On the Road: A Smashing Evening in San Jose

To see all posts from my August 4 visit to the San Jose Giants, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).

AUGUST 4 (part two) — San Jose’s Municipal Stadium has hosted a lot of ballgames throughout its 74-year history. I’ve only attended one of them. It was a beautiful evening in August 2016, the Giants were hosting the Stockton Ports, and the game time temperature was 69 degrees.

dsc00060Per usual, I kept me eye out for interesting characters. There had to be some around here somewhere.

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Okay, found one. Gigante spent the early innings mingling with his friends and admirers, who, truth be told, didn’t seem all that excited by his presence.

img_0180Also in attendance was California League president Charlie Blaney, whom I had never crossed paths with before. Charlie was decked out in a California League blazer and a tie featuring the San Jose Giants color scheme (he said that he has a tie for each team in the league). I hereby declare that Charlie Blaney is the best-dressed league president in all of Minor League Baseball. If you’re a league president and disagree with me, then get in touch and make your case. Send photos.
img_2333It wasn’t intentional, but it’s pretty cool that the logos of all the California League teams are visible just above Charlie’s head. He said that, as president, his job was to “keep the small problems small.”

I met with my designated eater shortly after the ballgame started, and these culinary endeavors took place throughout a large chunk of the ballgame. That, of course, will be documented in the next post. As that was going on, and after it ended, I did my best to document and make note of between-inning endeavors.

Among the most ridiculous such endeavor was the nightly “Horse Race,” which was difficult to document properly. In a nutshell, horses (and at least one zebra) pop their heads out from behind the outfield wall and race from left field toward center. In the below photo, the horses can be seen just above the sign reading “Go Horseback Riding.”

How appropriate.

dsc00064An easier concept to convey is the nightly “Beer Batter,” a tradition that is ingrained in Municipal Stadium. The evening’s Beer Batter was the Ports’ Richie Martin, who tripled in the second and popped out in the fourth before coming up to bat in the sixth. Despite the fans’ persistent chant of “BEER! BEER! BEER!” he drew a walk. No free beer would be forthcoming. Thanks for nothing, Richie.

(Someone could build a hip-hop beat over the audio in this Vine.)

The Giants’ “Smash for Cash” promo is one of the coolest I’ve seen, anywhere. A repurposed bread delivery truck is driven out onto the field and parked just beyond first base.

dsc00083Giants players then attempt to smash one of the headlights by throwing a baseball at it. If successful, a cash prize is split with a fan. Usually three players take part (receiving two throws apiece), but on this evening it was two players…and me.

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In the below video, my introduction to the crowd occurs amid a wave of intense booing. I wish I could say that that’s just the sort of reaction I elicit in people, but what happened was that the player who went before me hit one of the headlights. The headlight didn’t shatter, however, it just popped out of its hole like an eye out of a socket. The judges ruled that this didn’t count. For a prize to be awarded, the light had to be shattered.

I didn’t shatter it, either.

I was close, though, on that first throw. I was real, real close.

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“Shucks!”

I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge my friend Jon Fischer, a fellow Wissahickon Class of ’97 alumnus who now lives in San Francisco. He had met me in San Jose earlier in the day, and went on to travel with me to Visalia and then Vegas. He also took a whole bunch of photos while visiting Municipal Stadium, including the ones shown above. He’s a good photographer, and if he’s a good photographer that means he’s a better photographer than me.

img_0179Jon also took this photo, of a fan patiently awaiting to take the field for a between-inning contest. It’s one of my favorite photos of the 2016 season.

dsc00104Might as well stretch out those muscles while for waiting for the action to begin.

dsc00106In the top of the ninth, “Beer Batter” Richie Martin struck out. Since beer sales had concluded, the fans had to settle for free apple juice.

At the time that Martin struck out, the Giants were nursing a 4-3 lead. I went over to the third base side of the ballpark, where I hung out with Giants CMO Juliana Paoli and marketing director Sarah “Queen I’m A Balla” Acosta. We were planning to throw orange balls into the crowd after the Giants won.

img_2375Those orange balls would have to wait. The Ports tied the game, 4-4, in the ninth and the game went into extra innings. I suddenly had time on my hands, and passed it by wandering around and taking random photos. Photos like this one, of Municipal Stadium’s spectacular concourse decorations.

img_2379Who’s up for a marginally clever observation? Anyone? Anyone?

Those orange balls never left the bag. The Ports scored four runs in the top of the 11th, with the go-ahead run driven in by Richie “Beer Batter” Martin. Revenge is sweet.

And thus concluded my time at Municipal Stadium, a facility that is, truly, one of my favorites in all of Minor League Baseball. It is the place where dreams come true.

img_2361Of course, an obsessive-compulsive blogger’s work is never really done. Even though the ballgame had lasted 11 innings, I never came up with a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day. This led to a good half-hour of parking lot angst until, finally, this emerged.

I didn’t say it was a good joke. Only that it emerged. Good night from San Jose.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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