What’s in a ballpark’s name?

We knew this day was coming, San Francisco Giants fans. So why all the fuss?

Last week, the team announced Oracle is the new title sponsor of their ballpark they’ve called home since the 2000 season, replacing the variously-named phone companies that have put their name on the stadium in a 20-year deal worth at least $200 million, per Bloomberg.

For all three parties, it’s business. The Giants get some cash, AT&T gets to readjust its focus elsewhere as desired and Oracle gets back some of the attention it’ll lose starting in the fall when the Warriors move across the Bay to the Chase Center.

Yet to some fans, after reading some of the posts on social media, you want to step outside for a few minutes just to confirm the sky has not fallen down.

To wit, or perhaps lack of wit: “Why can’t they still call it AT&T? Does Oracle have to have its name on everything? Can’t they just call it Willie Mays Field? Or Willie McCovey Park? Or Felipe Crespo Stadium?”

People, please.

The deal with AT&T. which already sponsors sporting venues in San Antonio and Arlington, Texas, was slated to end after this coming season. So there’s that.

Oracle isn’t spending millions to not put its name on the yard.

And the Giants? Hey, maybe they’ll finally do more than pick up players off the waiver wire or Rule 5 draft or re-sign players from a team that hasn’t gotten the job done the last two years.

The fans? Get used to it.        

The days of a stadium going by one name, such as Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, are long gone in today’s anything-for-a-buck sports culture.

Even venerable Wrigley Field has not been immune from this, opening in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. It became Cubs Park in 1920 before the Wrigleys put their name on in in 1927.

And while San Francisco fans have seen Pac Bell Park morph into SBC Park, then AT&T Park, it’s been a gentle ride compared to other cities.

Fans in Miami first went to games at Joe Robbie Stadium when the Marlins came to be in 1993, only to see the name change to Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and Sun Life Stadium before fleeing for Marlins Park in 2012. But that did not stop the latest change, to Hard Rock Stadium, in August 2016.

And while the name is new, the things we’ll always remember about the yard are still there: Three World Series titles, an All-Star Game, balls taking crazy bounces off the arches in right field, a game to remember by Matt Cain, a historic hitting display by Pablo Sandoval, and all the balls hit into McCovey Cove, to name a few.

Let’s just hope this history does not include the Raiders in their lame duck season in the Bay area.


We have met the victims, and they are us

I have a friend who has the American Dream. A loving wife, three young girls and a home.

Just one problem: Not only does he work for the U.S. government, his job is one declared to be essential, so he must keep working, even though he’s not getting paid.

How will they buy groceries, clothes, gas and keep up mortgage payments with no income as the Trump Shutdown enters Week Three?

All over a wall that most people agree is not needed, will be ineffective and a colossal waste of taxpayer money – and isn’t Mexico supposed to be paying for all this? And why do they need more money when they’ve only spent six percent of the money they were allocated last budget cycle?

Except for a handful of folks, but they’re very important people: President Trump and his trusted advisers, er, media pundits.

And now not only is the president saying this silly showdown may continue for months, perhaps years, he’s also threatened to declare a national emergency to force construction to begin.

But it’s not only my friend and his family – and all federal workers forced to the sidelines – that this affects.

There’s the retail workers who will be getting less hours since fewer people are buying things. Manufacturers will produce fewer items since they aren’t in demand. Fewer things used to make the products are going to be made.

All this over a wall.

To slightly rewrite the late Walt Kelly of “Pogo” fame, we have met the victims, and they are us.

The people affected by this most, the federal workers who have become pawns in another round of high-stakes chess, Washington style, should be our focus, not the usual political taffy pull.

Could we use stronger borders? Of course. But why not frame the argument in that context, rather than a wall, which, on top of all the things cited above, will run into infinite legal challenges that will cost the Mexicans, er, U.S. taxpayers even more.

Enough of this ego-driven vicious cycle already.

It’s bye-bye, “Baby”

