Saturday, June 28, 2008

A's Ads Slice Giants

Every time the A's and Giants play each other here, whether in interleague, the exhibition series right before the season starts, or the World Series, the series is usually called a/the "Bay Bridge Series" or also, "The Battle of The Bay." The A's in recent times have taken out ads in the San Francisco Chronicle, no less, that slam the Giants' lack of winning. Just Friday, one apparently was put into place that said, "The Battle of The Bay" with the word "battle" crossed out. A note was inserted that said something to the effect, "well, when you've won eight out of the last nine, it's not exactly a battle." The Giants players are pissed off. Well, maybe they should win, then.

Another couple of ads went out prior to their first meeting this year. The Giants put out an ad that said, "Don't Be An Athletic Supporter." The A's answered with an ad that claimed June as "Champions month." Every team that the A's played during June had won a World Series since the A's moved to Oakland, and all the years of those championships were listed. Except the San Francisco Giants, who have never won. They were followed by "n/a". An A's ad a few years ago was really classic: "Zero splash hits; four world titles."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Giants History in Cleveland

The Giants have never lost a game in Cleveland. They played two games there in the 1954 World Series, winning both of them in a sweep of that series. They've played the Indians in interleague before, but those games were in San Francisco. The current series has seen the Giants win the first two in Cleveland, including a no run appearance by Barry Zito, his best outing since becoming a Giant. Tomorrow's game will see if the streak can continue.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

100% Baseball - A Great A's TV Commercial

I saw a truly wonderful A's commercial during the game last night. It starts out with an old video clip of the entrance sign to the Coliseum "1972 World Series - A's vs. Cincinnati - SOLD OUT". It then showed clips of great plays and players with the titles, "Vida is...", "Reggie is...", "Catfish is...". It then continued through A's history up until today with the same theme. Finally at the end, "...100% Baseball." It brought back so many memories of A's baseball. Joe Rudi making that catch against the left field wall against the Reds. Rickey Henderson breaking the all time stolen base record.

It's good to see the A's celebrate their history, as this is their 40th anniversary of being in Oakland. For some reason they avoid their history in Philadelphia and Kansas City. The Haas family did all they could to erase the Charlie Finley era from A's fans' memories. Why? The A's have a great history and great players. They should celebrate.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comcast and the Seven Second Delay

I love listening to baseball on the radio so much that I used to watch the game on TV with the volume off and the radio on. Radio announcers have to describe the game using picturesque language, and their description is much better than TV announcers. Some time in the last two decades, I noticed that the game on radio and TV were slightly out of sinc. The TV seemed to have a fraction of a second delay. Once I heard that this was due to radio using land lines while TV had to beam many thousands of miles up to a satellite, creating a slight delay because of the speed of light.

Then a few years ago, I noticed that the TV had about a seven second delay. This is so irritating that it's very difficult to watch the game with the radio on. But at the ballpark, they have used closed circuit TV for years now, so that watching the monitors while standing in line for food or beer resulted in an absolutely live picture. But this year with the changing of Fox Sports to Comcast Sports, the monitors at the park have about a three second delay. What's up with that? With all the increase in technology, you would think Comcast could get it right instead of worse over time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Giants Loss Projection Through June 15

June 2 through June 15:

25-33, 92; 25-34, 93; 25-35, 95; 26-35, 93; 27-35, 91; 28-35, 90; 29-35, 89; 29-36, 90; 29-37, 91; 30-37, 89; 30-38, 91; 30-39, 92; 30-40, 93.

Steinbrenner Blames NL for Injury

Hank Steinbrenner, son of king George, blames National League rules for the injury to his star pitcher, who was hurt while running the bases in a game against Houston in interleague play. He chided the NL for being so out of date so as to not have the designated hitter rule. Hey, Hank. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Rather than blame the NL for making pitchers run the bases, why not do the right thing and refuse to play interleague games? Start a trend among AL teams. Boycott interleague play. Get baseball to change. Why blame the NL for your own predicament? Your team brought the DH rule in, remember? You're the one who leaves your own pitchers vulnerable by refusing to have them practice hitting and running all year long.

Yo, Hank, did you learn how to act like a jackass from your dad?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Interleague Play and Divisional Re-Alignment

We're in the midst of a two and a half week stint of interleague play. I've not been a fan of interleague play at any time. When it was first discussed way back when, I thought it was a bad idea. The promise was for fans of the other league to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers. But they also have to see all the other teams as well. Sure, there have been some interesting matchups over the years, and I have enjoyed some of them, but overall they have had a negative impact on baseball in my view.

