Fog City Kids Baseball Night

Written by Harold Brown. Posted in Opinion

Published on August 02, 2009 with 1 Comment

h. Brown
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Harold Brown

August 1, 2009

An early sportswriter named Henry Chadwick is credited with first using a ‘K’ in scoring a strikeout in recorded box scores. He also was the first to number positions 1-9 to make it easier to record the play-by-play action.

The ‘K’ was taken from the last letter of the word ‘struck,’ as in ‘struck out,’ as that was the preferred usage of his day. When fans hang a series of ‘K’s at the ballpark to record the strikeouts the home team pitchers inflict upon the visitors, forward ‘K’s mean the batter swung at the ball and missed, and backwards ‘K’s mean the batter was “called out looking.” Those last ones will really piss you off if it’s your guy looking. All this is (except for the ‘pissed off’ line) come from a Google search of: “What does K mean in baseball?”

It was Tina Johnson’s little girl, Ally (she’s about 9) sitting with her sis, Katie (around 6) who asked that question. There were 24 of us there at the event put together by Fog City Journal’s Luke Thomas to take his nephews, Luke and Elijah and their friend, Alessandro (they’re middle-schoolers, 13-14 years old) and a host of others for a night at the ballpark.

They were surprised that I didn’t know where using the letter ‘K’ to record a strikeout began or why some of the ‘K’s were backwards. I was surprised when Art Bruzzone (looking a decade or 2 younger with a whole new image – bearded, lean, raffish/dangerous) … I was surprised Arthur (sitting to my left) nor Doug McAbee (sitting to my right) didn’t know either.

Hell I thought, that’s no hill to climb. The Cohens (Daniel and Becky) were sitting at the other end of our little tribe huddled in the cold and fog (I swear, there was frost on the seats by the 6th inning in the upper deck where we must have looked like the Donner party). So, Eric and Stefan Cohen were there and I knew that they knew absolutely everything about baseball. Eric’s an engineer now and 27 (taught him to play catch on Mt. Sutro when he was about 2) and brother Stefan is 20 I believe.

The infamous San Francisco fog rolls over AT&T Park.

They know pretty much every stat from all major sports and …

They didn’t know either! Neither did Alexandra Jones nor her friend, Darlene (2 ladies who sat in the next row below us and could make just as much noise and as many obnoxious sounds as I could).

Beth Rogozinski and hubbie John Bokelman (he can see right through you cause he’s a radiologist) were clueless and the guy selling hot chocolate didn’t even want to talk about it. They didn’t know. A friend of Doug’s came and brought a couple of, maybe, 18 year-olds (one with blue hair!) from his building and they didn’t know either. boss, Tony De Renzo was there looking snazzy as always in a charcoal gray overcoat. He’s back on the air and fighting for the rights of medicinal pot patients the world over. He settled in amongst the Cohen clan and chatted with Daniel throughout the game.

Well, now you know where ‘K’ came from and don’t you feel all better about that? Bottom line is that this was a great group and the range of kids from 5 to 27 years of age with parents, relatives or friends took me back to my own role in my own family of taking my nephews and nieces (I think there are 25 or so of them and the ‘great’ nephews and nieces will soon outnumber them – we’re mostly Irish and we breed like rabbits) … reminded me of 40 years or so back when I started taking my nephews and nieces to their first baseball game just as their mothers (my sisters) had done for me long before that. Baseball is entwined with my family history and it teaches so many lessons.

h. Brown, Arthur Bruzzone and Ally.

Luke, Elijah and Alessandro.

Darlene, Alexandra, Katie, Ally and Tina.

Steffan, Becky and Eric Cohen.

John Bogelman, Beth Rogozinski and Doug McAbee.

What I learned in the Giants 5-1 loss

Caribbean and Central American people are much better sportsmen than Americans. I’d asked that someone bring a pair of binoculars for me to use and there were about 10 pairs there of all different sizes of same present (little Katie had the cutest pair that were like pink and Paris blue) … I watched the position players warm up and the starting pitchers find their range and the Managers (Giants, Brue Bochy and Phillies, Charlie Manuel) exchange scorecards and greet the umpires. Folks, if this had been an NFL game it would have began and ended with a riot. Baseball (particularly of the Latin variety) has an entirely different set of etiquette.