In a week that’s seen the country bury a beloved President and, perhaps, tighten the noose around a not-so-beloved one, we see one of the nation’s major news outlets come to the defense of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Seems that Fox News Channel, in another round of fighting a War on Christmas that was never declared, has devoted considerable time to radio stations removing the song from the MGM film “Neptune’s Daughter” from their playlists. The song won the Oscar in 1949 for best original song.
In case you’ve missed it – and if you have with so much important news taking place this week, it’s easy to see how one would – here’s the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFJ7ie_yGU
According to NPR, Cleveland’s WDOK-FM, also know as Star 102, which, like many radio stations adopts a format heavy on holiday songs this time of year, removed “Baby” from the playlist, citing concerns over implications of date rape in the era of the #MeToo movement.
San Francisco’s KOIT soon followed suit but has since started a poll of listeners asking if the song should be reinstated.
In viewing the clip above and having heard the song – several times – on the music service pumped into my workplace, the question arises: What the heck does it have to do with the Christmas season, except talking about how cold it is?
No talk about celebrating the birth of Christ. No talk of Santa’s arrival. Just that it may not be a good night to be outside.
True, there are several songs played this time of year that don’t meet that criteria – “Sleigh Ride” by Johnny Mathis comes to mind immediately, and I’m sure there are others – but has a great seasonal feeling and theme (And, hey, it’s Johnny Mathis).
“Baby” doesn’t even pass that smell test. It’s like arguing “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. And unless one has an ulterior motive, hardly worth the fuss that’s been made.

Hank and Stretch: Telling them goodbye

San Francisco Giants fans knew, as soon as the final out of the 2018 season was made, that it was going to be a long offseason.
A couple of weeks in, the biggest question is, can we have a do-over?
It’s looking mighty grim out there, thanks mostly to the ol’ Grim Reaper.
We, as fans, have lost a pair of legends with the passing of announcer Hank Greenwald and Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Can they be equated? You betcha.
While basketball and hockey are like someone you see every few days and football is the weekly gathering of the tribe, you invite baseball into your life every day, from late February to (hopefully) late October/early November.
The sights and sounds of the game, as well as the players, become as familiar as family, with the broadcasters painting word pictures whether you’re at home, stuck in traffic or at work, or just checking in to see if the rain delay is over.
From 1979 to 1996, save for that two-year stretch with the Yankees, Hank Greenwald was our Rembrandt.
Granted, there weren’t a lot of great moments for the Giants in that era – the 1979 NLCS and that epic 1993 NL West race come to mind quickly – but despite some of the wretched baseball of the era, Hank kept it interesting, and kept us listening.
The 80s may be the last decade when most of us consumed baseball via radio, and game after game, we’d tune in not only to keep up with the team, but to hear what Hank had for us next.
Maybe it was a bit of baseball history we didn’t know about. Or a one-liner he’d pull off flawlessly with that dry wit. Or maybe this would be the day he didn’t mess with the disclaimer? Or he’d tell us about the Alou brothers other than Felipe, Jesus and Mateo. (For the record, there was Toot, Bob, Skip, Skip and Walleib as well as a sister, Hullub.)
And, of course, in his first two seasons with the Giants, he got to tell us the story of the final days of Willie McCovey’s career.
And what a career it was! 521 home runs, including 18 grand slams. 1,555 RBIs. 2,211 hits. 1959 National League Rookie of the Year. 1969 National League MVP. 1969 All-Star Game MVP. A World Series-ending liner to Bobby Richardson that merited not one, but two mentions in the comic strip “Peanuts.” Cooperstown Class of 1986.
No hitter was more feared in his time. And in the mind of 9-year-old me, he was a threat to take one deep every time
There was the McCovey Shift, first attempted by the Cincinnati Reds, I believe. And we will always have McCovey Cove, thanks to the efforts of the San Jose Mercury’s Mark Purdy.
And you just know, as soon as he arrived at Pearly Gates Park, he was rushed into the game and hit a home run, causing another HOFer, Lon Simmons to get him on the heavenly post-game show. And whatever question he asked, Willie answered “That’s right, Lon.”
Rest in peace, gentlemen. We’ll carry on somehow.

Monday buffet: Which way will it be?

In our constant quest for understanding, information and a reasonably-priced Cabernet, we present the Sunday night/Monday version of the luau buffet brunch (because brunch isn’t just for breakfast anymore). As always, the traditional rules: Use a clean plate each time, eat all you take and consume all alcoholic beverages on the premises, please.
• So, the same Arabs the president accused of dancing in the streets as the World Trade Center came down are suddenly, at least the ones in Saudi Arabia, among our most important allies in the Middle East? Something smells in Washington, as usual. Or maybe we just need better friends, like Canada, Germany, France, the British … remember how nice they were?
• You wonder at times, what Obama (or either Bush or Clinton or Reagan or Carter) would have done in this situation, but there’s just no precedence for the type of situation we’re in here. Especially with someone as unpredictable as the current resident of the White House. I’d like to think past presidents would have sent their own investigators in, though.
• In the same vein: The president said Kavanaugh was being considered guilty until proved innocent during his hearings, but the thousands of Guatemalans trying to cross the border into Mexico and, presumably, enter the United States are “criminals,” without the benefit of a trial?
• Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses … but only if they’re the best people, right? Emma Lazarus, and the rest of us who still cling to the ideals that hunk of copper in New York Harbor stands for, weep.
• I think the last rioting I saw in California was … oh, hell, I don’t know. Maybe over the last avocado, or someone trying to snag one of those $22 Dodgers NLCS tickets.
• And there goes the 82-0 season for the Warriors. That’s it, trade them all. Call up the kids from the Santa Cruz Warriors, at least they’ll try!
• Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of your San Francisco 49ers, just south of Great America, is downwind from a one-time dairy ranch. Which explains a lot about the 49ers in the “Life Without Garoppolo” era.
• The only thing worse? Whoever dressed the Rams on Sunday. Stockholder in a mustard company, or someone trying to remind us to slow down before the light changes?
• And finally, this public service announcement: Monday is the last day to register to vote in the midterms in California. Not just the national and state office are up for grabs, but plenty of local boards that may impact your life more are up for grabs. Not to forget all those propositions the California ballot is famous for, from water and hospital bonds to how much space farm animals should have. If you haven’t yet, register at https://registertovote.ca.gov/

