Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Be a Met Fan in San Francisco

The Mets are about to arrive in to San Francisco to take on the Giants, who, from 1883 to 1957, were the New York franchise of the National League.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.  And, again, I should have done this sooner, so that, if you want to see the Mets out there this season, you'll have to fly out tonight or tomorrow morning.  Sorry, but real life intervened.


Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, in particular, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Fortunately, the Giants' ballpark, while right on the Bay, doesn't have the same kind of whacked-out weather as their former home of Candlestick Park.

For this series, sfgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, is predicting good weather: Low 70s in the afternoon, mid-50s at night, and no precipitation.  Granted, weather in the Bay Area can be weird: Mark Twain seemed to predict conditions at Candlestick Park by saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." It's the only city I know of that has football weather during baseball season, and baseball weather during football season.  But the Chronicle seems to be saying the weather will be good.


Getting There. It’s 2,918 miles from Citi Field to AT&T Park.  This is the longest regular roadtrip that either of the New York baseball teams has -- in fact, the only roadtrip in all of MLB that is longer is Seattle to Tampa Bay (or vice versa).  This will remain the case, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to, well, you’re too late for this series. But in the future... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 2C for Folsom Street.  Turn left on Folsom, right on The Embarcadero, bear right on King Street, left on 3rd Street, and left onto Willie Mays Plaza.  The official address for AT&T Park is 24 Willie Mays Plaza, in honor of Mays' uniform number.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:30. That’s 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, 40 minutes, changing buses 5 times, $470 round-trip, station at 200 Folsom Street at Main Street -- 13 blocks from the ballpark) and Amtrak (80 hours, 40 minutes, $332 each way). Flying can be relatively inexpensive if you order enough in advance -- but, as I said, not possible now.

The the closest stop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway line is Montgomery Street, 20 blocks up 2nd Street from the ballpark.  However, the J and N streetcar lines stop outside the park, and the CalTrain terminal is just a block away.

Tickets.  The Giants, still basking in the glow of their 2010 World Championship, are battling it out with their ancient rivals, the Dodgers, for first place in the National League Western Division.  As a result, they are averaging 41,720 fans per home game -- a sellout.  So if you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you may be out of luck.  Again, this guide may help you for next season a lot more than for this season.

Like the Mets, the Giants use "dynamic pricing": The higher the profile of the opponent (and New York is among the highest), the higher the price.  Lower Boxes, if they can be had at all, are listed as $71.  But upper deck seats go no higher than $33.  Left field bleachers are $43, center field are $25, and the "Arcade" seats along that narrow right field barrier separating the field from the Bay are $41 -- and they don't provide quarters for the video games.  (Just kidding: There are no video games, it's not that kind of arcade.)

Going In.  Lots of small boats drop anchor in the section of San Francisco Bay known as McCovey Cove, beyond the right field wall.  This is a reasonable thing to do if you live nearby and own a boat, but if you hardly ever, or never will except for this trip, get to San Francisco, why would you go all the way there to see a game at AT&T Park, and now see a game in AT&T Park?

Most likely, you will enter on King Street/Willie Mays Plaza, at either 2nd street (left field corner) or 3rd street (home plate).  The stadium faces due east, away from San Francisco, so while you won't see the city's impressive skyline, you'll get a spectacular view of the Bay.

Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. The ballpark benefits from this.

The Giants' signature food item, going back to Candlestick, is Gilroy Garlic Fries, available all over the park. They the have regionally-themed California Cookout at 107 and 315, and the Cable Car Bar at 114, 143 and 318.  You can reactivate your New York appetite with Hebrew National hot dogs at 112.  The Giants also get cute: They have a stand just for clam chowder at Section 110, a Chinese stand called Edsel Ford Fong at 118, Japanese at Mashi's Sushi Bistro at 210, a Cognac Bar and Long Taters Baked Potato at 232, and a seafood stand called Crazy Crab'z in center field.

Like Boog Powell in Baltimore, Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Luis Tiant in Boston, Gorman Thomas in Milwaukee and Randy Jones in San Diego, the Giants have a barbecue stand with a legendary player's name on it.  In fact, they have two.  One is Orlando's Caribbean BBQ, at 142 and 315, and the other is McCovey's 44 BBQ, in center field.  Unlike most of those, the star in question does not tend the stand and shake hands with visitors: Orlando Cepeda entrusts the cooking and management to others, while a bad back and countless knee surgeries (seriously: he says he's lost count, but it's at least 12) have confined Willie McCovey to a wheelchair.  He's not unhealthy, but it's difficult for him to get around.  There's also Say Hey! Sausage Specialties, named for Mays' signature expression, at 127 and 320.

