I love visiting other ballparks outside Boston and I seize every excuse I can to visit them. On a recent business trip to San Francisco, the inconsiderate Giants neglected to factor my work obligations into their game schedule. I missed the afternoon game, but at 10:30 at night, after having dinner with friends, I had the ballpark perimeter to myself.
Under dim street lamps, I eagerly devoured every bit of text on the Giants Wall of Fame plaques – it was just like opening up packs of baseball cards from my childhood. With a big grin, I couldn’t wait to see which Giants – perhaps successful enough to make my friend Shawn Anderson’s Hall of Very Good, but not the Baseball Hall of Fame – would show their faces next.
There’s Rick Reuschel, who I still picture frozen as a Cub on his 1977 Topps “Big League Brothers” baseball card with teammate/sibling/fellow pitcher Paul Reuschel. Then, it’s Atlee Hammaker! Rod Beck! Willie McCovey! Will Clark! Johnny “Count” Montefusco!
The Red Sox should put up these kind of plaques outside Fenway. It turns every sidewalk stroll into a pilgrimage. Then I saw a father and son snap a classic Tacky Tourist Photo in front of the Juan Marichal statue. Posers beware: trying to mimic the pitching legend’s windup is a guaranteed formula for splitting your pants!
Even though I missed the game, I was experiencing a serene and spiritual baseball moment.
And then… the spiritual moment shattered.
In the distance, over Willie Mays’ left shoulder, I saw a scraggly man on a bicycle careening toward me.
Based on his inability to ride in a straight line, and the 10:30 hour, I assumed the crazed man was drunk.
I froze in my tracks and locked my eyes on his trajectory, preparing to jump out of his way if he was going to (inadvertently or intentionally) ram me. When he was about five feet away, he yelled, “WHAT THE F**K ARE YOU LOOKING AT?”
I acted as if this was normal friendly San Francisco street banter, turned my back and started walking. He kept riding.
Although a fight with a drunk was happily averted, my peaceful baseball bubble was shattered. I instantly thought, “Okay, I’m done here” and quickly headed for my car.
Downtown San Francisco felt no more or no less dangerous than Boston’s Kenmore Square. But as I was leaving, I had an epiphany.
Maybe “What the f**k are you lookin’ at?” should become San Francisco’s new tourism slogan.
POSTSCRIPT AND BONUS MATERIALS
After hearing this story, my friend Steve Calechman, Greater Boston’s only standup comedian/marketing content writer, remarked that it is “classic San Francisco.”
In the Bay Area, he notes, the drunk drivers come at you riding eco-friendly bicycles instead of SUVs. Much prefer that over darting out of the way of a VW bus that runs on discarded vegetable oil.
For the benefit of fellow baseball nuts who want to read the Giants plaques without any drama or fear, I’ve included the tributes to pitchers Atlee Hammaker and Rod Beck:
Beck, who I remember trying to make an unsuccessful comeback attempt with the Red Sox, died at his home at age 38 – allegedly due to cocaine-related causes. He was reportedly buried in a Cubs uniform.
(EDITORIAL NOTE: Why don’t I just spell out the bad word that the bad man said to me? Because the Culture Schlock blog has classy editorial standards, that’s why.)