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Orange Friday, August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013
presidents-baseball-03 1916 Yankees

The New York Yankees at the White House in 1916

The Giants were back east last week to play the Phillies and the Marlins.  But before they started the two three-game series, they visited with Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House.  After his lunch with Hillary Clinton, the president met with the team for a half hour to commemorate the team’s 2012 World Series victory.

There is a long history of presidents inviting baseball teams to the White House.  Grover Cleveland was the first to host a major league team, when the Chicago White Stockings visited in 1886.  Before then, Presidents Johnson and Grant, who both enjoyed baseball, entertained teams from other organized leagues.  Many other U.S. presidents since then have kept up the tradition.

Sometimes it is the powerful meeting the powerful.  In 1999, when the swellheaded New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner entered the White House South Lawn with Bill Clinton to start the ceremony for the team’s 1998 World Series victory, the band struck up “Hail to the Chief.”  Clinton told Steinbrenner, “Don’t get any ideas, it’s not for you.”

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President George H.W. Bush kept his first baseman’s mitt in his desk drawer at the White House.

George Bush Sr., who loves the game and played first base for his college team, hosted the 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays in December 1992, the month after he lost against Clinton in his bid to a second term in the White House.  He joked with manager Cito Gaston about getting his call to play in the major leagues.

“And now Cito, as a closing thing, I wish you’d come over here. This is a rookie ball player who needs a job. And I’m going to give you this baseball card. Take a look at him. You need a good-fielding first baseman; I’m your man.”

I like that!  Forget about the amazing public service career and go get that true dream job, Mr. President.  And don’t forget to grab that first basemen’s glove from your desk drawer.

President Obama, who also welcomed the Giants after they won the 2010 World Series, told Bruce Bochy that he expected good things from the Giants, since they are a good second-half team.  And this is how Giants fans wanted to see it also, as the team was ten games back of the red-hot first place Los Angeles Dodgers at the start of the road trip.

Barry Zito took the mound to start the series in Philadelphia.  The former Cy Young Award winner and one of the Giants’ 2012 post-season stars, started this season just as he ended last year.  He pitched fifteen innings before he gave up a run and won his first two outings.  From August 2, 2012 through April 10, 2013, the Giants won fifteen games in a row when he was the team’s starting pitcher.  But after a strong start, Zito has been struggling and he has not won a game on the road all year.  Last week’s start against the Phillies was another rough game.  After he was chased in the fourth inning (five hits, two walks and four runs) Bochy pulled Zito from the starting rotation altogether.  It now appears that with Ryan Vogelsong’s return from the DL and the signing of veteran Ted Lily, Zito will join the bullpen while the Giants defend their title.

After splitting the road trip (1-2 in Philadelphia and 2-1 in Miami) the Giants opened up a seven game home stand this past Monday, starting with the struggling Milwaukee Brewers.  It was a quintessential San Francisco night out at the yard.  The team was welcomed back home by 42,717 fans on a cold San Francisco summer night (excuse the redundancy).  With temperatures in the fifties and overcast skies, there was also Grateful Dead music in the air, Dead Heads in the stands and lots of good attitude that they brought with them to the park.  Where else but San Francisco would a team put on such an event?  It can only happen here.

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Jerry Garcia at Candlestick Park, April 1993

It’s “Jerry Week” in San Francisco, when people remember Jerry Garcia, whose birthday is August 1 and who passed away August 5, 1995.  The flag was flown at half-mast at City Hall when Jerry passed eighteen years ago and there are formal and informal gatherings and events around the Bay Area the first week of August to pay tribute to him.  Some of the events are organized as fundraisers for San Francisco’s Excelsior District, which can use the help and will benefit from the awareness.

This San Francisco way of doing things started with the Giants’ 1993 home opener, when Jerry, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir sang the national anthem at Candlestick Park.  Mike Krukow, who’s been in the game a long time, says that it is one of the best versions he’s ever heard.  Dusty Baker, who was in his first year as a Giants manager, also enjoyed it immensely and was grinning ear to ear along with 56,689 Giants fans as the boys sang.  One of the national broadcasters asked the Giants public relations office just how did they succeed in getting the Grateful Dead to sing the national anthem at the game.  The response?  “We just asked.”

Since then, starting with the fifteenth anniversary of Jerry’s passing, the Giants have hosted the gathering of the tribe four times.  Including the 1993 opener, the team has won four of the five games with the Grateful Dead in the yard.  Lots of good attitude leads to wins for the Black and Orange.  Monday, Weir, Giants’ third thCA3EJSAVbase coach, Tim Flannery and his brother, Tom Flannery, sang the national anthem.  This was the second year that Flannery was center stage on Grateful Dead night.  Last year, on Jerry’s 70th birthday, he joined Weir and Phil in the pre-game ceremonies.  Basketball Hall of Famer and friend of the band, Bill Walton, always makes it out to the yard for these events.  In 2010, he and Mickey Hart, one of the band’s percussionists, helped pass out 7,000 kazoos and lead everyone in Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the seventh-inning stretch of a 4-3 win over the Cubs.

So here we are, it’s Orange Friday and the Baltimore Orioles are in town.  The Giants will have to do much better than they did in the four-game series with the Brewers.  After winning the opener, they dropped the next two.  Tim Lincecum pitched another gem yesterday to earn a split.  It was the third fine game that Lincecum has pitched since his no-hitter on July 13 and the type of thing that keeps baseball fans believing in miracle finishes for their team.  The Brewers only managed one hit in eight innings, a dead-end double in the third.  Brandon Belt, who will want to forget last Orange Friday, was another bright spot in the series.  He followed up a very nice road trip with a strong start to this home stand, hitting safely six of thirteen at-bats, including a three-run homer in yesterday’s 4-1 win.

The team is still in the cellar in the National League West Division and at thirteen games back, are losing ground to the Dodgers.  The Dodgers, who have won twenty-eight of their last thirty-five games, show no signs of letting up.  They look like a runaway train at this point.  Some fans have given up and are now ready to turn their attention elsewhere – to football, the Oakland A’s or to next season.  It was a very rare sight to see the stands start to empty before the end of the game Wednesday, when the Giants lost a 1-0 lead in a nightmarish eighth inning.  As can be expected, and as in life outside the yard, some are expressing their disappointment with accusations, venom and in other unbecoming ways.

Baseball is a beautiful game to some, no matter where their team sits in the standings.  And the faithful hold on as long as possible.  Tug McGraw, very good relief pitcher, coined the New York Mets’ 1969 battle cry “Ya Gotta Believe,” July 9, 1969, when they were closing in on the Chicago Cubs, who were in first place for 156 days that year.  On August 8, 1969, the Mets had fallen back to eight and a half games behind the Cubs.  The team bore down and won forty of their last fifty-four games. They not only overtook the Cubs, but they won the World Series as well.  In only its eighth season in the major leagues, the team became known as the “Amazin’ Mets.”

Orange FridayThe Dodgers are not the 1969 Cubs and given that the Giants have not been playing anywhere near the levels of their past three seasons, any thoughts of this type of rally seems a little far-fetched.  Still, with forty-eight games to go, there is another week or so to go before all is lost.  Orange Friday always brings the good attitudes out to the yard and good attitudes lead to wins.

From → Baseball

5 Comments
  1. I believe!

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bring Your Glove! | Ram On
  2. Orange Friday, August 23, 2013 | Ram On
  3. A Baseball Fan’s Early Lesson | Ram On

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