Winning the battle, but losing the war

No matter what happens this week in the world of politics, mark this down.
Everything is pointing toward a revolution on Election Day, and the Republicans are not ready.
There are too many angry groups in the opposition that not only will not be silenced, but are emboldened by each news update and are using social media as their platform in addition to the traditional trio of print, radio and television.
They are women, children and minorities, hear them roar!
We saw this all in living color on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News … the list goes on. Not to forget my brothers and sisters in print, radio and online, doing their bit for a well-informed electorate.
And what we saw wasn’t pretty. We saw senators forgetting who put them in office in the first place and putting loyalty to party ideals first. We did see a calm and collected Dr. Christine Blasey Ford tell her story, only to see her motives questioned. And we had Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh behaving much like a child who didn’t want to finish his vegetables before getting dessert. And proclaim his love of beer … quite loudly.
Eventually, the Senate made the right decision, considering Thursday’s hearing and, after a confrontation in an elevator that may go down in history, a call for the FBI to investigate what was testified to on Thursday.
Should the Republicans prevail, however, it may be a case of winning a battle, but losing a war.
The ongoing saga of the Kavanaugh nomination, in addition to the #metoo movement, shows that female voters are no longer accepting of the same ol’, same ol’ from politicians.
The series of mass shootings at schools, most notably at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has energized the long-silent and underrepresented youth vote, tired of politicians promising change, but not only failing to deliver on promises of gun control, but instead proposing non-solutions like arming teachers, increased law enforcement presence and clear backpacks.
Minorities? Where to start … from clinging to the border wall to not only misinterpreting what kneeling during the national anthem is all about, the answer to the question asked during the campaign, “what have you got to lose?” is, plenty.
To be continued in November …

Nike, Kaepernick send great message

In a week that’s seen the contentious questioning of a Supreme Court nominee and more tales of crazy times inside the White House come to the surface, it appears a sneaker company has stolen the spotlight.
And what a wonderful, positive message Nike has presented. One that, unfortunately, might get lost amid the controversial choice of the deliverer of the message, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
From the moment the folks in Beaverton, Ore., announced Kaepernick would be featured in a new “Just Do It” advertising campaign, reaction has been, well, usual for these confusing times.
Folks who equate his kneeling during the playing of the national anthem with disrespect for the flag and the military have perhaps been the most vocal, some to the point of burning their Nike gear.
Others have wondered why Nike couldn’t have made a less-controversial athlete, or a military hero like the late Pat Tillman, the focus of the campaign.
Invoking images of Tillman is particularly bothersome in several ways. Recall the Army originally had the NFL player turned Ranger dying in battle, only to announce after his services he was killed by friendly fire.
There’s also the fact that Tillman’s family had to – again – ask that his name not be used for political purposes. Recall about a year ago President Trump cited Tillman in one of his periodic Twitter rages regarding NFL players kneeling during the anthem.
Besides, as someone who has read and studied quite a bit about Tillman’s life, I am convinced that, like many who knew him, he would have taken the time to talk to Kaepernick and others who joined his protest of police brutality and social injustice, he probably would have taken a knee himself.
Remember, it’s about selling shoes, T-shirts, visors, and anything about sports. Would any of the names named have drawn as much attention as Kaepernick? I don’t think so.
As for the ad itself, wow! What a terrific message of encouragement to the upcoming generation. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mreQsQrDF-A
The ad is clearly not about Kaepernick, but about encouraging athletes to strive to be their best.
Yes, Nike’s going to sell a lot of stuff. But perhaps a young athlete will take some of the words of the script to heart and want to be better.
And who knows, he or she may be the key to working us out of this mess that we should be focusing on.