowand, coincidentally who got an infield single in extra innings of the Opening Day game of 2010. Rowand heroically hit a single off the left-center field wall to send everyone home happy!

It was a spectacular game, full of drama and torture. Same as last year and I will never forget it! Let’s go Giants in 2011!!

 

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One Comment

  1. Diane King

    April 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    This is the best one yet (and not because you mentioned mein it)! nI like the way you integrate your past experiences with the present ones and the way you described the final plays of the opening day game. Made me feel as if I were there right next to you watching every exciting play. You are able to draw your readers into “your special world” and let them experience what you experience, I really like that. I’ll be looking forward to more in the near future! You are a very good writer! Keep up the good work!

    Your Baseball Buddy…

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