BASEBALL REALLY CLEAN? 4 New PED busts opening week of baseball,
Barry Bonds expresses sympathy for ARod, hope he'll break Mays homer number
But, that was baseball then. Winning wasn't a life or death matter, though sometimes it seemed that way to this kid. There was always tomorrow or next year. No quick fixes like today, with certain teams acquiring known Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) users and suspected ones they get cheap when the going gets tough. We often wondered if the steroid problem grew , at least in part, out of the Giants' failure to win the World Series for 50 years since coming to San Francisco. With a new AT&T stadium to fill and a Bondsian payroll the pressure was on... and two decades later and with the help of 23 KNOWN PED users, the Giants finally found a 'system' to win - a system, we're afraid, that has now spread around the league, despite recent outgoing baseball commissioner Selig's claim that the game is now clean.
CANDLESTICK CRUMBLES BUT GREAT MEMORIES STILL LIVE FOR THIS KID OF THE SIXTIES
GREEN GRASS, THE BAY and CIGARS - I remember as a kid coming to Candlestick and the first things I'd notice as I entered the stadium doors was the sight of green grass, the beautiful Bay landscape and the smell of cigars. Funny the cigar smell didn't seem to bother me or others at the time, in fact I kind of liked it - and all the old characters smoking and drinking and yelling (I don't remember hearing any profanity back then). I'd take the smell of cigar smoke over the marijuana you smell today at AT&T - and not sure that the former is any less healthy than the latter, either, despite all the later years of being told 'cigar bad, marijuana good.' When Candlestick was enclosed for football in the Seventies, I thought it lost much of it's charm (Bay View) as did the Oakland Coliseum when 'Mt. Davis' was built.
Candlestick Park,Lon Simmons,TV GAMES,San Francisco,CIGARS,World Series,BOB NIEMAN,Russ Hodges,THE SIXTIES
Candlestick Park in the Sixies, still with the Bay View
LOTS OF CHARACTERS, NO CELL PHONES - Back then it was a real mix of people of all ages coming to games, including people who then seemed real old to me , as a kid, yet who were probably younger at the time than I am now (and I'm not that old). And, folks were INTO the game as there weren't all the distractions like cell phones, I.E.. 'Hey guys, there's a game going on.' San Francisco is prized for its heterogeneous makeup but, in fact the average person at a Giants game today is 'homegenized' TWENTY-SOMETHING, UPWARDLY-MOBILE CAUCASIAN, HISPANIC OR ASIAN. Gone are the real characters we grew up with, not hesitant to call out players, even on the home team -players who just might deserve an occasional 'cat-call.'1960s, 1962 baseball cards,Candlestick,demolition, dodgers, Lon Simmons, memories, opening day,Russ Hodges,San Francisco Giants
SMALL NUMBERS, VOCAL FANS - I remember when FANS WOULD ACTUALLY BOO THEIR OWN PLAYERS when they deserved to be booed (Remember 'We want a pitcher not a glass of water.''?)
So what if there were only 15,000 fans at the game. There wasn't the overriding concern about economics and attendance as about watching and enjoying actual games. It was as simple as winning ballgames to win the league championship (there were no playoffs) and then, hopefully, the World Series. That was every player and owner's goal. Payrolls were low and ownership could still make money with smaller crowds. Plus , we had room to roam in the stands and catch more foul balls - and even sneak up to the front seats on occasion.
From my personal baseball card collection, 1961, I had ALMOST every card except the ones you see missing, like WILLIE MAYS. Other pages to follow... Do you reemember BOB NIEMAN, who came to the Giants in 1961 from Cleveland?
COLD WEATHER? What cold weather? When the Giants were winning, nobody ever mentioned the weather. It wasn't until the late Sixties when the Giants began losing that fans used weather as a complaint. They wanted a new stadium. And, that became the mantra for years to come as the Giants continued mediocre ball.
As other teams started building new stadiums the Giants got jealous, and instead of putting top teams on the field , played the 'excuse game.' 'If we only had a new stadium we would ..' (Even with the new stadium, build in 2000) the Giants only got into one World Series (2002) even with the presence of Barry (*) Bonds until recent years.)
FAMILY - It was more like a family then - from the top down. Teams were family owned - The Omalleys of the Dodgers, The Griffiths of Washington Senators nee Minnesota Twins, Charlie Finley of Kansas City/Oakland A's. And the games weren't so dependant on TV or other corporate revenue. There were lots of day games and Games all started at the same time. And, there were double headers - two for one games where you could spend the whole day at the ball park. And, you could go to games as a FAMILY, not subjected to foul language, loud music , or other extraneous activities.
