Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group wrote a book about the best moments in AT&T Park history. The ballpark is the same age as a high school sophomore, yet has had an unbelievably ridiculous number of iconic moments.
Here, available from Amazon and local merchants, you can read about these moments. I asked Baggarly some questions about this book.
Q: You wrote a book about the greatest moments in AT&T Park history without getting a chance to speak with Barry Bonds. Was that the hardest part of the book?
A: Funny yet semi-related story: About a decade ago, I was writing a piece for the Giants Yearbook on the four players in franchise history to hit 500 home runs. Of course, it was a tremendous privilege to spend more than an hour on the phone with Willie McCovey, and sit down with Willie Mays for a half-hour (even if he insisted his 500th DID NOT come off Don Nottebart). Then, because it was the offseason, I had to call Barry’s publicist to set something up. I told her about the piece, that no other franchise had four 500-home run hitters, that Mel Ott held the NL record before Mays broke it, that I had already conducted terrific interviews with Mays and McCovey, etc. She asked, "And what about Mel Ott? Have you interviewed him yet?"
I suppose I summoned all the charity in my heart to keep from responding, "Well, yes, he died in a car wreck in Louisiana 40 years ago, but I did dust off an old Ouija board and consult a spiritual medium."
Short answer, then: I knew there was no chance to talk to Bonds for this book and I didn’t pin any hopes on it.
Q: I would imagine you had a very different approach to the chapters that happened before you were a Giants beat writer. Is that accurate?
A: Yes and I really thought those chapters (pre-2004) would be the hardest for me. They turned out to be among the most enjoyable to write. I conducted a greater volume of present-day interviews to help fill the gaps, and I wish I would’ve had time to do more of those to further inform and enrich subsequent chapters of games I actually covered.
J.T. Snow, in particular, was just such a tremendous resource. It was incredible to hear the wonder in his voice as he recalled what he was doing in the moments before hitting his unforgettable home run off Armando Benitez. (I won’t spoil it for you.) And some of his stories about Bonds in his more vulnerble moments were invaluable, too.
As it turned out, the hardest part for me was to write the 2010 chapters, since I’d already tackled them in book length in "A Band of Misfits." In fact, I skipped over them until I finished the rest of the book.
The other chapter that was tough was Game 5 of the 2014 World Series, since the book was about the best home games at AT&T Park and Bumgarner obviously rolled credits against the Royals in Game 7 in Kansas City. I had to steer some of that Game 7 material into that chapter, even though I was writing about a game that preceded it. I probably spent more time on that chapter than any other to try to keep it from reading confused or convoluted, and I still wish I could dive back into it and reorganize some more.
Q: You started writing this book before the 2014 season. At what point did you realize that you had to wait to see if you had a lot more chapters to write?
A: Well, it was supposed to be the greatest 15 home games in 15 seasons at AT&T Park. Not necessarily one game from each year (you’ll note there are a couple rather predictable chronological gaps), but 15 for 15 seemed to have a nice symmetry, and anyone who has followed this team knows that there have been more than five or six ticket stubs worth putting in a frame. So I had my outline all set and was making some progress as time allowed.
Then Tim Lincecum threw his no-hitter in June of 2014 and that obviously had to be a chapter. At that point, I considered cutting out Game 5 of the 2010 NLCS, since it wasn’t a clinching victory and there really was no signature moment. Then came Pence Against the Fence, and my God, Travis Ishikawa, and another World Series title with Bumgarner shutting out the Royals in Game 5 en route to an even more legendary performance to close out a championship.
So there was nothing else to do but scrap the symmetry thing. Besides, that Phillies Game 5 in 2010 really was one of the most tense, back-and-forth playoff games I’ve ever covered. I was happy that I could leave that in, too. So it turned into the best 19 games.
To keep it at a round number, I added a 20th chapter that is a kaleidoscope of "best of the rest" moments: Omar Vizquel stealing home, Jason Schmidt’s 16-k game (including striking out the side with the tying run at third base in the ninth), Bengie Molina hitting a home run without getting credit for a run scored, and of course, the "worst baserunning in the history of the game."
I’m really glad that chapter turned out the way it did, and that the book ends with it. It reminds me what I love most about going to a baseball game: anything can happen, and it might be something so unexpected that you’ll be talking about it with your friends and family for years. My buddies from college still talk about freezing under the Wrigley terrace on opening day 1994, when we saw Tuffy Rhodes hit three homers off Dwight Gooden. It’s almost like attending one of these games gains you entry into a random yet prestigious little club. You won’t ever forget what that day looked and felt like.
Hopefully this book will help make that club a little bigger for all these tremendous moments we’ve witnessed in just a decade and a half at Third and King. I mean, the Padres are still waiting for their first no-hitter. We’ve seen three here. The Cubs just had their first postseason series-clinching victory and it took 101 years of baseball at Wrigley Field for it to happen. The Giants have had four series-clinching wins at home, including three pennants, in a ballpark that was just built in 2000. It’s pretty remarkable when you think about it in those terms.
Q: If you had to choose just one of these chapters to expand into a full-length book, which one do you think would be the most fun to write?
A: Wow, what a question. For me, the greatest game I’ve ever covered at AT&T Park was the Ishikawa game, just because … literally, Travis Ishikawa. And yet, as unbelievable as that moment was, so much more incredible stuff happened in that game. Morse’s home run might have been even more improbable. I mean, shades of Kirk Gibson right there. Wainwright and Bumgarner and Panik … it was just such a great game. But if I’m looking at a game that had greater historic and cultural significance, then it’s obviously Bonds hitting 756. Even today, we wrestle with what that meant and what we really saw that night. I’m not sure a Bonds book would be commercially viable at this point, unless he partners with someone to write an authorized biography. So … I refer you to your first question.
I guess if I have a sincere answer, I would write a book about Matt Cain’s perfect game. What better, more fleeting subject to draw out than perfection? And I would get Dustin Johnson to write the foreword.
Q: Do you know the name of the player who anonymously predicted to the Oakland Tribune that Barry Bonds would have an awful contract year in 2001? Can you give us a hint? Does it rhyme with Gus Mavis? Gus Bortiz? Does it rhyme with Gus at all?
A: I do! And I’m not saying. But if you get enough bourbon in me, I might give up the names of A.J. Pierzynski’s anonymous detractors. If I can remember them all.
Q: You wrote in this book that Travis Ishikawa hit a home run to send the Giants to the World Series. How did you screw that up, and how did your editors not catch the error?
A: I took license. It was the least I could do after starting off the book with Kevin Elster.