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Adam in the Evening Goes to the Beach, and Other Adventures Coming Up,
but first . . .
Spring Training games have started, and I've got to tell you this story.
In 2003 our son Steve and daughter-in-law Tracy were living in the Bay area. It was the end of March when I went out to see them. The California League season starts in early April. So, being the Minor League fans that we are, Steve and I got some tickets to an opening weekend game in Stockton. Since the first two games were day games, I thought there might be a sellout. So I called ahead for tickets. The Stockton Ports have been in the league off and on since 1941 and at the time were playing in the oldest park in the league. When we got there (it was a little hard to find, on the back side of a city park), the game was in the first inning. The stands were almost empty; we were shocked. It was a beautiful day, the ballpark was very nice (at least for the fans), and still there weren't more than 300 people in the stands. The stadium probably held 6000 or so. What could the matter be?!! Then we found at least one reason - a big-mouth guy with leather lungs who insulted all the players, as well as people in the stands, and an occasional airline pilot who happened to be flying over. And don't you know - our seats were right across the aisle from him.
At the time I was having a lot of pain in my right foot, and I also had my left arm in a sling, so my balance was a little off to say the least. Well after an inning of listening to this hunyock, it was time to move. Of course my lack of gracefulness did not go unnoticed by Mister Crude, whose comments were inappropriate and unimaginative. (It's fools like him that give anuses a bad name.) By now he's probably sitting behind a spittoon at some Dick Armey fan club meeting with a tea bag hanging from his propeller beanie. On the other hand, he looked pretty old, so maybe he has gone to that big proctology office in the sky.
I really felt sorry for the Stockton players, having so little fan support on the opening weekend. Boy, were they in for a big shock! Two days later we went to Municipal Stadium in San Jose (they have a Giant Attitude - it says so in big letters.) They were playing Stockton, and if the game wasn't sold out, it was close. The fans in San Jose are great. Boy, do they love their team. The Giants had a Big-Mouth at their park too (he's called "Crazy George") but he's a real hoot! (I think he was hired by the team.) The San Jose Giants may be a few levels from "The show" but when it comes to putting on "A Show" they know their stuff. Crazy George kept part of the crowd laughing, the P.A. announcer somehow managed to get in lots of commercial promos in an entertaining style - all this without detracting from the game.
The San Jose Giant club was the first I know of to have the "Beer Batter." They picked out a player on the Ports team and if he struck out, for the next half inning beer was half price! The first pitch: a swing and a miss. Huge cheer from the crowd! Next pitch, he hits it hard (crowd booes.) Ball goes foul (crowd cheers.) Next pitch, a called strike (the crowd goes nuts.) The batter was not happy. This sort of thing went on every time the "Beer Batter" came up. They had other pieces of business too. That night was Duct Tape Fashion Show Night (don't ask.) And there was a game where a pitcher from the Giants tries to knock out the headlight on a truck from about 50 feet. If he does, a fan gets some cash (he did!) It was a good game. By the top of the ninth the home team was leading by a few runs. The Ports were down to their last out. Guess who came up! (You got it!) Beer Batter. By now he's really mad. And to top it off, Crazy George gets on his case. Well, Beer Batter takes a couple of pitches and then launches one about 450 feet over the center field fence! At this point, 4000 fans got to their feet to give him a standing ovation! As he came around third base, he tipped his cap to the crowd (he was Babe Ruth for two minutes!)
Steve said, "Dad, I've never had this much fun at a game!"
"Me either," I said.
The Giants won the game of course, but wherever that Beer Batter is today, I'm sure this is one of his favorite stories about the minor leagues. I know it's one of mine. By the way, if you like minor league baseball stories, read "Small Town Heroes" by Hank Davis. I liked it a lot.
(Next time - back to radio!)
Great American Past-my-time