The first game I ever attended at
Pac Bell AT&T Oracle Park was on August 23, 2002. It was the first summer I participated in the Junior Giants program in San Luis Obispo, for which the reward was a trip to see the San Francisco Giants in their like-new stadium. The game was a clunker, but it didn’t matter. The snap of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt, the smell of freshly cut grass, the gentle blue of bay and sky, the crack of the bat, the oversize glove and Coke bottle—it was serene and surreal, a magical stage set apart from the world.
But the best part came in the eighth inning, when my childhood idol Barry Bonds strode up to the plate and launched one over the right field wall. I still remember how the crowd just roared, how I was engulfed by the sound of tens of thousands of people celebrating a moment together.
I’ve attended a handful of games since then, but none of them have been as magical as that first one. Perhaps none can be. But there’s no denying that I’ve had some lousy luck in my timing. To illustrate: I have seen more Todd Wellemeyer starts (one, to be precise) than Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner starts combined.
That is, until yesterday.
I won’t rehash the events of the game—you can read Kenny’s recap for that—but for the first time in nearly 20 years, I felt something like the magic of that first game. Walking around the stadium with my friend, sitting and chatting with fellow McCoven, listening to the buzz of the crowd as Bumgarner stepped onto the field—it was a reminder of why I fell in love with this stupid sport in the first place.
It was bittersweet, too. Barring complications from his bulbous elbow, it’s a matter of when, not if, Bumgarner will be traded. That reality didn’t hit me until I watched the erstwhile ace take the home mound, possibly for the last time in a Giants uniform.
It’s impossible to catalog all the moments and memories Bumgarner has given us over the years; his World Series highlights alone could fulfill SB Nation’s content requirements 100 times over. He helped bring not one, not two, but three World Series trophies to San Francisco, all with a poise that seemed almost Herculean. How can you possibly do justice to what that means to this franchise, this city, these fans?
Or I could point to the stats and awards and accomplishments, such as the fact that he passed Tim Lincecum for sole possession of fourth-most strikeouts in Giants’ franchise history. But that only tells a quarter of the story at best.
For a decade, Bumgarner has been our funky, sturdy, hard-nosed, hot-headed, snot-rocketing lumberjack of a pitcher. He’s a myth, a legend, a hero who we’ve had the fortune to see play on this stage called
Pac Bell AT&T Oracle Park. And for some fans, there is no such thing as a Giants team without Bumgarner.
Of course, the game didn’t quite go the way I hoped—Bumgarner getting bonked in the elbow by a line drive from Jose Martinez will do that. But like the good teammates they are, the Giants stepped up and provided the missing magic. Austin Slater didn’t smash the ball like Bonds, but a home run is a home run, especially when it’s a grand slam. I screamed and shouted and cheered, as loud as I could—and so did tens of thousands with me.
I don’t know if this is the last time we’ll see Bumgarner pitch in San Francisco. It’ll be a mad bummer if we don’t get one last vintage start from him, but there’s no lack of memories to cherish.
Thanks, Bum. I’m glad I got to see you pitch in person, even if it was only for a short time. May your legend live on wherever you go.