Last weekend, we went on a family trip to the ballgame. It was both mine and my son’s first San Francisco Giants game, though my wife and her mom (big Giants fans) had been earlier in the season, when things had been going a little better for the Giants. This game however was crucial – playing the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were leading in the division, and being several games behind we really needed to win. But that didn’t matter – it was Star Wars day, and the Force would be with us!
Which side of the force was less clear. Stormtroopers escorted the umpires out, mascot Lou Seal dressed as a jedi and waved about a lightsabre, and the opening crawl on the big screen set the scene, hoping that the Giants would beat Arizona and ‘restore freedom to the galaxy’. I love Star Wars, so I loved all this. And maxibig-da-force – the first pitch to the Giants resulted in a home run straight away from Cody Ross, and the ballpark went wild. AT&T Park is a great place. Set right by San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the great stadia of the world. Behind the seat, in the ‘breezeway’ (I think I have my terminology correct, my reference is a Curious George book) are rows and rows of beverage stands and souvenir shops and beer and garlic fries and t-shirts and TVs showing the action.
My three year old son is a big baseball fan, though we’re on about the same page in our understanding of all the terms. It’s a simple enough game, someone throws the ball and you hit it and run, complicated by all the subtleties and statistics and terms. There’s a lot of standing around and not-much-happening, but to the baseball fan it’s tense stuff, and while there’s ample time to get up and walk around and get your garlic fries, you really don’t want to miss that three-run-homer or that spectacular catch. It’s typical to compare a big sport to the big sport you follow, but baseball is a completely different type of game to football (and I know little enough about cricket, though I kept calling the pitcher the ‘bowler’, and shouting ‘howzat!’ every time someone caught the ball). No comparison there may be to footy, but being a Giants fan is a lot like being a Spurs fan. Last year we were World Series champions/beating both Inter and AC Milan, this year we’re losing by baseball scores. It’s a frustrating life, made more so by success.
There’s my son Luke above left, and my brother in law Kris on the right, the biggest Giants fan I know. He in fact took me to my only other baseball game, at the Oakland A’s, back in 2002, the first time I came to America and the first time I tasted garlic fries. I wore a Spurs shirt that day, but here I wore a Giants top. I did however spot a guy in an Arsenal shirt (he stood out a bit); after the previous week’s 8-2 drubbing by Man United, baseball scores probably felt a little light to him. Hey, you can’t let an 8-2 Arsenal defeat go without comment, can you? (And after Spurs lost 5-1 to Man City, it was pretty much the only thing that could cheer me up!)
Decorating the breezeway walls were framed examples of old Giants kits. As a football kit fan I’m hugely excited by baseball jerseys, since they are so classic, and (usually) so unchanging. This one is from the early 60s, and the differences to today’s tops are very subtle. This aspect of the sport adds to its classic Americana feel. Baseball loves its heritage, and the Giants especially, with statues of its great players dotted around the area. Below is Willie McCovey, beside McCovey Cove, where many home runs do splash (it’s not like Henman Hill). I can’t pretend to know much about these guys, but I will say this – what an amazing view, with the Bay Bridge in the background, and baseball players really do look like lightsabre-wielding Jedi, don’t they?
The Force alas was not with us. The Arizona D-Backs (seriously, the fans sing that?) won the game, and will probably win the division. As Vader might say, “NOOOOOO!!!!!” (and don’t EVEN get me started there…) But we had a great day out, and Luke ran the bases after the game, and I got some nice sketching in, and it was a great family day out, so in a way we did win, from a certain point of view.