20 TV GAMES - and a lot of RADIO - In fact, there were only the three channels back then - four with the addition of KTVU Channel Two- and it was a thrill just to be able to see even one game on TV if you couldn't get to the game. We were sure to watch all 20 Giants-Dodgers games on Channel 2, KTVU. As noted elsewhere, baseball game was largely a game for the imagination back then, since we didn't get to see a lot the games, but only heard them on KSFO with Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons.
ATTENDANCE SECONDARY - When the Giants had a sellout it was a REAL sellout but it was rare back then , and nobody really cared, (though it was nice to fill up the place against the Dodgers.) 39,900 fans didn't suddenly become 41,915 just so the team could call it a sellout to keep a streak alive or whatever...
This was probably 1964-1965, a letter requesting player autographs I received back from the Giants. No, they're no real but they're something to remember. It appears to be a composite of various Giants over the years. I also had a fan club for the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and DID received an REAL SIGNED BALL with ALL THE PLAYERS AUTOGRAPHS from owner Calvin Griffith, who I corresponded with ! (Sadly, I 'sold'this ball to a fan (never did get paid )
FREE, FRIENDLY AUTOGRAPHS - I remember waiting where the players came out to their cars from the locker room after games. Players would FREEly sign autographs and we could watch guys like 'Sad' Sam Jones get into his long '59 Caddy and drive away.
INNOCENSE and MYSTERY - The element of 'mystery' was still there since we didn't have media detailing every aspect of players and owners. We often didn't even know what some players looked like, especailly young players new to the team. You didn't see owner Giants Horace Stoneham out in public, but heard some good stories about this man of mystery. Rumors were rampant and kept us guessing. Sometimes that's better than hearing the truth, especially for young, impressionable kids. Rarely would you see Stoneham in public or making media appearances to hype his team at every politically-correct opportunity like today.
PROMOTIONS were rare but when they had them they were good ones, like Bat Day, a fan favorite you don't see any more, for obvious reasons (at least two-danger and cost).
1961-1962 Giants infielders from my collection. I had them all at one time, but you know how that goes...
1962 MAGICAL, DREAM SEASON. Kennedy was still president and baseball, chevrolet and apple pie still ruled America. And the Giants could do no wrong, what with the 'M' boys, MAYS, MCCOVEY and MARICHAL - and many more with ALVIN DARK at the helm. Despite the pesky Dodgers, led by WILLS, KOUFAX and DRYSDALE, the Giants managed to go all the way to the World Series, with the help a miraculous one game playoff during which the Giants came back from being down four runs.
But losing their first World Series to the Yankees on that seventh game controversial line out by McCovey, made for a long winter for us young, impressionable kids. Time seemed to stand still back then and we went down to DeLauers Newstand in Oakland to regularly keep up with the Sporting News for any news on our heroes.
WHEN BASEBALL WAS KING
Today baseball is only popular on a local level. Teams in other cities could care less about your team - or watch it on TV unless it's playing their team. World Series -Last year's Giants-Kansas City matchup had the lowest World Series TV viewship of all time.
I remember baseball being so popular that there were top popular records (as in phonograph records) made then. I went bought 'The D-O-D-G-E-R Song' by Danny Kaye, in 1962. It was a song that asked 'Will They Really Win the Pennant ( in 1962)?' Well, that was the year the Giants first won it, making the year that much e xtra special - and I remember every word of that song to this day.
That would be the last time the Giants got over on Dodgers for years...
'D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song' by Danny Kaye became a local and national hit in 1962
Giants theme song in the early 1960s playing on announcer Russ Hodges' trademark
'Bye Bye Baby.' What was Lon Simmons eventual trademark homerun call?
Back in the early 60s there were only 20 games on TV - and those were all Giants-Dodgers on KTVU, channel 2. Otherwise you had to go to the actual game to see the Giants play. The only other option was to listen to the game on our TRANSISTOR RADIO, which every kid seemed to have - and glued to his head walking down the street, or, under his blanket at night. I certainly did.
RADIO WAS KING -As we listened intently to the dulcet tones of Giants lead broadcaster RUSS HODGES we imagined seeing the players hit homeruns or throw no-hitters. These were often players we had never seen before , due to the lack of TV and media exposure then. But, the imagination certainly took over, and was one of the great things then which is lacking today, not so necessary anymore with TV coverage of games 162 days a year. LON SIMMONS, who we just lost, was still a neophyte broadcaster honing his good humor for years to come. Hodges was the king, and the best thing going in sports on the West coast, anyway, next to the guy down south, still applying his trade to this day!
BUS RIDE TO CANDLESTICK - I remember, when my folks would start letting us go to games on our own, the bus ride to Candlestick seemed to take forever. They'd just closed to the Key System trains, so it was the 'B'bus across the Bay Bridge from Oakland, then transferring to two more busses before finally making it to Silver Avenue and Candlestick Point. But, it was worth it. It was another world, bigger than life.
