“So, it’s just you and me, Babe, tonight. I hope the boys are up for the task of keeping them Dodgers in line.” I glanced over at my Sylvie, and thought to myself that she hadn’t changed in the thirty-one years we’d been together. We’d gone to Giants games back in 1981, before we’d moved too far north to make more than one trek per year.
“Wonder who our seat-mates will be.” We had the third and fourth seats in, so we would have unknowns sitting on both sides of us. It’s funny how that works. I have sat next to someone and become great friends, and I have sat next to fans, without ever exchanging a word. It all depends on the circumstances. I like to start off slowly, and warm up to the task, as opposed to jumping in with both feet, and then spending the next three hours, trying to retract those feet.
As fans trudged up the steps towards us, checking their ticket stubs against the labels on each seat, I tried to figure out in advance, who it was that I wanted to have sit beside me. For instance, that fat guy with the Dodgers hat, and the broad who looks young enough to be his granddaughter, just stay away from me. I can do without that. But sure enough, no sooner is the thought out there, when we make eye contact, and the guy signals to his companion, that he has found a match, and the two converge on our territory, and prepare to take up residence.
I am wearing my own hat, a vintage (early eighties) Giants classic, with the orange bill, and the back part of the hat kind of ratty. I’ve owned it thirty-one years. Now it only comes out at baseball games actually attended. The Dodger dude has a brand spanking new LA hat, undoubtedly purchased on the way into the park. His friend wears the identical model, and the two of them draw up beside us, and it is determined that they are sitting just on the inside of us, with the man and I sitting side by side. Oh, boy.
First of all, this is the first Dodger/Giants game we have attended since 1981, and there is a reason for that. The last, at old Candlestick Park, we found ourselves seated way down the left field line, solidly entrenched in a portion of the stands, that seemed to have been magically transported from Chavez Ravine, because it was jammed full of Dodger fans, and there we were, a pair of orange buoys, in a blue sea. Friendly rivalry is all well and good, if the two sides are more or less balanced, but it was awfully hard to stand and cheer for good things, when you feared that the whole row of Dodger fans behind you, might unexpectedly, collectively lose their tumblers of beer, all over our backs.
I eyed the man coolly, from my already-established spot, once he was seated, waiting to find out whether or not this was likely to end up a beneficial arrangement. Sylvie and I had an ongoing agreement, that if I gave the signal, she would find a reason to want to be in my seat, and we would swap.
I fully expected him to have his head buried in his friend’s space, but found much to my surprise, that the two of them had been here many times before, and were quite familiar with the venue. It also became immediately evident, that the two were quite familiar with one another, but not in the way I had imagined. The young lady WAS his granddaughter, and she was only about sixteen or seventeen. Their conversation, as they settled themselves, indicated that this was somewhat of a ritual, that they took in several of the Dodgers/Giants games in San Fran each season.
He glanced over at me, made eye contact again, and nodded. “Come to see some old-fashioned butt-kicking?” he asked congenially. “I guess you maybe heard that they’re going to go ahead and pitch Zito. What a joke. The way he’s been lit up his last three starts, he won’t last into the third inning. What is it? Seventeen runs given up in fourteen innings?” He laughed uproariously, while rubbing his hands together.
“Well,” I responded, since he had tossed out the gauntlet, “now that you mention it, that’s exactly what I came to see. An old-fashioned butt-whipping. How pleasant it is to find that a Dodger fan and I agree on something.”
“Whoa, hold on a second, son. I don’t think we agree on anything. I think our team is gonna light Zito up like it’s the Fourth come a week early. Zito will serve up some gun powder-filled baseballs, and Ethier and Company will send them into the Bay.”
“Well, you may be right, but I would not count Barry Zito out of anything, before the game starts. He has a way of surprising us, when we least expect it.” I was not willing to go with the conventional logic. If I were, then I would be dissing on Timmy too, and I won’t do that. He’ll get it together.
I had no sooner had the thought, when Dodger Dog mentioned casually, “Speaking of surprising, what’s wrong with Lincecum? Been smoking too much pot?” The way he spat out the word pot, gave me an inkling of what he thought about anyone’s use of marijuana.
“There is nothing wrong with Lincecum, that every other player hasn’t gone through at one time or another. He is struggling, and needs to get his confidence back. Don’t you worry about Timmy; we’ll see him on Wednesday.” I get so tired of people expecting that a guy should be a Cy Young candidate every year. Yes, Timmy has been struggling, but you have to let him work it out. He’s a proven commodity, and it just takes time.
“Look,” said Dodger [Hot] Dog, “the Giants are just like they were two years ago, a bunch of rookies, and also-rans, who are getting lucky. We’ll see the true side of these guys in about...” consulting his watch, “...seven minutes.”
“Well, I agree with that-we’ll see the true side all right. Get ready to eat a little crow.” I sat back, wishing I felt as confident as I sounded. My own faith in Barry Zito, extended only as far as his control. If he keeps walking guys with impunity, it going to come back to bite him in the butt.
“Really? I’M going to eat crow? I don’t think so,” DD droned on. “I heard Bochy is even sitting Buster Posey down, and letting Sanchez catch Zito. Posey is the only legitimate power your team has. Pablo Sandoval has only had one extra base hit, in the two weeks since he’s come back. Your team is going to lay an egg.”
Damn. Why does this guy have to know everything about us? He paints a bleak picture. I guess I’ll just have to arrange the signal with Sylvie for earlier than I imagined. “Well, the only egg I see the Giants laying, is a golden one.” It was the best I could do. Meanwhile, we were standing for the Star-Spangled Banner, and I let my agitation simmer on the back burner, and turned my attention to filling out my line-up, once we had sat down again.
When Zito walked the lead-off Dodger, the fat man was chortling. He changed his tune a minute later, as Theriot made a nifty play to begin a double play, and the third batter grounded weakly to short. When the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the first, the man was leaning forward expectantly, and the fun began. Blanco struck out, but Theriot managed an infield hit, and Pagan blooped a base-hit that fell between the shortstop and the outfielder. When Melky Cabrera’s shot down the first base line, caromed off the bag, and into the right field bullpen area, both runners scored, and the Giants were on their way to an 8-0 rout.
And that is why I never make predictions. How Zito could pick this particular game, to recover from having given up seventeen runs in his last fourteen innings, is beyond me. It is one reason why I am a fan. Players pick and choose their times to shine, in the course of a one hundred and sixty-two game schedule. Zito picked tonight, and I’m glad he did. It sure made my stay at the park, a delight last night. It just may be, that I do not allow another thirty-one years to go by, before I see another Giants/Dodgers game.
June 25, 2012; @ AT&T Park; Dodgers versus Giants; final score: Giants 8, Dodgers, 0