Maybe it has something to do with the 162 vs. 16 games schedule (you know, 10 times the import of each game)? Whatever, here’s what I observed. Again, tell me what would have happened in an NFL game under similar circumstances.

The players filtered out of both dugouts a half hour or so before the game and migrated mostly singly to various sections of the outfield to stretch and warm up. Opposing players who’d just had their locker room pep speech came together and … hugged! Yeah, they’d had the almost beginning of an aggressive ‘bean ball’ (not necessarily hitting batter in head, but if their pitcher comes close to or hits one of your players, it’s good etiquette to put a fastball between the shoulder blades of their best hitter his next time up) … but, that was all forgotten. That was in the past. All the way back to last night.

Lots of hugs and laughing and conversation as the players got their parts loose for the contest. The managers and umpires meeting behind homeplate were equally gregarious (Bochy made certain to shake absolutely everyone’s hand – he’s best suited manager in baseball for the kind of team that Sabean has assembled – patient, kind, low-key and entirely respectful of all and it gets returned totally).

Tina laid out a feast for her girls in the next row while Bruzzone ducked out and returned with a huge plate of garlic fries and pretzels for all, and Doug had his usual sushi buffet and I had 4 bologna and cheese sandwiches (got some upturned noses). Plenty of drinks. Lots of extra sweaters and lap blankets and mittens and hats (these guys have been here before).

A few sea gulls ducked in to see what the crowd was eating and how much so they could report back to the colony on Fisherman’s Wharf to determine their Friday evening dining plans: “You wanna eat at the ballpark tonight?” … “I don’t know, who’s pitching?”

A swallow dined on moths as the crowd put down their vittles as the opposing pitchers warmed up along the sidelines. We all pretty much knew that our pitcher (Ryan Sadowski – up from Fresno to fill in for 5-time Cy Young winner, Randy Johnson) was gonna get swallowed like the the swallow’s dinner by the classy looking tall left-hander, Cliff Lee (puts you in mind of Steve Carlton for all of you old enough to have voted for Bill Clinton) . The Phillies were tossing last year’s American League Cy Young award winner at us.

Bruzzone said walking over to the game (bunch of us gathered at Bayside Deli across from Pier 32 in advance for a big beer) . Art said we’d lose 12-1. Darlene was outraged. He changed it to 12-3 to placate her. All the Cohens knew we’d lose. Ever the optimist, I gave us a 6-3 victory. We lost 5-1. But, there was so much more.

From our seats just a couple of rows from the top of the grandstands behind third base we enjoyed a race (I don’t know shit about sailing). Anyway, there was a regatta out on the Bay beyond the left field bleachers where a bunch of sailboats (maybe 15) darted amongst each other like dogs playing together in Duboce Park. A couple maneuvered their way near McCovey Cove behind the stadium’s right field wall, but it was a bit small for them, what with the kayakers doing their own thing awaiting a $10 baseball like it was the Messiah. We’ll talk about ‘splash’ homers some other time.

As best I know, the Giants are the only team that gives it away. In the old ‘knot-hole’ tradition. Get your mind out of the gutter. What I mean is that when I was the age of some of the kids in our herd, baseball parks were surrounded with wooden fences and where there was a knot in the wood low enough, poor kids would knock ’em out and peek through for a free view of the game. Boy have the Giants changed that.

There are 4 adjoining archways under the right field bleachers (each runs 10 foot or so) and there is only a chain link fence separating the broad marina promenade behind the fence and the right fielder. When they play deep, the guy is often only 50 foot or so from you and you’re on the same level. What a rush. And, it’s free!

As in, costs nothing. Like the old Knot-Hole Gang made PR genius philanthropy. I recall that when they opened there was some concern that too many people would crowd up and try to catch the entire game for free but that never happened. They were gonna limit the time someone could watch from there, but it was never necessary. I checked often during the game and I don’t think there were ever more than 3 or 4 members of the Knot Hole Gang out there. Too many other interesting things along that promenade that encircles the Giants park.

