by cheri block
I remember the anticipation I felt as my Dad and I drove to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to watch my favorite team, the Giants, play baseball. On the way to our seats, Dad would hurry to the concession stand and buy a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for himself and a Coke for me. Two plump hotdogs smothered in pickled relish and oozing with mustard rested in my hands. Hurry was our pace because the hotdogs had a warmth shelf- life of about two minutes. Although tucked into their foil blankets, they cooled off fast. After all, the game was in San Francisco.
There in the bleachers overlooking center field where the frigid winds from the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay swirled, sucking papers upward like a centrifuge, and where the pigeons glided overhead in a circular orbit in preparation for their 9th inning scavenging, we settled in. Dad would unpack the wool blanket we would share on a summer night in one of the coldest stadiums on earth, not counting Rome’s Coliseum, of course. Most out-of-towners attending the game would freeze their fritters off, having forgotten that San Francisco is a beach town where the fog and wind roll in and out as consistently as the tide.
That year, the Giants were hot, unlike we fans at the game. There looking down on center field with my dad and regaled by players like Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal as they dazzled everyone—from old codger to young sprite—I thought that everything about life was happy. What more could a 12-year-old want?
Back at home on Mayfield Drive, where life was good and I was bossy, I wanted to listen to every Giants game on the radio, even though they usually ended well past my bedtime of 8:30 pm. In 1962—because the Giants were having a killer season (especially against the LA Dodgers), my dad bought me a transistor radio so that when I was supposed to be asleep in preparation for a full day of school, I could turn it on quietly in the room I shared with Stevie, my little brother, and listen to the play-by-play coverage, called by Gil Hodges and Lon Simmons.
In those days, I knew every single player’s name, his batting average, and his other vital statistics—RBI’s, marital status, chosen philanthropies, and blood type. Only my acumen about the horse racing industry exceeded that of my baseball trivia.
When other girls at age twelve were shaving their legs and curling their hair, I was watching the win-loss columns of the Giants and yes, our arch enemy’s—the Los Angeles Dodgers. My grandmother, Rosalie, and my step-grandfather, Harold, lived in Westwood, minutes from Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers’ version of Candlestick Park.
Rosie didn’t know a baseball from a cabbage but Harold, an obstetrician to the stars (he delivered Jamie Lee Curtis and was friends with Tony Curtis and Guy Williams, aka Zorro, but that is another story) would take me to the Dodgers’ game at Chavez Ravine (which made Candlestick Park look like a San Francisco bum) when I visited them in Los Angeles.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, watching a game there was a warm experience, so comfortable and luxurious. Harold had third base seats, lots of money, and a star’s odd presence. I remember thinking, even in those days, how quirky he was. Those thoughts vanished when I sank into our warmed leather seats and when a waitress came to take our hotdog order.
Even at a young age, I possessed a sense of timing and, if truth be told, a sense of self, so you can bet I never told my dad what a cool person Harold was or how charming Chavez Ravine was. After all, I was a hard-core Giants fan.
Today, here in Goodyear, Arizona, anticipating my first Spring Training games—the Cleveland Indians vs. the San Diego Padres on Sunday and…..and….and…the Cincinnati Reds vs. the San Francisco Giants on Monday, my thoughts are of the impending 90 degree heat and the intimacy of this cozy ballpark.
Dad, Mom, Rosie, and Harold are long gone (like one of Willie McCovey’s shots out of the park), but their memories will be in the air, on the field, and in those hot seats at Goodyear Ballpark.
I shall report back….