California, preaching on the burning shoreJihn Barlow & Robert Hall Weir 1
California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light
Rising up to paradise, I know I’m gonna shine.
Go West Young Man
Part two of my “Go West Young Man” saga was my weekend trip to San Francisco and Oakland. My faithful readers will recall that this journey started with my short visit to Seattle on Friday, September 13th. When I left Rochester for Seattle the night before, I was in an indifferent mood. I didn’t want to go, as I was tired of the travel.
Moreover, I also doubted if the trip was a good idea in the first place. I mean, what was I thinking when I decided to make this ambitious, all consuming, thousands of miles trip? However, I had a great Friday in Seattle. My fun walks through the city, and a visit to T-Mobile Park helped me rediscover my traveling, baseball groove.
In my groove, yes, but still searching for meaning. Why, why, why am I drifting around the country? What am I running from, and what am I running to? What’s in my future?
I was on my way to San Francisco’s Oracle Park, one of my favorites. Oracle is on the bay, and its scenic setting provides fans with beautiful views and a cool breeze off the water. I always enjoy going back there.
After Oracle, my itinerary took me to Oakland Alameda Coliseum, the last of the ballparks I had never visited. After seeing the A’s play on television so many times, I wanted to experience their home field in person.
I was also traveling back to the city that had not always been kind. It was the last place I worked before my exile into baseball’s oblivion.
Inconsistent San Francisco
I didn’t just leave my heart in San Francisco.
My First Visit to Oracle Park
My first visit to the then-named Pac-Bell Park was around 2003. At the time, I worked with a sorry little consultancy based in Westlake, Ohio, just west of Cleveland. The company branded itself as consultants with advanced skills in analytics and focused on retail. To hear the owners talk, you would think we were “the smartest guys in the room.” We weren’t. Smart maybe, but the owners over promoted our skills.
That summer, I was asked to replace a fired employee at two conferences where he had agreed to speak. Since one was in San Francisco, I was able to visit Pac-Bell (now Oracle) Park for the first time.
I wasn’t the first and certainly not the last to be amazed by the park with its beautiful setting on the water. I remember spending a glorious day in the sun. My Club Level seat was high enough, so I had a beautiful view of the bay. The highlight of the day was seeing Barry Bonds hit a home run that seemed like a laser beam flying off his bat. The ball shot off his bat, traveled in a straight, ascending line, and slammed into the seats in center field.
It was a pleasant, innocent day before it was clear that Barry’s PEDs fueled his dominance and he became an anathema. The opposite of all I hold dear.
San Francisco – Personal Wins and Losses
I had a great time on Saturday and on Sunday I enjoyed a drive up to Napa. However, Monday’s presentation was flat and likely not appropriate for the audience. My talk was one of my first conference presentations in my career, and I made the mistake of not understanding the audience. What were their interests? Why were they at the conference? What did they need to hear? It’s essential to know the audience, and I didn’t.
The conference was not my first bad professional experience in San Francisco. Years earlier, when I worked in retail, I helped open a shoe department in what is now the Westfield San Francisco Centre. Although I helped do the prep work, I was not selected to be a member of the team that got to stay for the grand opening. I’ve always considered this exclusion a personal failure.
On the other hand, I was successful at Dreamforce, the tech conference organized by SalesForce. The event is held at the Moscone center and advertised as the largest tech conference in the world. In 2016, I managed an application developed for use on the Salesforce platform. We publicized the release at Dreamforce, and I gave several presentations that were well received. I’ve always considered the experience a win.
Finally, my most recent San Francisco work experience were the visits I made to my company’s downtown location on Bush Street. My teammates made weekly trips from our Redwood City location into the city to meet with engineers and developers who worked there. I joined them when I was in town. I thought the experience was positive, but I no longer work there, so maybe it wasn’t.
Thus, my walks through San Francisco’s streets that weekend brought back memories, both good and bad.
Two Days at Oracle Park
I walked the 1.5 miles to Oracle Park on both days that weekend. The walk took me from my hotel on Post Street, down the hill past Union Square to 3rd street. I’d make a right turn on 3rd street and walk down to the park.
However, if I walked a few more blocks past 3rd street, I’d be at the old Bush Street office. Close enough to remember visiting it and meeting people at the nearby Starbucks. As I walked south on 3rd, I crossed Market Street. Just a few blocks from the Westfield San Francisco Centre, where I helped open the shoe department. Further down 3rd, I passed the Moscone Centre and remembered my Dreamforce experience.
The memories haunted me. I was walking through my past, knowing that for better or worse, the results didn’t matter. What’s done is done, and I was now a different person — just a newly retired nomad walking to a ballgame with his cameras on his back.
Willie Mays Plaza
My walk took me to Willie Mays Plaza at the corner of 3rd and King Street. I arrived a couple of hours before game time when people were starting to line up to enter the park. Each day, I’d walk by the statue of Willie Mays and head up 3rd Street as I had more to see and experience.
Willie’s statue dominates the Plaza. It depicts Willie just after hitting a long drive. He’s looking up, watching the ball fly. The statue shows his classic follow-through with his weight out on his front leg, in a bit of a crouch. His swing was different from earlier players like Babe Ruth. For example, the Babe swung through the ball, twisting his upper body around a fulcrum he created with his legs closer together. He finished more upright.
