Published Monday, April 10, 2000 on the editorial page of the San Francisco Examiner.
MY DAD put education before just about everything. But he would make at
least one exception each year.
Dad would show up at my school (this was in San Francisco in the late '70s and early '80s) with his premeditated white lie: He and I had "personal family business" to attend to. My mitt and Giants cap already hidden in the car, we would run to the parking lot and speed away, straight to the 'Stick for opening day.
On opening day in San Francisco Tuesday, the Giants will be playing in a new ballpark. On opening day, the 'Stick will be empty. But I remember everyone: Willie McCovey, Jack Clark, Darrell Evans, even the guys on the bench.
Best of all, Dad was a pediatric dentist and cleaned Hank Greenwald's kid's teeth, so we would go up to the KNBR68 booth and watch him do play-by-play for an inning. Junk food, pennants, foul balls, home runs and rally caps: It all unfolded under the umbrella of our annual secret.
The Giants always played the Dodgers on opening day, which meant there would be at least a fight or two in the bleachers.
Once, I saw two guys in black and orange beat up an obnoxious Dodger fan. Before the security people came, they symbolically threw the victim's blue and white cap over the railing. Although I wasn't really the violent type, it was the sheer mayhem and vigor of the Giants/Dodgers rivalry that made me get so fired up.
Obviously, though, there was more.
It has been said a million different times and a million different ways by grandfathers, comedians and the historians: There is something about a stadium that is stimulating.
Within one ball game, you can hit all five senses in any combination you want.
See the outfielder's mitt flex over the wall to rob Garvey of a home run. See the white, dusty chalk poof up in a cloud of smoke as the ball fires down the third base line for a triple. See your hero close-up through your dad's binoculars.
Hear the crack of the wooden bat. Hear the call of the Cracker Jack man even though he's 20 sections over. Hear the eruption of cheers that sends vibrations through the orange plastic bleachers.
Taste the eternally flat and diluted soda. Taste the loveliness of processed, rubber nacho cheese I was never allowed to eat except on that day. Taste the salty San Francisco fog that would creep off the Bay and blanket the 'Stick.
Feel the mass-manufactured poly-wool fabric of the pennant that would soon be above your door. Feel the filth caked on the escalator railing that 50,000 other people just touched. Feel the perforated edge of your ticket that the old man just tore off.
Smell the Polish dogs before you even break through the clicking turnstile. Smell the flood of beer splashed in the mayhem of a straying foul ball. Smell the hot, salted pretzel with mustard just before you inhale it.
Now, with my son Niko, I will pass down the identical white lie and the escape route that my father used to make both of our lives a little more memorable. I know how much it meant to both of us and how fun it was for me having my dad involved in "sneaking" away.
Niko has a brand new Giant's cap for our first big day.
All he has to do now is realize that there's a game going on in front of him.
Examiner contributor Adam Traubman, born and raised in San Francisco, lives near San Diego, does marketing for an investment firm and owns a kayak fishing business. He is at Trout@adnc.com.