Team History Displays.  The Giants do not have their titles on display, but they do have baseball-shaped stanchions with their retired numbers, near the left field corner at the bottom of the upper deck.  From the San Francisco era, these include: Center fielder Mays (24, 1951-72), first basemen-outfielders McCovey (44, 1959-80) and Cepeda (30, 1958-66), pitchers Juan Marichal (27, 1960-73) and Gaylord Perry (36, 1962-71).  From the New York era, they are: Mays, first baseman Bill Terry (3, 1923-36, manager 1932-41), right fielder Mel Ott (4, 1926-45, manager 1941-48), pitcher Carl Hubbell (11, 1928-43), left fielder Monte Irvin (20, 1949-55), and two figures from the pre-uniform number era, whose "retired numbers" are the letters "NY" for "New York": Manager John McGraw (1902-32) and pitcher Christy Mathewson (1900-16).  All of these are Hall-of-Famers.  The Number 25 worn by father and son, Bobby Bonds (right field, 1969-74) and Barry Bonds (left field, 1993-2007), has been removed from circulation, but not retired.

McGraw, Mathewson, right fielder Ross Youngs (1917-26) and infielder Eddie Grant (1913-15), who was killed in combat in World War I, were honored with plaques or, in Grant's case, a monument on the field at the Polo Grounds.  Also so honored were a pair of football Giants killed in World War II, Al Blozis and Jack Lummus; and State Senator and Mayor Jimmy "Beau James" Walker.  (Why him? Well, he was deeply involved with New York sports, and was a friend of both McGraw and Babe Ruth; supposedly, it was a scolding from Walker at a postseason banquet in 1922 that got Ruth to curtail his carousing and get in shape, leading to the Yankees winning the 1923 World Series.  So if you're a Met fan, that's a better reason to hate Walker than his corruption and womanizing.)

After the last Giants game at the Polo Grounds, the plaque on Grant's monument was removed.  A photo taken of four Mets before their first game at the old stadium, shows the marble slab, but no plaque on it.  It's not certain what happened to the plaque; the most notable claim to it has been debunked.  Some people thought the Giants were under "The Curse of Captain Eddie," saying that, as long as Grant's plaque was not restored at the Giants' ballpark, they would not win another World Series.  A replica was put up at AT&T Park in 2006, and the Giants finally won their first post-New York World Series in 2010.  Make of that what you will.

Outside the King Street/Willie Mays Plaza (3rd base) side of the park are plaques honoring the members of the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame.  It includes:

* Infielders: Jim Davenport, Jim Ray Hart, Johnnie LeMaster, Jack Clark, Chris Speier, Darrell Evans, Will Clark (no relation to Jack), Robby Thompson, Matt Williams, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Rich Aurilia.

* Outfielders: Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, both Bonds, Felipe Alou, Tito Fuentes, Jeffrey Leonard, Chili Davis, Kevin Mitchell and Marvin Benard.

* Catchers: Tom Haller, Dick Dietz, Bob Brenly and Kurt Manwaring.

* Pitchers: Marichal, Perry, Mike McCormick, Bobby Bolin, Stu Miller, Vida Blue (better known from across the Bay in Oakland), John Montefusco, Randy Moffitt (tennis legend Billie Jean King's brother), Greg Minton, Mike Krukow (now a broadcaster), Gary Lavelle, Jim Barr, Atlee Hammaker, Rick Reuschel, Rod Beck, Scott Garrelts, Jeff Brantley, Robb Nen, John Burkett, Kirk Reuter, Shawn Estes and Jason Schmidt.

There are five statues outside the park: Mays', at the front entrance; McCovey's, in the right field corner by the Cove; Cepeda's, at the corner of 2nd & King; Marichal's, at the Lefty O'Doul Gate at the right field corner; and one of a seal, in center field, honoring the former Pacific Coast League team, the San Francisco Seals.

The gate is named for Francis Joseph O'Doul, a San Francisco native who played with the Seals as a pitcher, but couldn't make it in the majors, pitching for the Yankees from 1919 to 1922 and the Red Sox in 1923, before heading back to the minors and reinventing himself as an outfielder.  He came back to the majors with the Giants in 1928, then starred with the Phillies, Dodgers, and back with the Giants, whom he helped win the 1933 World Series.  He won 2 batting titles, and played in the first All-Star Game in 1933.  His lifetime batting average is a smoking .349.  From 1937 to 1951, he managed the Seals, winning 4 straight Pennants, 1943-46.  In spite of his achievements, he has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York -- he should be.  He opened Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, which I will describe in "After the Game," one of the all-time greatest sports bars & restaurants.  Legend has it that O'Doul invented -- no, not non-alcoholic beer -- the Bloody Mary.  (This is almost certainly untrue.) A bridge near AT&T Park is named the Lefty O'Doul Bridge.