There’s the ferry from Sausalito pulling in with a direct landing at the edge of the stroll. A classy walkway/pier with benches and vintage lights races at least the length of a football field (it’s around 20 feet wide) out into the Bay.

There are great statues of Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda and, of course, Lou the Seal. At least a hundred sexy little sailboats are ported right at the stadium.

The huge scoreboard (must go nearly 200 feet wide and at least 20 feet high) over the left field bleachers is as high-tech as you’d expect from Silicon Valley’s party town and crystal clear. Besides simply keeping score (I remember when a little old lady sat at the end of our scoreboard in St. Louis and hung up appropriate numbers) … with high resolution cameras, the screen captures people at every part of the 40,000 seat stadium, and engages them in a series of maybe a dozen, often participatory, ‘events or shows.’ It’s very minor league and I say that in the very best of ways. Builds the energy.

There are various patriotic songs where I take off my hat to show off my bald head. There’s a kissing contest where the cameras zoom in on couples and the crowd cheers when they kiss (it’s a hoot – crowd won’t take ‘no’ for an answer). Lou the Seal gives out huge pizzas from a golf cart that skirts the perimeter stadium walls. Pretty girls fire free T shirts into the crowd with bazookas.

Three younger teens have a contest of who can catch the most of 5 fly balls fired a couple of hundred feet from a pro practice machine. There’s a whole module where fans go on a quiz show (all this is on the giant screen) and guess if the jersey numbers of present and past Giants players are higher or lower than the previous jersey number.

Whoopie, you say?

Well, if the person gets ’em all right (half dozen?) they get a $25 gift certificate. So what, you say? Hey, for their whole row sitting with them at the ball park!

And, the Giants give away baseballs like they’re popcorn. Smart, smart move. Other places I’ve been (including my hometown St. Louis where they have the most loyal sports fans in America – hey, I grew up there and what else you gonna do?) … in St. Louis when the center-fielder finishes his practice throws between innings, they relay the practice ball back to the dugout. Every time.

I don’t know if this is true in St. Louis, but I’ve been told that at many ballparks if a player throws a ball into the stands the player gets fined.

In San Francisco (I counted) the center fielder alone threw 750 practice balls into the bleachers last year alone. Once an inning, Giants bleacher fans can count on a souvenir ball. Between every inning. Of every game. Let me tell you, it builds rapport. Especially if the center fielder struck out or got picked off in the previous inning.

Ahhh, this is gotten too long and I’ve barely talked about the fog. So, the Giants take on the World Champion Phillies again this evening (6:15pm) and this time it is the boys from the home of the Philly’s Cheesesteak who are in deep shit. We have our own reigning Cy Young winner going. That’s Timmy Lincecum and I finally figured out who he reminds me of with all his off-beat antics and overall looks. It came to me when I saw him clowning in the dugout during a game that went 14 innings (he could afford to, he’d thrown the first 9 or so and struck out many enemy batters) and, he took his long hair and put if over his face and turned his hat backwards and looked just like Cousin Itt from the Adams Family. The players had been on the field for almost 5 hours and their goofy young star gave them a bit of comic relief. That’s when I knew that he reminded me of Jerry Lewis.

Really, granted the hair is longer, but otherwise they are exactly identical. And, to return to the start and tie this all together, what do you think Mike Singletary would do if he turned to his bench in an overtime game and saw a player acting out Cousin Itt?

Thanks for the game to Fog City and Luke Thomas.

Go Giants!

Harold Brown

h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of, an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and a hard-living satirical muckraker. His other FCJ articles can be found here. here.

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  1. Hey Luke,

    That really was a great outing. And I don’t want to sound like a Giants commercial but it was very cheap as entertainment goes in this town. 25 tickets for $250? Ten bucks a seat and you get all that entertainment. Plus, many don’t realize you can bring in non-alcohol drinks and food as long as containers are sealed.

    And, Dr. John’s last name is Bogelman. He didn’t take Beth’s name when they married, just her heart. I keep trying to get him to play ‘Such a night’ for us when we’re around a piano but he claims he’s not that Dr. John.

    Maybe we should invite Rob Anderson next time.