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Twenty-one Toe Tap Salute

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Robb Nen has retired. The last time he pitched was in the flaming dirigible that was Game Six. As hydrogen met flame, and flame met air, Nen was the one sent in with a bucket of ice water and roll of duct tape. No one was saved. One of the last pitches he ever threw was the 85-mph hanging slider to Troy Glaus, which must have looked like a musk melon coming up to the plate, and was promptly ripped into left to give the Angels the lead. No one knew, but Nen's shoulder had given its two-week notice three weeks earlier.

For me, heckling reached its nadir with Nen. There was nothing better than to sneak down in the front rows of Candlestick for the ninth inning, and wait for Nen to get two strikes on a hitter. Then it started. "Don't swing at the slider! Don't swing at it! It's just going to end up by your feet!" Nen would throw the slider, the slider would extend its middle finger toward the collected works of Sir Isaac Newton and end up by the hitter's feet. Strike three, almost every time. That was followed by, "C'mon Mondesi, I was trying to help you out," unless Nen's 99-mph fastball was the strikeout pitch. Then it was followed by an understated, "Sorry. Sorry about that. I could have sworn it was going to be a slider. Sorry." Pure fun.

In 1998 and 2000, Nen was the best reliever Giants fans had ever seen. In the other years, he ranged from good to excellent. The closure is welcome, but there was always the hope he would emerge like a Rod Beck-shaped phoenix from the ashes, and salvage a couple of years with other teams. He wouldn't have needed to pick up a save against the Giants in a playoff-deciding game -- thanks, Rodney -- but cranking out a couple of good years with the Indians would have been a nice touch. If he could have done it for the Giants, it would have been even better.

Thanks, Robb. The extra "b" is for "Giant who retires with nothing but respect from the fans of San Francisco".