Cross-posted from my guest blog on 81 Dates ...
When I first met Justin, we sat down at Red’s Java House and I asked him (in more elegant terms than this) exactly what the fuck the deal was. My friend Myla had mentioned a friend of hers who has season tickets in the Arcade section at Oracle Park (that name will never not be strange to me) and likes to take a different date to every game. He then writes about the experience on his blog. He was also looking for new recruits to join him at the yard.
Sign me up!, I said. But I wanted to meet the guy first. It was on that day that I learned that I would, indeed, be going to the Giants-Rangers game in August that would be the setting for the return of Bruce Bochy.
Quick background for the uninitiated: Bochy managed the Giants from 2007 through 2019. In that time, the team did something that no other San Francisco pro baseball team had done, despite more than 50 years and more than 8,000 games of trying. They managed to win not just one, but a whopping three World Series, spoiling generations of fans, creating new ones, and ultimately (because baseball gonna baseball), breaking our hearts.
We’re fairly deep into the post-Bochy era now. But the old skipper did a funny thing—he came out of retirement to head the team of my childhood: the Texas Rangers. And, because Bruce Bochy is not like you and me, these Texas Rangers came into town with the third best record in MLB, a comfortable amount of games ahead of their closest AL West rival, the Houston Astros (whose manager, Dusty Baker, got the Giants to exactly one World Series … but I digress).
The game I went to with Justin has been chronicled. I’m here to tell you about my game, as it were. The one I went to with training wheels off, on my own, without Justin. I chose an old friend as my guest.
I met Sonia back in 2006 when I got a journalism job fresh out of journalism school (which I’m still paying for now! Thanks for nothing, Clarence Thomas). In a musty South of Market office on the third floor of a building that felt older than it probably was, I settled in to copy edit, first the Peninsula edition of the newspaper, and soon, The (capital T) City edition.
I wouldn’t say that the newsroom was a boys’ club, exactly. But it was fairly full of testosterone and bravado. Don’t get me wrong—I met several people on that job with whom I’m still friends to this day. But! No relationship would endure, in both duration and degree, more than my friendship with Sonia.
Together, the two of us have experienced the following in our 17 years of friendship: cancer, weddings, the death of beloved pets, the birth of Sonia’s son, cheating partners, divorces, the 2016 election, the pandemic, my other wedding … that’s just off the top of my head.
Now, we were about to experience the return of Bruce Bochy together.
Sonia and I are those kind of friends who, when we get together, which isn’t even close to often enough, laugh hard. Like, can’t breathe for a second, cry, cough, can’t talk hard laughter. She’s a walking pop culture encyclopedia, so I sometimes don’t get her references. But, as we’re both kids of the ‘70s and ‘80s, there’s enough overlap for some deep guffawing. That night at the yard proved that nothing has really changed between us.
We caught each other up on the major life items since our last hang—her kid, travels, our respective podcasts (hers is What a Creep, mine, of course, Storied: San Francisco), and work—over strong beers at Public House. Then we headed over to the Arcade and Section 152 for what we falsely presumed would be some type of pre-game ceremony for the return of our beloved Bochy. It’s not that the Giants didn’t honor him; it’s more that it wasn’t what I expected. Maybe they’ll save that for the Saturday or Sunday game?
What we did find shortly after arriving in Section 152 was … well, let’s just go to the film:
Quick sidebar: Probably dating myself here, but I learned the old proverb that “assholes live forever” from one Richard B. Cheney. As I write this, somehow, that turd is still breathing. And now, our world is full of so many glorious examples. Many of them are in positions of power. I appreciated this fan’s jacket, so there you go.
And the book, well, it was sitting on the bench next to a group of three or four young men sitting in front of us in 152. It remained there throughout the game. Sonia has read it. I have not. But a quick search reveals what the book is about. A little on the nose, Universe!
The early innings being the boring affair that they were, we headed over to the Anchor Brewing bar in Scoreboard Plaza, that area behind the Jumbotron well-known by Giants fans for its Crazy Crab sandwiches. It had been reported early that week that this would be the last place (in SF? on Earth?) selling local brewing favorite Anchor’s beer. We were super-excited about this, both of us being the beer nerds that we are. Alas, they ran out of draft Anchor Steam just before we ordered, so we settled for tallboy cans. $15 tallboy cans. Delicious, though!
I forgot to mention that it was Peanuts Night at the yard. I distinctly heard the old favorite “Linus and Lucy” over lineup announcements. Oh, and I didn’t get a photo, but the giveaway that night was this cool black and orange baseball cap with black stripes made to look like Charlie Brown’s shirt.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Rangers hit back-to-back solo home runs. One of them went into the water. Not a Splash Hit in the technical sense, and it bothers me when non-Giants hit those, for no legitimate reason. But it happened. Giants’ bats were mostly quiet all night.
Thanks to Justin, we made our way into Club Level with our slices of Tony’s Pizza. This was kind of a big deal for Sonia, as she’s been vegan for years. She’s also never tried Tony’s. As we sat down in Club Level to eat, I asked why she became vegan to begin with. “Cancer,” Sonia told me, matter-of-factly. I almost did a spit take
The Giants finally made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Still down 2-0, Heliot Ramos doubled in the leadoff spot and scored on a Thairo Estrada fielder’s choice. But it wasn’t enough. Giants lose, 2-1.
Special thanks to Giants employee Bob, who let me and Sonia sit in seats in the upper row of Section 204. Thanks also to Justin for the tickets and Sonia for joining me that night. And eternal thanks to Bruce Bochy for helping provide all the wonderful baseball memories. Hoping we get a rematch of the 2010 World Series this year. That’d be cool, right?