I always stop and admire the statue. Willie is a favorite of mine. I like and appreciate Hank Aaron, but Willie was my guy. Many still consider Willie the best who ever played the game. However, his hitting accomplishments tend to be overshadowed by Aaron, who hit almost 90 more home runs in his career. I won’t argue the point, but Willie played in Candlestick Park, which was a terrible place to hit. On the other hand, others will say that Willie’s defensive skills overshadow Hank’s defensive capabilities in fans’ memories. Babe’s swing was the model for most power hitters before Willie, Hank and others came along.
Juan Marichal Statue and the Lefty O’Doul Plaza
As I continue up 3rd street, I approach the Lefty O’Doul Plaza and Gate. It’s easy to appreciate the Giants’ devotion to their long history in New York and San Francisco.
There is a painted wall in the Plaza with the team’s significant accomplishments, including their world championships. The Giants won their first championship in 1905 and their last 109 years later in 2014. The wall includes individual achievements like Hall of Fame inductees, Most Valuable Player, Silver Slugger, and Cy Young Award winners as well.
In front of the plaza is a statue of Juan Marichal mid windup with his iconic high leg kick, ready to fire the ball. Marichal brought a certain flair to the game, as did so many Hispanic ballplayers in the 1960s.
Willie McCovey Cove and the Marina Gate
Just past the Marichal statue is Willie McCovey Cove. If you continue on 3rd Street, you cross the small Lefty O’Doul Bridge that spans the Mission Creek Channel. People park and tailgate on the other side of the bridge.
On Saturday, I made a left turn before the bridge and walked up the promenade with the water on my right and stadium on my left. Although I’d been on the promenade many times, I’d never walked to the end and wanted to give it a try. As I walked, I noticed the statue of McCovey across the Cove at the end of the point. I thought that was a bit odd. Why not put the statue near the park. I decided to get to the park early on Sunday to explore that side of the Cove and take pictures of it.
At the end of the promenade is the Marina Gate, with boats docked across a short walkway from the entrance. Not surprisingly, the Gate is not as popular as the one in Willie Mays Plaza. I can’t see why it would be since the Plaza gate is so much more convenient. However, it is quite pretty and unique. No other park is close to a working marina. Also, San Francisco Bay is beautiful; from that spot, I could see the bay bridge and ships going by.
I entered the park through the Marina Gate and walked through a short, windy tunnel into the park. There are food concessions inside the tunnel, and it opens onto a working garden behind centerfield. The garden supports two food concessions, The Hearth Table and Garden Table. Of course, there is also a bar.
Hot Dog Challenge Continues
I bought a grilled dog with some slaw, and brown mustard at the concession stand behind the Marina Gate. Frankly, the dog was okay, with a crispy char, good bun, good taste, but it was similar to many at other parks. I rank it somewhere in the middle of the pack of ballpark dogs.
China Basin Park & The Wille McCovey Statue
On Sunday, I walked across the bridge to the other side of the Cove. Taking a left turn, I made my way up the path in China Basin Park. At the end of the trail is the statue of Willie McCovey.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought it was surprising that the statue is across the Cove and away from the ballpark. Many fans, except for those who park and tailgate nearby, don’t have an easy opportunity to see it. Frankly, I don’t think I realized that it was there until this visit.
Once I walked closer to the statue, I realized that it is uniquely situated. From one perspective, the boats docked in the Marina frame the figure, and from another angle, the ballpark makes an excellent backdrop.
Inside the Park
Walking through the ballpark, I passed a cable car and a Ghirardelli chocolate stand. In leftfield, there is the kids’ play area with a slide built into an oversized baseball glove and another in a coke bottle. Upstairs there are Lego statues of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.
I was surprised how narrow the park’s corridors were as I found an escalator to the third level. It seemed much more crowded than many parks. Yankee, Citi, and especially Petco in San Diego are wider.
The third level is called the “View Level” for obvious reasons. The view of the bay is phenomenal from these seats. You can see the Bay Bridge on your left and barges slowly moving through the bay. Also, a ferry brings people across the bay to the game. It’s a great place to enjoy the game.
On Saturday night, Madison Bumgarner faced the Marlins Robert Dugger in a great pitching duel. Bumgarner threw just 66 pitches to get through six innings and only gave up two hits. Dugger threw 85 pitches in six innings and gave up three hits.
The scoring started in the seventh inning. Florida’s Jorge Alfaro slammed a Bumgarner curveball 473 feet for a two-run home run. The Giants tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Donovan Solano hit a two-run triple off relief pitcher Brian Moran. Solano had just entered the game and his triple obviously deflated the Marlins. However, the Marlins came back and scored two runs in the top of the eight and won the ballgame.
Sunday’s afternoon game was also exciting. The Giants went ahead in the third on a Mauricio Dubon homer with no one on base. The Marlins tied the score in the top of the seventh. Then Marlins pitcher Ryne Stanek threw a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth, and Mike Yastrzemski scored the winning run.
Yes, Mike is Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson. The Giants were headed to Boston for their next series in Boston, where it turned out, Carl threw out the first pitch to Mike. Later, Carl watched Mike hit a ball out of Fenway. The game went 15 innings, but it was one I’d have like to have seen.
And The Moon Rose
So I looked at the sceneryPaul Simon 2
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field
Around the seventh inning on Saturday, a bright red moon rose over the bay and was projected on the scoreboard. I guess there are many definitions of heaven; this view is one of mine.
Monday, I continued my search in Oakland.