I have been a San Francisco Giants fan since they came out west in 1958. We were starved for major league baseball here in California. Our only exposure to professional baseball was the Saturday morning “Game of the Week.” Perhaps there were some radio broadcasts of eastern teams back then. I recall staying home sick one opening day when the New York Yankees were on the radio. They had just acquired Roger Maris from the Kansas City Athletics, and in 1961, he hit 61 home runs to break the Babe’s single season record. In those days, the Giants games were never televised, so we had a radio on for the mostly day games in California. When the team went east, we listed to a morning game starting at 11am. Though we had the radio on high volume, the work day requirements in my Dad’s auto parts and repair business took priority. But, I would sneak over to the radio, perhaps with a broom in hand, or on a hot summer day, a cold soda pop in hand.
My Dad or one of his employees would ask me for the score. And, of course, our favorite player was the great Willie Mays. My Dad and I would argue over who was better, Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, or Willie. I hated to admit it was Willie by a landslide. And now, he is generally regarded as the best of all time.
The radio guys were Russ Hodges, and the former Fresno whiz, Lon Simmons. We became so familiar with their voices, and their home run calls. We mimicked those calls when we hit a home run on the playground. We were also in the middle of our own baseball seasons, as we loved playing baseball in the Little League and Babe Ruth Leagues in our community.
Every few weeks, in the long hot San Joaquin Valley summers, my Dad would ask me to order some tickets for the Giants game in San Francisco. We always went to a Sunday game, leaving the Fresno area early in the morning, arriving at the Candlestick Park for batting practice and a hot dog. We even went to a game at old Seals Stadium, before the “Stick” was built. It was exciting for us twelve-year-old country kids. The car would have my Dad, myself, my younger brother Bob, and either one of my Dad’s clients or employees.
Needless to say, the game went by too quickly, and we found ourselves headed home. On some occasions, we got to have dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. Other times, we ate at a converted craftsman home in Tracy, where my Dad loved their chicken liver dinner. Certainly, I must have slept during the remainder of the trip home. But it was always among the best of our summer activities.
It is so much easier now. We jump on BART, and get to the city in about an hour. Then a short ten minute ride on Muni to the ballpark station at Third and King Streets. Everybody is wearing black and orange, which coincidentally were the colors of our big high school rivals from Selma. Spirits are high, the excitement is building. The biggest question is whether we will have time to devour a “Cha Cha Bowl” before the first pitch.
Meanwhile, my sports wife Donna, has pulled her baseball glove from her backpack, and is patiently trying to catch a batting practice home run in the left field bleachers. Back in the days when I was a kid, there were no females who even owned a baseball glove, much less, wanted to catch one at the ball game. And getting a baseball, well that is a story for another time. Let’s just say that my son and I gathered way too many!!