”…and the home of the braaaaavvvve!”
With the conclusion of the National Anthem, the stadium erupted in a thunderous roar. Eric, not wanting to be left out, took this opportunity to let out a few hoops and hollers of his own.
A couple of minutes later the lanky left-handed Giants pitcher flung a 92 mph fastball across home plate for a called strike. The first pitch was in the record books and this ball game was under way.
The Rockies managed to get runners on first and third with only one out, but the next batter hit a grounder to the second baseman who scooped it up and flipped it to the shortstop. He in turn, stepped on the bag at second and gunned it over to first and completed a double play to end the inning. The crowd quickly jumped to their feet and cheered on the home team.
As the Rockies right-hander was taking his warm-up pitches, Roger spotted a vendor making his way down the steps shouting, “Peanuts! Fresh roasted peanuts here!”
Knowing no ball game was complete without them, Roger motioned to the gentleman that he’d take a couple of bags. A few minutes later, as the Giants' second baseman stepped into the batters box, another vendor came by peddling, “Ice cold sodas! Bottled waters!”
Roger thought, ”That’s pretty smart, send the guy by with the salty snacks, then wait a little bit and let another follow in his trail with cold beverages.”
Whether or not it was a deliberate marketing ploy, it worked just the same. Two cokes, a water and several dollars later, along with their bags of peanuts, the Whitaker family was now ready for the next several innings.
The next pitch was a slider that was hit sharply toward the third baseman. Catching it off of one hop, he easily threw out the player at first. The next two batters struck out and hit a fly ball to right respectively, and this meant the fans would have to wait until the second inning to see the all time home run leader make his first appearance at the plate.
The top of the second went by with very little action and Gail suggested Roger take Eric to the restroom before things got more interesting. Eric assured them that he was ok, but once they got to the men’s room he discovered they were right after all.
It was the bottom of the second and the next guy to step up to home plate needed no introduction. His name was in the papers almost constantly, and love him or hate him, he was still the guy who had hit more home runs than any other player in the history of the game.
Eric didn’t understand or even know for that matter, any of the controversy surrounding this man. All he knew was he was thrilled to death to see him in real life and with his own eyes.
The first pitch was low and outside. The umpire signalled ball, and the crowd immediately showered boos in the direction of the opposing pitcher. As far as they were concerned, every pitch to their coveted left fielder should be a fastball right down the middle of the plate so he could crank another one out of the park.
Unfortunately everyone, including Eric, would have to wait for another at bat to see if this would happen, because three strikes later he was headed back to the dugout adding another strikeout to his growing total.
The inning wasn’t a complete disappointment though, by the time the third out had been recorded, the Giants had scored one run on a sacrifice fly that brought the runner home from third.
“What do you think so far?” Gail asked her son.
“This is awesome!” he replied, “Are we gonna get to do this again?”
“Oh, I’m sure we will honey.”
There was an older gentleman, a Rockies fan, sitting in the row behind the Whitaker's who was enjoying some friendly banter with Eric. He playfully teased with the young boy saying, “I sure hope you don’t get to upset when my team wins.”
Eric, being pretty quick with a come back, responded by saying, “They’re not gonna win, the Giants are gonna smoke them like a sausage!”
His comment made the guy roll with laughter as did it Eric’s parents, and this type of jabbing would continue throughout the game, as each of their teams would do something noteworthy.
About the fourth inning, Gail looked over at Roger and said, “Can you believe what a gorgeous day it turned out to be?”
“It sure beats some of those cold, windy days I remember at Candlestick,” he replied.
“What’s a candlestick?” asked Eric.
“That’s the name, or at least it used to be the name, of the place where the Giants played baseball when I was your age,” his dad told him, “It’s where the 49ers play football.”
Eric nodded in agreement, and then asked, “Why’s it called Candlestick?”
“I don’t know,” Roger said, “if I recall right, it had something to do with a type of bird or something.”
That was good enough for his son. ”If that’s what dad says it is, it must be true.” Eric thought.
Looking up towards the outfield Eric asked his father, “Are those candlestick birds dad?”
Fighting back the urge to laugh, Roger refrained from embarrassing his boy and simply said, “No son, those are seagulls.”
to be continued