what. (bo burnham, 2013)
music friday: 1996

taking throwback literally

On this date in 1988, the Giants and Dodgers played a doubleheader at Candlestick before 50,000 fans. The first game started at 5:35, so you knew it was going to be a late night ... and it was, beginning on Tuesday but not ending until the wee hours of Wednesday.

As is always the case, my memories are hazy, but looking through Google, I find those memories mostly supported by evidence. Those of you who remember Candlestick will understand that it was cold. Fans regularly came dressed in layers, and as I recall I wore shorts (it was July, after all) but had warmer clothes, including long pants, in my backpack. At some point during the first game, I announced that I wasn't going to put on my long pants until the Giants won. Since the Dodgers won both games that night, I never managed to get my long pants on. The temperature for the second game was 49 degrees. It didn't end until 1:21 AM ... I don't know what the temperature was by then.

The first game was a pitchers' duel between Terry Mulholland and Orel Hershiser, tied at 1-1 until Rick Dempsey hit a 2-run homer to put the Dodgers ahead. The Giants grabbed a run back in the bottom of the 8th, but it all fell apart in the top of the ninth. Craig Lefferts, pitching his second inning, started the inning giving up a home run to Jeff Hamilton, after which he put the next two batters on. Scott Garrelts came in to pitch, and gave up a 2-run triple to Steve Sax. Finally, to pile on the embarrassment, Garrelts was then called for a balk, with Sax trotting home with another run. (To understand about balks and 1988, check out "Balks: The Story of the 1988 Major League Baseball Season" by Theron Schultz.) The Dodgers ended up winning, 7-3.

The second game began at 9:10. The Dodgers scored four runs in the 4th inning, but the Giants slowly came back to tie the game, 5-5, in the bottom of the 9th, leading to extra innings. (Did I mention it was cold? That I had on short pants? That we had now moved into Wednesday?) No one scored in the 10th. In the top of the 11th, Garrelts (back for his second appearance of the night) gave up a lead-off double to Franklin Stubbs. A ground ball moved Stubbs to third base with one out, bringing Dave Anderson to the plate.

Garrelts was called for a balk. Stubbs crossed the plate. Dodgers 6, Giants 5.

After the balk, Giants manager Roger Craig and pitcher Mike Krukow, who was on the DL, were ejected. The Dodgers ended up winners by that 6-5 score. The elapsed time between the first pitch of Game One and the last pitch of Game Two was 7 hours and 46 minutes. It was cold. I had on short pants.

Accounts vary, but there were around 30 arrests and 100 fans were escorted out of the park. I've always had one memory that I assumed must be false, but according to the book 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Jon Weisman, that most amazing of all my memories was true. A fan in the lower deck, close to home plate, caught a foul ball and threw it at the home plate umpire.

A lot of stuff was thrown on the field. That foul ball was the one that looms largest in my memory ... he gave up a souvenir! ... by throwing it at the umpire! But there were more infamous items being thrown. In particular, batteries. Dodger left-fielder Kirk Gibson was a popular target ... this is when Candlestick had that empty space between the left-field fence and the bleachers, a space that was filled with joyous kids when a home run came their way, but on that night, the space allowed unruly, pissed-off, drunken fans to climb on the fence, the better to locate the target of their missiles.

Gibson was later quoted as saying, "I've got to go out there again tonight. I'm not saying anything."

The best quote, though, came from Giants president and general manager Al Rosen. Rosen won an MVP award as a player, and was remembered as a bad ass who was Jewish and was always ready to fight opposing players if they offered up anti-Semitic insults. Rosen had spent four years in the Navy during World War II, and was a part of the initial landing on Okinawa during that war. He knew what he was talking about. After the doubleheader, Rosen said, "The beach at Okinawa was safer".

Little kids never again flooded the space in left field after home runs ... the Giants filled the space with barriers for the next game, and never made the space available again. The Giants, who at the time were the defending division champions, ended up in fourth place, while the Dodgers went to the World Series, where Kirk Fucking Gibson hit one of the most memorable home runs in the history of baseball (the fucker). There was some good news ... after 1988, the Dodgers didn't make it to the World Series again for 29 years (and when they finally made it, they lost), while during the same time period the Giants won three World Series. In a new park. Candlestick itself served as the home of the San Francisco 49ers for many years. It was demolished in 2015.

In 1999, as the Giants played their last season at Candlestick before moving to their new park, the Chronicle interviewed some people about their memories of the old dump. One of the best was a guy named Jesse Stirling:

My most vivid Candlestick memory would have to be the twi-night double-header against the Dodgers: an evening so rowdy, it ended the phenomenon of everyone jumping out of their seats to catch home run balls hit beyond the left field fence.

In a move never to be repeated by Giants management, a doubleheader was scheduled against the Dodgers on July 26, 1988, with both games taking place after nightfall. This meant 18 solid innings of drinking for the Giants faithful. Throw in two Scott Garrelts blown saves in a span of four hours, and you have a recipe for disaster. In the middle of all this was a young lad (me) and his dad. 

I saw no less than seven fist fights around me. Every curse word imaginable was hurled at the few Dodger fans who dared to brave the cold Candlestick night. Trust me, those Dodger fans weren't making a peep by the second game. The crowd was screaming "Beat L.A." so loud, it sounded like a rock concert at college.

A drunk guy sitting two seats away from me caught a foul ball, and the crowd started chanting, "Throw it back!" The mob mentality prevailed, and with a beer in one hand, the drunk proceeded to whistle a throw toward home plate that barely missed the home plate ump.

In left field, Kirk Gibson was getting pelted with everything from batteries to empty whiskey bottles. Fans were running out of their seats, climbing the chain-linked fence, and throwing stuff at Gibson's head. This is while the game is going on!

It was out of control. They put the barricades up in left field the very next game. The drunk who threw the ball onto the field was cuffed and escorted out of the park faster than you can say, "Humm baby."

The evening even made its way to the Urban Dictionary:

battery chucker
No-Cal, (Northern California) Fan, for his perceived tendency to throw batteries at opposing players, especially those from So-Cal. Mostly Giant's Baseball Fan.
 
Here is the game played the previous night (Giants win!):

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