Baseball has put a spin on interleague play, claiming statistics that show an increase in attendance, etc., but most of this is just that - spin. Interleague games occur mostly in the summer when school is out and the weather is good. Most series are played on the weekends, so of course attendance figures will reflect those conditions. The "rivalry" series that baseball uses for attendance props can be good because of natural rivalries within any given metro or state area.

What I would like to see more than interleague play is to realign the divisions in baseball to allow for the maximum regional team groupings. The Yankees and Mets would be in the same division and play each other 20 games each year. Same with Cubs/Sox, Dodgers/Angels, A's/Giants. Now that would be great for baseball. One division could hold the A's, Giants, Dodgers, Angels and Padres. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Orioles and Nats could be in another division. Maybe a southern division could hold the Rangers, Astros, Braves, Rays and Marlins. It won't happen anytime soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A's vs. Giants

The A's played the Giants this weekend during interleague play. I grew up with both teams and was a die-hard fan of each team. Of all the metro areas with two teams, being a fan of both is most accepted in the San Francisco area. I've been asked many times how I could be a fan of both teams, and I always responded that they would never play each other when it counted. This was before interleague play and the 1989 World Series.

I was a full time bleacher bum at A's games, while sitting in the box seats at Giants games. When they tore out my bleachers to build Mt. Davis for the Raiders, I stopped going to A's games regularly, so now I still like the A's and cheer for them, I'm not the die-hard fan I once was. They're my second favorite team, and if I see the Giants play at the Colisuem, I'll cheer for the Giants.

Each team's fans seem to have unique view of the other team. A's fans are jealous of all the Giants popularity with the whole Bonds era and the new stadium. The Coliseum went from a fairly good place to watch a game to a pit once it was remodeled for the Raiders. I did see a great T-shirt, though from an A's fan point of view. It read, "Zero splash hits, four world titles." Giants fans on the other hand seem to have an arrogant dismissal of the A's and their fans. Oakland is the place where the saying is true: "there's no there there." Oakland is a place of inferiority complex compared to the most popular city in the world, and their place in the lowly American League west only reinforces that.

Giants Loss Projection Through June 1

May 20 through June 1:

18-29, 100; 19-29, 98; 20-29, 96; 20-30, 97; 20-31, 98; 21-31, 97; 22-31, 95; 23-31, 93; 23-32, 94; 23-33, 95; 24-33, 94.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Parity In Baseball

Many sports fans make a case for parity - the idea that all teams should be as equal as possible to allow every team a shot at winning a championship. This idea is quite widespread. Sports like basketball and football have tried to accomplish this idea by implementing such things as a salary cap and revenue sharing, etc. Well, there is a solution to the parity problem that nobody ever talks about, and it's the only one that makes sense. I'll mention it later in the post.

The call for parity comes from a realization that big market teams have all the money and much larger sources of revenue and media attention, and therefore can simply "buy" success, if not a championship. New York is a great place to have a team. Big market teams are always in the playoffs, and fans are tired of seeing them all the time. They want somebody else to have a shot. Fans tire of dynasties.

Now, I'm actually opposed to this idea of parity. In fact, football and basketball are boring because of it. I always hear in the news about a trade or pickup or attempt to keep some player that some team can't do becuase of salary cap limitations. What fun is that? Oh, the Steelers can't resign this guy for what he's worth because of the salary cap. Why not? I believe teams should be able to improve their teams, regardless of money. Yes, I hate seeing the Yankees in the playoffs all the time. But, money doesn't guarantee a championship, as the last seven years have testified.

I actually prefer eras in sports that include dynasties. They make sports history interesting. If a different team won each year, history would be much less meaningful. Dynasties in my lifetime include the A's of the early 70's, the Big Red Machine, the Blue Jays minor dynasty, and the late 90's Yankees. Without dynasties, a winning team would have little hope for the following year, and players would leave more easily. Dynasties create memories and conversation.

The real solution to the problem of parity can be summed up in the answer to a question. If New York is such a great place to have a baseball team, then why don't more teams play there? The real problem isn't the disparity of market size between metropolitan areas, it is the idea of "territorial rights" given to teams. In baseball, each team has a territorial right within a 75 mile radius. If a team wanted to move to San Jose, the San Francisco Giants could veto such a move. And they did when the A's wanted to move there. When the Expos moved to Washington, the Baltimore Orioles cried foul and wanted compensation for the invasion.

