Our family, mostly by Dad and brother, would drive up to San Francisco to see the Giants play several times during the summer. We saw games at both old Seals Stadium at 16th and Bryant downtown, as well as dumpy Candlestink, as it was affectionately called. We always tried to pick a game against a contender, who had great players. Back then, this meant the St. Louis Cardinals, with Musial and the great pitcher, Bob Gibson. Also included would be the Philadelphia Phillies with Robin Roberts and Ernie Banks, and the Braves with Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron. And of course, the hated Dodgers, with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.
We would always go to Fisherman’s Wharf after the game for dinner before the long drive back home. My brother and I would fall asleep. But the memories for two boys from a small valley town were worth the day long excursion. It does not take us nearly as long to get to the games now. BART takes us from home to downtown San Francisco in about 45 minutes. From there, a short ride on the Muni railway over to new ATT Ball park. Outside the front gate, is a statue of the great Willie Mays.
The statue of Willie Mays is always a great meeting point for fans meeting up at the ballpark. Just looking at the statue reminds me of the fluid and artistic way Willie played the game. Up until a few years ago, Willie could be seen almost daily, playing golf at Santa Teresa Golf Course in south San Jose. He also was part owner of a few golf courses in the Tahoe area. Perhaps, today we are watching a player who will rise to a similar statue. This could be the two time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincicum, or the young catching and hitting phenom, Buster Posey, who has taken major league baseball by storm.
I will put my money on Gerald “Buster” Posey, at the age of 23, playing the most difficult position in baseball, handling a very talented pitching staff, and catching the fancy of the area baseball fans this year. He began as a freshman shortstop at Florida State, then moved to catcher as a sophomore. As a junior, he hit .463 with 26 home runs, and 93 runs batted in. In 2008, he won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best player in amateur baseball. Later in 2008, he was drafted fifth overall by the Giants. He received a $6.2 million bonus, the largest upfront bonus in draft history at that time. In 2009, he started in Single A San Jose, then received a promotion to Triple A Fresno. He was called up last September when the starting catcher, Benji Molina was injured. He scored the winning run yesterday after hitting a double in the 11th inning.
He started 2010 in Fresno, but was quickly called up to the Giants in May. He played first base in Spring Training and with the Triple A Fresno Grizzlies. He immediately started off with a hot bat, and when Molina was traded, he became the starting catcher, and batted either third or fourth in the lineup most days. In July, he was selected as the National League Rookie of the Month, as well as the Player of the Month. Besides carrying a big bat, he is handling the Giants’ very talented pitching staff just like a veteran. He is a pleasure to watch. His likeness should be the next statue outside the ballpark.