On the Road: Signs of 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).

Generally speaking, almost all Minor League Baseball stadiums could be described as a “riot of sound and color.” But very few stadiums have these traits as hardwired into its DNA as does San Jose’s Municipal Stadium. I was immediately enamored with the place, even before stepping inside.

img_2311Municipal Stadium, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, first opened in 1942. 2017 will mark the stadium’s 75th anniversary as well as the 30th consecutive season in which the team has been a Giants affiliate. There is a lot of history here, and history goes hand-in-hand with personality.

Upon entering the stadium and taking in the cramped, colorful, chaotic concourse, I was reminded of Reading’s FirstEnergy Park (home of the Reading Fightin Phils). Municipal Stadium is the West Coast equivalent — an old stadium that presents many operating challenges, but which has been well-supported by fans and kept vital and vibrant by the dedication of the front office.

img_0141Perhaps no man was more responsible for Municipal Stadium’s aesthetic than Tony Lima, the Giants’ sign and mural painter. Lima — whom the local Mercury News once called “the Michelangelo of Municipal Stadium” — passed away in 2012 at the age of 70.

dsc09948This window is popular.

dsc09950Painted pennants from Minor League teams past and present adorn the concourse walls.

img_0162 This mural pays tribute to 3′ 7″ Eddie Gaedel and his lone Major League appearance.

img_0166San Jose alumni, of which there are many, are celebrated in myriad ways.

img_2314Please excuse the glare: In this bit of restroom signage, Tommy Lasorda is quoted as saying “If Mike Scioscia raced his pregnant wife he’d finish third.”

img_2318A pay phone used to be behind this door, thus this Superman-themed mural. This room is now an office, and I am unsure if Clark Kent still uses it as a changing area.

img_0140It was a lot to take in then, and it’s a lot to make sense of as I write this now. My friend Jon Fischer, a resident of (relatively) nearby San Francisco, joined me for this leg of the trip and took many photos of his own. Some of these photos depicted me in action, such as this one of me alongside media relations coordinator Matt Alongi (because you can’t spell “alongside” without “Alongi”). I’m sure that whatever it was that I was writing was very important.

dsc09936In the above photo, you’ll notice a door. This door opens into the office of Giants CMO Juliana Paoli.

You might think that an office located within a cramped concourse of a 70-something year-old stadium would leave something to be desired, but if you thought that then you thought wrong. Juliana has made the most of her surroundings.
img_2313You might be able to see that Juliana is wearing a very large ring on her right hand. That’s a 2014 Giants World Series ring, which the organization distributed to individuals throughout the farm system. She let me try it on.

dsc09945

Juliana said that the San Jose Giants’ are walking a fine line, in that they “need to stay up-to-date while keeping the historical charm.” Evidence of this effort is everywhere, as the team tries to utilize every inch of available space while appealing to longtime fans as well as the influx of new residents working tech-related jobs in Silicon Valley. (On the night I was in attendance, the Giants were hosting large group outings for both eBay and Yahoo.)

“Gigante’s Alley,” named for the Giants’ mascot, is on the third base side of the ballpark. We’ll return here in a future post.

img_0143

The Dugout Store is also located along this pathway. The pig, named “Pigante,” previously resided with the San Francisco Giants.

img_0157 The Giants had a lot of success this season with their team-logo San Jose Fire Department hats. The fire fighters wear them frequently, but not when fighting fires.

img_0148It has been speculated that the “Beer Batter” phenomenon originated in San Jose. You’re probably familiar with the concept — a hitter in the visiting team’s starting line-up is declared before the game to be the “Beer Batter,” and if he strikes out then fans can get a free beer. In San Jose, if the Beer Batter strikes out after the seventh inning, then fans get a complimentary Martinelli’s apple juice. The fans are known to chant “Juice! Juice! Juice!” in anticipation of this scenario.

img_0150Some fans are here for the Beer Batter. Others are here for the churros. There will be more churro documentation in an upcoming post.

img_0149I had never seen these New Era “reflective technology” hats before.

In the dark:

img_2315

In the light:

img_2316But the biggest Municipal Stadium attraction is Turkey Mike’s BBQ. That will also be covered in detail in a forthcoming post. In the meantime please enjoy the (not very) reassuring statistical comparison noted in the sign below.

dsc09965After all this time, I still hadn’t seen the field. And then I saw it.

img_0167

img_2321The field, as it turns out, is a beautiful place to be.

img_2325We had already spent time wandering Gigante’s Alley, but here was Gigante himself.

img_2323I threw out a ceremonial first pitch, as I am wont to do. The ball crossed the plate on the fly — I circled it in red — and you know what that is in my book? A perfect strike!

strike

I didn’t act like it, though. As is often the case with me, life events in retrospect seem far more positive than they did in the moment.

img_0173I posed for a lot of post-ceremonial first pitch pictures this season, and never did I look like more of a weirdo than in this one.

img_0174Through my travels, I have often seen young fans recruited to clean the plate before a game. The Giants have gone a different direction, partnering with a local exterminator. The plate is bug-free now. This girl killed all the bugs.

img_0170 Next, a local radio DJ (and surely the coolest man in San Jose) played a great Hendrix-style rendition of the National Anthem.

img_0176What is there to do now but…well, you know.

See you on the flip side.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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