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including AT&T Park.  The ones honored there, on the walls of the Park's concourse, are: Mays, Marichal, McCovey, Cepeda and Blue -- even though Blue is better known with the A's.  This is flipped, as Frank Robinson and Bill Rigney, both of whom managed the Giants in San Francisco -- Robinson, the first black manager in each league, becoming so with the Giants; and Rigney, the manager at the time of the move -- were Oakland natives and are thus honored with plaques at the Oakland Coliseum.  Will Clark's plaque is at San Francisco International Airport.  Perry has been elected, but no plaque has yet been dedicated.

Stuff. The Giants have team stores at Willie Mays Plaza, at the Marina Gate at center field, and at Sections 28, 134 and 315.  They also have several Dugout Stores: At AT&T Park, at the Embarcadero, at Union Square, in Palo Alto, and in a few other places.

Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history even if you only count the San Francisco years, the  Giants have had several books written about them, although they don’t always put the team in a good light.

Giant broadcasters Andrew Baggerly and Duane Kuiper (you may remember him as a weak-hitting second baseman for the Giants and Cleveland Indians) wrote A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants.  Brian Murphy wrote a Golden Anniversary tribute, San Francisco Giants: 50 Years, in 2008.  Speaking of 50th anniversaries, the team's first Pennant in the Bay Area came 50 years ago, and there are 2 terrific books that detail the 1962 Giant-Dodger Pennant race, culminating in a Playoff that echoed the one across the country in 1951: Chasing October by David Plaut, and A Tale of Three Cities: The 1962 Baseball Season in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco by Steven Travers.  This book is also recommended for Met fans wanting to understand their team's beginnings.  (If you don't want to understand them, that's understandable.)

I have often remarked that, for fans who aren't old enough to remember it, the New York era of the Giants revolves around 2 games: Game 3 of the 1951 NL Playoff against the Dodgers, and Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.  In other words, we think of the New York Giants as having just 3 moments: Bobby Thomson's home run, Willie Mays' catch, and (if even this) Dusty Rhodes; walkoff pinch-hit homer.

The reason for this is twofold: The Giants' great moments before that seemed to stop with the 1937 Pennant (the 3rd they won in 5-year stretch), and you rarely see moments from before the Baby Boom era on television (except maybe on PBS and the History Channel); and no one ever wrote a Boys of Summer for the 1950s New York Giants, the way Roger Kahn did for the final years of the Brooklyn period of the Dodgers.  The Kahn Dodger book came out in 1972, as those Dodgers were in their late 40s and early 50s, and starting to die (within a year of its publication, both Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson would fall to heart attacks).

There have been some good books about Willie Mays, and Leo Durocher published his self-serving if fascinating memoir Nice Guys Finish Last in 1975, but nobody published a loving, Kahnesque memoir about them.  And it's not like there weren't candidates: George Plimpton was a Giant fan, and so was Roger Angell, who has written beautifully about baseball, including a heartrending essay on the final Giants game at the Polo Grounds.  The best book about the New York Giants is The Giants of the Polo Grounds, by Noel Hynd -- and that didn't come out until 1988; by that point, the team had been gone for 30 years, most of the big names of the club were either approaching or past age 60 (or dead), and the Dodgers had "won the historical argument": No matter how good the 1951-54 Giants were, they were doomed, by the Yankee's dynastic achievements, the fawning over the 1941-56 Dodgers, and the historical significance of the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson, to be New York's 3rd team, even though they were the 1st team almost continuously from 1902 to 1937.  But I do recommend the Hynd book, if only to see just how good these guys were.

The Giants have a DVD collection for their 2010 World Championships, and just released a DVD of Matt Cain's recent perfect game.  They also have a DVD of the official highlight film of the one World Series they won between 1943 (the start of official World Series highlight films) and 2010: 1954, the one sparked by Game 1, with Mays' catch and Dusty Rhodes' walkoff pinch-hit homer.  As yet, there is Essential Games of the San Francisco Giants or Essential Games of Candlestick Park (or AT&T Park) DVD collection.

During the Game.  Giant fans have a rough reputation.  This is mainly due to the Pacific Coast's largest media center being Los Angeles, and full of Dodger fans, who hate the Giants.  Giant fans don't particularly like the Mets, but you're not Dodger fans.  Don't provoke them, and they almost certainly will not fight you.