But here's the problem with the territorial rights rule: it creates disparity because it is based on land area and not population. Yes, George Steinbrenner has been given a 22 million population metro area, while the Brewers have 2 million. Teams are given entire markets, not just parts of a large market. What baseball really needs is more teams in the large markets, to dilute the population base for each team. Do New York and Milwaukee have the same number of McDonald's? Put a team in downtown Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, one in East Retherford, NJ, and then you're talking. Put one in San Bernardino, San Jose, Chicago suburbs, and another one in Boston somewhere. All the intra-area rivalries would help, and it would give the Tampa Bay's of the baseball world a real chance to win... by either being more competitive right there in Tampa, or by moving to Brooklyn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cast And Crew: Coliseum Security Guards

A very important group of people in the history of the A's bleachers were the security guards. They were there every game, year in and year out. We all got to know them and they always talked to us. They were a special part of the bleachers because of the kind of people they were. Community as a part of life was as important to them as their jobs were. This simply made their jobs much better.

Most of the security guards were blue collar black guys from urban Oakland. They were all extremely mean looking, large guys that pumped iron. Biceps bulged in their shirt sleeves. You didn't want to mess with any of them. Their uniforms weren't your typical rent-a-cop looking security guard type of uniforms that you see at Disneyland or a corporate business park. They were olive drab in color, which made them all the more mean looking. But most of these guys were pussycats in many ways. They listened to soul, R&B, Barry White and old Motown and loved their wives. One of the bleacher guards was white, and he was stationed in right field. He didn't seem to be one of the cool ones, and had kind of the same image as the white cop on the TV show Sanford and Son.

They weren't busybodies, so standing around doing nothing while nothing wrong was happening was perfectly fine with them, and us. They talked baseball, cars and many other things. When fights broke out, we certainly saw them body slam their fair share of rowdies. They were fairly lenient with pot smokers, but occasionally ran some of them in to the security rooms somewhere within the concrete superstructure known as the Coliseum. But it was almost like the more pot somebody had, the less trouble they got into, because some of the guards simply took the evidence home for themselves. A couple of them were themselves often stoned on the job, and a couple of bleacher bums smoked dope with them on a regular basis.

The main guards as we knew them were: Sarge, whose real name was Bob; we just called him Sarge because he was the sergeant of all the guards. Champ, a shortening of his last name. Larry, and Gipson. One year I had all of them autograph a baseball for me. They were shocked at the proposition, but loved signing anyway. They were employed not by the A's, but by the Coliseum, so they did football, basketball, concerts and wrestling too. Wrestling events were the worst for them because of all the food and other things thrown. We loved the guards and talking with them, and made for a much more pleasant experience.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Many More Stories To Come

I was viewing my topic list that I still want to write about. I have over sixty stories on that list that I count as major experiences that I still want to write about. This doesn't include posts about players, stats, current events, ballparks, history, etc.; just stories. I can't believe it. I'm just scratching the surface of baseball things to blog about. Hopefully I won't run out any time soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Riot

There's a double header I attended back in 1988 (Dodgers/Giants at Candlestick) that I simply call "The Riot." A co-worker of mine was there and he recalled his version of the story to me just last week. It was great to hear it from him, because as he recounted it to me, I realized that unlike many fishing stories, my version hadn't grown each time I've told it. As I tell the following story, please be reminded that I am not exaggerating as to what happened.

The Giants hosted a rare double header against the Dodgers in July of 1988. Rare because they usually draw well and don't need a double header. The late 80's/early 90's saw the peak of fan rowdiness and unruliness, contrary to some moralist traditionalists that claim it is still getting worse. Well this night was tops I've ever experienced.

First, there were 50,000 extremely rowdy Giants fans in attendance for this twi-night double header. It started hours before the game in the parking lot. "Beat LA" and "Dodgers suck" chants were breaking out all over the place, and it lasted all night long. The second game went extra innings, so it was a truly long night indeed. The Dodgers swept, winning both games by scoring in the late innings, which infuriated the orange and black throngs.

Beer sales must have hit an all time record. There were tens of thousands of completely drunken fans. Plastered out of their minds. Normally, alcohol sales are cut off in the 7th inning of a game. But during the double header, sales weren't halted until the 7th inning of the second game. Liquor bottles sneaked in by the fans were lying everywhere, and you could hear one drop to the concrete every few minutes. Bathroom lines were hundreds of fans deep, and once inside, a drunken party atmosphere prevailed. There were fights in the stands every inning or so. The police were out in force, by the dozens, and they were wearing full riot gear. Helmets, shields, batons and combat boots. Every few innings a fight was bad enough that the riot cops descended on the fight, jumping in head first and pummelling people with sticks and such. Fans would rise to their feet to view the fighting. Dodger fans were being physically assaulted just for being Dodger fans. It was very ugly, especially in the bleachers. Rowdiness was anticipated, as the grass area between the bleachers and the chain link left field fence (where fans would pour out to shag home runs) was barricaded off and stayed this way for the rest of the year.

