Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yo, C-Ya, Fonzie. It's Been Fun(k)

Edgardo Alfonzo is no longer with the Giants. I'm not crying. I've never been an Alfonzo fan, and I've never seen what the Giants saw in him in the first place nor why they paid him what they did. It seems there were just too many woulda coulda shoulda hopeful parallels with Jeff Kent. Those never happened. I'm more hopeful of Finley's help than I was with Fonzie's, although I expect nothing more of Finley.

Another thing not lost is that the Giants announcers are now without their one cutesy nickname in "Fonzie." I've always hated them using nicknames, a la the homer Braves announcers. So, long Edgardo, it's been fun and funk.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Completing the Picture

My absolute favorite picture of the Giants winning the 2002 pennant in Game 5 against St. Louis was taken from somewhere down the first base line. It shows David Bell sliding head first across the plate with the pennant winning run. Rich Aurelia, the on-deck batter, was positioned correctly as the "base coach" to direct the oncoming runner as to whether to slide, and if so, to which side of the plate. He was about five feet off the ground in mid celebration leap. The Giants players, coaches and bat boys were pouring out of the dugout to meet Bell at the plate. As a result of the throw from the outfield to the plate being wide, the Cards' catcher is face down in the dirt; a very descriptive posture. The pitcher, who backs up home on throws from the outfield, is shown behind the plate dejected and disillusioned. He is little more than an obstacle for the Giants players who are streaming by him in ecstasy.

What has brought this picture to mind more than just the memory, or its inclusion in many newspapers the following day, or the fact that I have it as a screensaver, is the Giants' subsequent acquiring of the Cards players in this picture. Before last season, the Giants acquired Mike Matheny, the Cards catcher with his face in the dirt. I thought that an interesting coincidence until last month when the Giants acquired Cards' relief pitcher Steve Kline. He's the pennant losing pitcher in the photo backing up the plate. I've given him a personal nickname, "the one pitch wonder," for throwing only one pitch in game 5, serving up the pennant losing pitch to Kenny Lofton. Upon his signing, he made a statement which I'll paraphrase as "I helped the Giants win the pennant once before, and I'm here to try it again."

I've often thought about getting all the players I can identify to autograph a copy of this picture. Upon Matheny's signing, I wondered if he would sign it, now being a Giant, but in obvious defeat in the picture. Next was Kline. Would he sign?

Now the Giants have extended things beyond the picture. Kline threw only one pitch but was one of only two Cards pitchers in that game. The other one, the one who set up the pennant clincher by giving up two two-out singles, the Giants signed last week. Matt Morris.

Pass me the Sharpie.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Greatest Batting Practice Ever

In April of '86 a friend and I followed the A's up to Seattle for a 3-game series against the Mariners. We arrived before the gates opened and bought bleacher tickets. We rushed in to join BP in progress and stood with some youngsters in the front row of the left field bleachers. I brought my glove, of course. The A's came up to the cage and as is customary, the scrubs and bench players were scheduled first. With the DH, the AL teams don't include their pitchers in this first category.

Then the big boppers stepped in. Now, 1986 was a crossover year in A's baseball. It was Dave Kingman's last year and also Jose Canseco's rookie year. And these two were paired in the cage... in the Kingdome, a.k.a. homerdome. First, Kingman. Knowing what an incredible BP this guy put on, I ran back about 15 rows up the steps. Not knowing what an incredible BP this guy put on, none of the Mariner fans did the same. His nickname being "Kong", I yelled out in a loud voice, "Koooooooooooooooong!"

If you've never been to the Kingdome, good for you, unless you're a ballpark tour fanatic. Since it was indoors and since the M's had no fans, and since even fewer than no fans showed up that early, it was dead quiet in there. There was a feeling I got that the fans dared not say anything above a soft word, lest the entire stadium hear, and with echo and reverb. They were inhibited by the roof. In future posts I'll tell stories about how a vocal visiting loudmouth used this to make an interesting series.

So, the entire stadium heard me yell Kong. Its echo didn't stop until the third inning. I also waved my arms wildly over my head as if to say, "hit it here." All the other fans looked at me like I was some kind of loonie. He took a couple half bunt swings, then let go. His first real swing ended up about 10 rows over my head. I yelled, "Kong" again. Another shot 10 rows behind me. The fans reacted like it was Christmas morning. Soon they ran up behind me because they figured out that was the only way to get a ball. But Kingman was only warming up.

Kingman out, Canseco in. Boom. Shot to center field. Boom, right center. Boom left. Four hundred feet, boom, four hundred fifty. Canseco out, Kingman in. Monster bomb, thirty rows deep. Then he bacame tired of the lower deck. He then started launching some Howitzer shots into the upper deck. Boom, upper deck 400 ft. 450 ft. 475 ft. Repeat. Suddenly the fans couldn't get any more balls. They started running upstairs. Kingman out, Canseco in. Right center, center. Fans ran to the other field. Both out, Lansford and Murphy in. Warning track, alley, alley, woo-hoo 2nd row HR. Them out, bombers in. Kong hit several upper deck shots that came just a few rows shy of the back wall of the stadium that cleared the speakers that hung from the roof, and Canseco hit one that easily cleared 500 ft. The fans were stunned.

I did bag a ball that day, but it was a Dwayne Murphy BP ground rule double. It was easily the best BP I've ever seen. The greatest BP in history is attributed to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig before game 1 of the 1927 World Series. The '27 Yanks are widely recognized as the greatest team ever. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who never saw these legends play because there was neither TV nor interleague play, lined up before the game to watch. Bomb after bomb landed in the bleachers. They were so shell-shocked at what they saw that it is said of them that they lost the World Series before it ever started. They were swept in four games. Man, I wish I were there.