The Barry Bonds era is over.  The cloud that hung over the facility that was born as Pacific Bell Park in 2000, became SBC Park and now AT&T Park -- the one that made Giant fans say, "We know he's cheating, but he's OUR cheat, and we have to defend him" -- is gone.  They happy-go-lucky team of 2010 totally changed the atmosphere.  No longer are they a franchise whose biggest active star is a suspected crook.  No longer are they a franchise that has never won a World Championship in its current city.  No longer are they a fan base that has to be jealous of the more successful (at least, in total) franchise across the Bay.  And no longer does the evil spirit of Candlestick infect them.  They are now survivors of what they call "torture" (which is different from Dick Cheney's definition -- or Keith Olbermann's).  If not quite the hippies that San Francisco became known for in the 1960s -- or the beatniks of the 1950s -- they do have the leftover cool that those groups gave the city.

Although the Raiders fans who show up for home games like to wear costumes ranging from biker gangs to sci-fi film villains – a guy in a Darth Vader mask was a regular in the Jimmy Carter years – and have been known to be the closest thing North American sports has to English-style football hooligans, you’ll probably be safe. Wearing Yankee gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. True, A’s fans hate the Yankees, but you’ll probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.

In 1984, the Giants used to have a weird-looking thing called the Crazy Crab, and it was perhaps the most hated mascot in baseball history.  It was abandoned after a year, and they wanted until 1997 to establish another mascot, Lou Seal (based on "Lucille," B.B. King's guitar, and the old San Francisco Seals).  Lou has proved much more popular.

The Giants don't have a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch, but in the middle of the 8th, they play "Lights" by Journey, and occasionally play that band's most famous song, "Don't Stop Believin'" -- lead singer Steve Perry is a big Giant fan, and was invited to participate in their 2010 World Series victory parade.

After the Game.  AT&T Park is in the China Basin section of town, and should be safe.  There are plenty of places in San Francisco to get a postgame meal, or even just a pint.  The aforementioned Lefty O'Doul's is at 333 Geary Street, corner of Powell Street, just 3 blocks from the Powell Street BART station and right on a cable car line.

There are two bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender; but if you're a fan of the football Giants, it's the home port of NFL Giants fans in the Bay Area. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout.

Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Giants' park:

* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season; they also won 7 Pennants before the park opened, between 1909 and 1928). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store. Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.

* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.

The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 5 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.

The Giants got out, and the 49ers are looking to do the same, having broken ground for a new stadium outside San Jose, hoping to open for the 2014 season. In the meantime, they’re still playing at Candlestick. Best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.


* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat, and by his managing of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers to a Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.

Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.

* Oakland Coliseum complex.  The Raiders played at the Coliseum from 1966 to 1981, and again since 1995.  The A's have played there since 1968, although they are looking to get out.  The Warriors have played most of their home games since 1971 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.  You don't have to know what those buildings are called now; they're "the Coliseum" and "the Coliseum Arena."

It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972. It’s also worth noting that the Warriors have put together a plan to leave the Arena and move into a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront, 4 blocks from the Giants’ ballpark, for the 2017-18 season, 47 years after they last played on that side of the Bay. It’ s just as well: The Warriors are one of the most underachieving franchises in professional sports. Despite great support from a metro area that loves its basketball, they’ve won only 1 NBA Title since leaving Philadelphia half a century ago, pulling off a famous upset of the Washington Bullets in 1975; and haven’t even reached the Conference Finals since then – and only did so twice before that, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to their Philly successors, the 76ers, in 1967.  Coliseum stop on BART.


* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.

The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.

* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans. It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.

* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center.) The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)

Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to ’71, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 1991 to ’93 until their current arena could open, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.

The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957.

* HP Pavilion at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.

* New 49ers stadium. They’ve already broken ground at 4701 Great America Parkway at Old Glory Lane in Santa Clara, next to California’s Great America park, outside San Jose. They’re hoping to open it for the 2014 season. ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara. * Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.) It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street. Caltrain to Palo Alto.

* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University is renovating the stadium, making it ready for 63,000 fans this fall. In the meantime, Cal shared AT&T Park with the baseball Giants. The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART. (Remember, until the fall, it’s still being renovated, so it could be messy.)

The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.

San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.

Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the City By the Bay.  Even if you don't accept the connection with the former New York franchise of the National League.

2 comments:

John said...

Transplanted Mets fan living in SF, and I'll be there tonight. To second what you have above, Giants fans aren't exactly the most pleasant folks to be around. You're right. Staying quiet won't get you hit. But unfortunately, it doesn't mean you won't be heckled. Sitting in silence still earns you at least 15 minutes of heckling. Odd to see from a fan base that has won next-to-nothing in their time on the west coast.

Uncle Mike said...

Not that I like invoking the rancid ghost of John Rocker, so I'll twist his words a little: How many times does a team have to fail before their fans shut up? But now that they HAVE won a title out there, it may be a while. They're still classier about it than Red Sox fans, though -- and you may also think so about the Phillies.