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Sunday, July 28, 2002

Of course I didn't sleep last night. Today was only the second time all season I've been to see the Giants play at Pacific Bell Park. I was up and ready an hour before Eric came by to pick me up this morning. We took the charter bus across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, and then across the Bay Bridge and through the streets of San Francisco to the most beautiful ballpark in the country. How could I have slept last night?

What I didn't know was that we would have the best seats I've had in all the times I've been to that ballpark, in the right field corner behind the visitors' bullpen and just below the edge of the arcade over which Barry Bonds hit all those majestic home runs last year. I also didn't know that it would be a perfect day in the City, sunny with just enough of a hint of fog to keep it from being hot. No need for overcoats on this summer day in San Francisco.

There was a ceremony before the game honoring the 1951 Giants team. They played in New York then, and they accomplished the greatest comeback in baseball history, making up 13 games on the Brooklyn Dodgers in the last six weeks of the season, then beating the Dodgers in a playoff series when the legendary Bobby Thomson hit the most famous home run ever, The Shot Heard Round the World that brought the Giants from behind and gave them the National League pennant.

Many members of that team are gone now, but several were on the field for the ceremony. There's a special place in sports history for a team with the determination to overcome such monumental odds, and I don't mind telling you that when Alvin Dark and Bobby Thomson were speaking at the podium in front of home plate this afternoon, I had tears in my eyes. They recounted how tough it was to keep from letting down during the last weeks of that season, and they remembered every pitch and every hit of that final game 51 years ago.

Say what you will about the place of sports in real life, there's something inspiring about a group of players who refuse to believe that they have no chance to win, who keep trying and defying their critics, and who come out on top in the end. If you can't get some emotional reinforcement from that, you might as well give up and not even try.



Pacific Bell Park

Looking at McCovey Cove from the arcade wall behind our seats.



Today's game was against that same old rival, but now of course the Dodgers represent the city of Los Angeles. Both teams are still fighting for their place in history (and the standings), and there's no team I'd rather see my team beat than the Dodgers.

The Giants lost the first two games of this series, Friday night because of bad pitching and yesterday because of a lack of hitting. They got great pitching today and just enough hitting to win, 3-1. It was a well-played game even though four of the Giants' regular starters, including Bonds, were unavailable because of injury. I'd like to think they took some heart from the 1951 team members who were there to cheer them on today.

And then the charter bus brought us home across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful, breezy day on the bay, with whitecaps and sailboats from the bridge to Alcatraz and beyond. That was a perfect way to end a special day.



Pacific Bell Park

Fans streaming to the game on Lefty O'Doul Bridge, just outside the ballpark.



I think I'll sleep better tonight. All that sunshine and fresh air gives me that pleasant weariness you get when you've had a satisfying day and accomplished something important. Maybe some people get that feeling every day. Maybe I wish I did, too, but it takes a day at the ballpark with my nephew to give me this kind of gratification. If I do sleep, it'll be with a smile on my face.




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