Bill Conlin: Shades of Philly in San Francisco

Giants reliever Steve Bedrosian wears a hard hat as he 'holds up' dugout roof a few days after earthquake delayed 1989 World Series.
Giants reliever Steve Bedrosian wears a hard hat as he 'holds up' dugout roof a few days after earthquake delayed 1989 World Series.
Posted: October 19, 2010

AND IF you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a glower in your stare. Feel free to swagger again now that your team has squared the NLCS, thanks to the best all-around game the Phillies have played in the postseason.

San Francisco is not Los Angeles in any respect. Like Philadelphia, it is a city of defined neighborhoods - from the alternative lifestyle haven of the Castro District to the trendy Marina District. North Beach is a miniversion of South Philly. The DiMaggio brothers were raised there. Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill, the Financial District, Mission, Financial, Potrero, Hunter's Point . . . All these diverse neighborhoods are clustered on a peninsula bordered by San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean that would fit in Northeast Philly with room to spare.

Giants fans have a much harder edge than Dodgers fans. There are no stoppages of play to retrieve beach balls batted from the stands. If they do The Wave, it is to keep warm. Like Phillies fans of yore, failure has hammered them down to fine-tempered steel. This would be the Giants' fourth World Series since they migrated West in 1958 from the falling-down Polo Grounds on Coogan's Bluff in Upper Manhattan.

The Bank has athletic young women who serve as ball girls. They are attractive, agile and accomplished. Most are softball players, so they know when to play 'em and when to pick up their folding chair and flee.

Foul territory down the lines in The City's beautiful AT&T Park is guarded - and I use the term lightly - by Ball Dudes, very senior citizens. They are the best trip since the haLSDcyon days of Haight-Ashbury with their pratfalls and misadventures. The Ball Dudes have been given shape, substance and identity by the Giants' Emmy-winning broadcast team of play-by-play man Duane Kuiper and analyst Mike Krukow - "Kruke and Kuipe." The Giants' telecasts focus on the fans between pitches more than any other big-league team, locking on the myriad of interesting faces and ballgame characters that only a city as diverse as San Francisco can provide. And the Ball Dudes are a big part of the show within The Show.

Mike Krukow pitched for the Phillies in 1982, after a 5-year tour with the Cubs and before a 7-year stay with the Giants. He won 20 games for San Francisco in 1986 and was named to the Giants' all-decade team.

Veterans of the most-traveled fan base in the majors will tell you Giants fans can be hostile, so don't expect to take the place over if you scored tickets. You will not be the home crowd the way you were in Nationals Park that last week, when thousands of you showed up for the division-clinching and were back for the hangover game the next night.

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Never mind that he never said it - the quote is of unknown origin - it's a great quote anyway. And while the late-afternoon gales that used to rattle the press-box windows in Candlestick Park are not as intense along the shores of McCovey Cove, AT&T is no day at the beach. It sits on San Francisco Bay with its 55-degree water in the waterfront section called The Embarcadero. The wind still rides off the chilly Pacific. It just doesn't have the clear shot at you that it has at Candlestick Point. (An early Giants fan petitioned the newspapers to have Candlestick Park renamed "Stick Park," maintaining, "The wind blew out the Candle." So dress warm, even if the sun is out for today's 1:19 p.m. start, 4:19 here.)

At the same time . . . October is the absolute best month of the year in the Bay area. Unless, of course, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes during batting practice, which happened on Oct. 17, 1989. Sunday was the 21st anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake that immediately became known as the "World Series Earthquake." Or, if a series of massive Pacific rainstorms hang around for about 4 days, which happened after the Giants returned home to play Games 6 and 7 against the Yankees in the 1962 World Series. There was a travel day, then one of the worst storms in the history of the region struck. And struck. And struck.

There were no ATMs in 1962. And credit cards were not the substitute for cash they are today. An army of media and baseball folk made the cross-country trip expecting to be in one of America's most expensive cities no more than 3 days. Instead, they were there for a week. Ka-ching. Send lawyers, Tums and money . . .

Candlestick Park sits on a marsh prone to tidal flooding. The playing field of Baseball's Alcatraz was awash for days.

The Yankees were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7. Matty Alou legged out a bunt single. With two outs, Willie Mays ripped a double to right-center, but the ball was slowed by the rain-saturated outfield grass and Roger Maris was able to cut it off. Third-base coach Whitey Lockman did the right thing by stopping Alou. (Roy Oswalt would have kept running.)

Willie McCovey followed with a cannon line drive that was speared by second baseman Bobby Richardson. And that was as close as the Giants have come to winning a Fall Classic in their 52 years as San Francisco expats.

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

|
|
|
|
|