For over half a century, Candlestick Park has been one of the most famous and recognizable, if not pleasant or attractive, buildings in San Francisco, but it will be demolished sometime in the coming months or years. It is difficult not to see the imminent demolition of Candlestick Park as a symbol for something in today's San Francisco. San Francisco, like all cities, is in transition, but the transition has accelerated in recent years as a city that was once a quirky and cool provincial town that punched well above its weight in culture and progressive politics, is looking more like a playground for the rich while many others are being priced out. It is consistent with these developments that the 49ers will be leaving the city for Santa Clara County where they will be closer to the center of Silicon Valley power and wealth, but physically and economically out of reach for many of their most faithful fans.
These changes also have not addressed the major problem facing the All-Star Game-that it is a relic from another era and no longer meets the needs of fans or players. In an era of interleague play and widespread access to televised baseball in one form or another, the logic underlying an All-Star Game is not evident. Fans wishing to see how a great American League pitcher like Justin Verlander or Mariano Rivera fares against a National League star like Bryce Harper or Buster Posey no longer have to wait until the All-Star Game and hope for that matchup. Since the advent of interleague play, hose matchups may occur during the regular season when the Yankees play the Giants or the Tigers play the Nationals. The fans may have to wait a year or two for a specific matchup, but the regular season now has a great deal of interleague play.
Fifty years after that tough defeat, and more importantly two years after finally getting their World Series victory, Giants fans can look at that 1962 team more charitably. They can recognize the impressive talent and interesting baseball stories that were brought together on that team. It is still possible, but not likely, that that great World Series will be commemorated by a 50th anniversary rematch. Even if this does not occur, it is worth taking a few minutes this October to remember this extraordinary team that came up just a foot or so short of a championship.
The current Oakland Athletics, based upon a cycle of constantly trading players for prospects while explaining that behavior away by noting their small market size, appear to be at a turning point. It is possible that they will be allowed to move to the San Jose area, thus potentially expanding their market size, while competing with the San Francisco Giants in an area that has long been populated largely by Giants fans. This might catapult the A’s into a larger market. Similarly, they might be able to build a new stadium as their current ballpark feels like Candlestick Park without the charm, but neither of these strategies will work in the short or medium term unless the Athletics can put a better, and better presented, product on the field.
The Giants have won the World Series bringing the championship to San Francisco for the first time ever! When Buster Posey caught the third strike on Nelson Cruz, a journey which began with my mother dropping off me, my brother and our friend Charles, who back then was known as Tony, on the corner of Clay and Van Ness in San Francisco sometime in the mid 1970s, ended in a hotel room in Tbilisi, Georgia more than 30 years later. Those spring and summer mornings, my mother would give each of us seven dollars-three for a ticket in the upper reserved section of old Candlestick Park, the remainder was for bus fare and food. When the bus driver was in a good mood and only charged fifty cents for the ballpark express, there was plenty left over for hot dogs, soda, popcorn and ice cream, but if the driver charged two dollars or more, it made for a hungry day at the ‘Stick.
Wilker has written an extraordinarily honest book about growing up and forging adult lives and adult relationships which, while not really about baseball, still made me feel like I was back at an almost empty Candlestick Park watching the Giants lose, playing ball in the Presidio, reading yet another baseball magazine or book and, yes, buying a pack of baseball cards and giving the gum to my brother.
LeMaster was a unique combination of mediocre fielding, atrocious hitting, a strong link to bad teams and bad periods in team history and, best of all, a sense of humor and awareness. Of course, being the worst non-pitcher to ever have a big league career is an extraordinary accomplishment, accordingly LeMaster is remembered fondly by most Giants fans, but few players ever played the game so badly for so long.
The problem with the All Star Game is not that it is meaningless, it is that it isn’t baseball. More accurately the All Star Game is not a baseball game. The All Star Game is a fun mid-season break. The Future’s Game, fan fests and the like can be great events. Even home run derbies have some value as pure spectacle, but the game itself isn’t really a baseball game.