CHANGE - But then things began to crumble a bit much like Candlestick is now doing. It what was the first of what would become a long list of bad Giants trades, Cepeda would be traded for a no-name pitcher named Ray Sedeki, I believe, and Dark would soon make way for Stoneham's friend, Herman Franks, who looked anything like a manager - and didn't win anything either, except a bunch of second place and below finishes, despite the fact that the Giants, at least in our opinion, still had the best players in the league.
HATED DODGERS - The Dodgers would really start picking on the Giants... Maury Wills and company would really get on my nerves. Wills would steal the Giants blind, so much so they would finally resort to watering down the infield on at least one occasion. How could these little guys keep beating our big boys? The addition of Franks as manager, didn't help, in my opinion. In fact, that was the key reason, in my opinion that the Giants didn't get into another playoff situation for years to come, finishing second to the dodgers nearly every year during the rest of the 1960s. I grew tired of 'second fiddle' and when the A's game to my town in 1968 it was definitely time to change allegiance, even with a REALLY despotic owner, one Charles Finley.
BASEBALL THEN AND NOW - But, that was baseball then. It wasn't life or death, though sometimes it seemed that way to this kid. There was always tomorrow or next year. No quick fixes like today, with certain team or teams acquiring known Performance Enchaning Drug (PED) users and suspected ones when the going got tough. I often wonder if the steroid problem grew , at least in part, out of the Giants' failure to win the World Series for 50 years since coming to San Francisco. With a new ATT stadium to fill and a Bondsian payroll the pressure was on... and two decades later and with the help of 23 KNOWN PED users, the Giants finally found a 'system' to win - a system, we're afraid, has now spread around the league, despite recent outgoing baseball commissioner Selig's claim that the game is now clean. Glad I grew up when I did. I wouldn't trade REAL ball for steroid-era baseball even if my team got 'jobbed.' Kids (and adults) today don't seem to care. I just hear a couple local sports commentators criticizing the Giants for not acquiring Nelson Cruz this year. As if the Giants need any more known PED users, having WON THEIR THREE WORLD SERIES WITH THREE KNOWN USERS IN INTRICATE PART OF THOSE TEAMS, namely, ANDRES TORRES, MELKY CABRERA and MICHAEL MORSE (not to mention other likely users who were not caught (in a still weak testing progam which has averaged about four players being caught using PEDs per year).
PROMOTIONS bring in bodies, not true fans. And that's why going to Giants game today is not like it was a Candlestick . Nothing wrong with a few promotions but doing it for every game and charging some (often unknowning tourists) $80 for the same seats others are paying $30 - they call it 'dynamic pricing' - is wrong, just as calling games ' sellouts' when you can walk up to the gate in the fifth inning and still buy a ticket. I miss the old bat days, ball days and double headers . But, mostly, I miss the good old real, honest baseball, not having to guess who's on steroids and who's not, playing on an 'even' field, as it were.
THEN AND NOW - It's true that in the 60s, owners had leverage but I think most players enjoyed staying with one team rather than bouncing around. You didn't have to dump a boatload of money to keep players - and then jack up the prices of tickets and concessions to ridiculous numbers. Even two year contracts were rare back then but today players will sign for five years - and as often as not fail to perform as expected during that time, costing teams a plenty. But, SOME of these teams, like your local heroes, SEEM DESPERATE. Other teams, like the Oakland A's - love them or hate them - don't fall for this stuff, even though they could afford to pay their players more and manage to put interesting and competitive teams on the field every year at a fraction the payroll of the Giants and some other teams. I remember when my boyhood hero, Harmon Killebrew of Minnesota Twins, signed for $40,000 one year contract in 1964 during the peak of his career; that was considered a monster contract at the time. Today, some owners don't think twice about signing an already older player for five years or more for $10 million a year. We figured relief specialist Javier Lopez of the Giants is getting $3,000 every time he makes a single pitch for the Giants based on his recent multi-million dollar contract and the low number of pitches he throws.
1950s/60s LIVE ON
We're glad we grew up in what we call the 'Golden Era,' not just of baseball but most sports and music, movies, cars and most everything. If you're old enough you remember, if you're too young we feel sorry for you but then you can always go to youtube or ebay or your folks and experience again the wonderful history with actual audio and video footage, bringing memories and history back to life. And, of course, we're lucky to still have many of our childhood heroes like Mays and McCovey still with us to help us remember those halycon days.
CANDLESTICK CRUMBLES BUT GREAT MEMORIES STILL LIVE FOR THIS KID OF THE SIXTIES