A mob mentality ruled the crowd the entire evening. Drunkenness, profane chants, you name it. An especially active group of rowdies were sitting behind the Dodger dugout, heckling and screaming at Dodgers on deck and those who returned to the dugout after making outs or errors. Not only did fans throw Dodger home runs back onto the field in game one (emulating the bleacher bums at Wrigley Field), but the fans had become so drunken and unruly in game two that they were even throwing back foul balls hit by the Dodgers. "Throw it back" chants broke out upon every Dodger foul ball. It became a really foggy evening as well (this could have been Halloween) and one pop fly was lost in the fog by a Dodger outfielder as it fell for a hit.

One foul ball hit by a Dodger behind home plate was caught by a Giants fan. I usually watch fans after they catch a ball to see how they react. Well, the Dodger batter got back into the batter's box, and this fan started sprinting down the aisle toward the field. He hurled a major league fastball at the Dodger batter, missing his ear by about six inches as the ball scooted across the infield. Within seconds, the entire Dodger dugout had climbed into the stands and started kicking the crap out of this fan. Riot police again descended into the mess and body slammed this fan to the concrete before escorting him off in handcuffs. With the Dodger players in the stands, fans by the dozens were hurling their beers at the Dodgers. Showers of liquid, debris and profane abuse were raining down from everywhere. They retreated to the field, where the deluge continued. The game was stopped and it took several minutes to clean up the mess and restore order. Special announcements were made before games the rest of the year because of this incident.

All in all, it was a scary night. I could feel it in the air. Even though I was a season ticket holder - and Giants fan - sitting in the most prime of box seats, I still felt like something could happen to me at any time. If it weren't for being such a baseball fan, and having a few beers in me myself, it would have been a good thing to just make it home as quickly as possible. My co-worker felt the same. And that's the reason I call this double header "The Riot." See the box scores for game 1 here, and game 2 here.

The Bullpen

If we don't want our youngest to get into things while we are busy with something else, we put him in his play pen. As a baseball family I wonder why it took us so long to come up with a nickname for the playpen: The Bullpen

Friday, June 6, 2008

Devil Gone

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays officially changed their nickname this year from the Devil Rays to just simply the Rays. They even changed their website address, but with a forward link no doubt from the old name. I thought the Toronto Blue Jays did the same thing a few years ago, but upon visiting their site, apparently not.

I'm not sure what possessed the Devil Rays to change their name, but I don't much like either name. Their uniforms have pretty much said "Rays" across the front for a while now anyway. On second thought, I'm not sure what possessed them to be named the Devil Rays in the first place. A fan contest I seem to remember. Did only one fan vote? At least they were never the Tampa Bay Giants.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fun Night At The Ballyard

I went to last night's thrashing of the Mets by the Giants. It started out with deciding to drive to the game from work. A friend was also going and had to meet his family there so he hitched a ride. Another guy who lived in the City piled in so we crossed the bridge free in the carpool lane. We got there really early. It was a guy's night out with Mike and I. My good friend Shelly bought the other two tickets long ago and brought her dad.

It was Irish heritage night, so I opted out of my usual Lagunitas IPA and had a Guiness. It was also Tim Lincecum poster night for the first 20,000. I got there in plenty of time. I bumped into Shelly in the food line just before heading down to the seats. Her dad had an open container of pop corn which lasted for quite a few innings.

There were many Mets fans in attendance, with their usual machismo style of "bragging rights start before the game" swagger. A six run first shut all of them up. Funny how that happens. Anyway, it was a typical frigid San Francisco summer night, temps in the low 50's, foggy, with wind in the 30mph's. Overall, I had quite a bit of fun, what with the Giants win and an abundance of heckling opportunities of the Mets bullpen, what with all the scoring.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Decline Of The Baseball Card Hobby

A few months ago I decided to look up the value of some of my baseball cards. My most valuable card, as far as I know, is a 1975 George Brett mini rookie card. The mini set was a Topps experiment on the west coast that never took hold. Those cards are worth more than the standard size. Last I checked, this card was worth about $750 ten years ago. Surely, I thought, it would be worth more today.

Not so. I found many of them on various internet market sites like eBay. The max asking price I found was $100 for a card in excellent condition. I don't know whether the price went down because the supply went up. By the supply going up I mean that the average card holder now has an easy way to market the card on the internet. In the past, trying to find a card for sale would have been tougher, maybe limited to seeking out a dealer. Also the glut of companies and various card series coupled with a lack of interest from the younger generation might have contributed to this. Nevertheless, it isn't worth what it used to be. Maybe that's good because I can keep it instead of selling it to get some much desired cash.