Gallo del Cielo was 5 when his family—mother, step father, and sister—moved from Los Angeles to a small mountain town just south of Yosemite. Both parents were anxious to get away from their own parents and the step father was eager to regularly hunt and fish. They were proto-hippies without the drugs, except for cigarettes and beer. They were themselves a young couple, not quite 30, and they wanted rustic lives. This did not include baseball.
Before this, my unmarried mother had handed off the kids to her parents, not an unusual move. Living regularly with my grandparents meant regular baseball. Gramps had played semi-professionally and Grandma loved the game on the radio. It was 1958, and The Dodgers were the only game in LA. My grandparents loved baseball but not The Dodgers. They hated O’Malley—and all privileged classes—and the moves that led to Chavez Ravine. It was then that my new family moved to Oakhurst. I had already been infected.
In the new mountain home we had no TV. There was a little radio from Fresno, but this move to the mountains wasn’t about the children. It was about two newly marrieds trying to get away from their parents and the big city. Young Gallo was never mistreated, but he was often left on his own, a fact that led to him inventing himself and to my very pretty sister becoming dysfunctional, where she remains to this day. She should have embraced baseball.
Gallo did so. When The Giants moved to SF that year, they chose KMJ in Fresno to be their Central Valley airship. It came in pretty clear. In ’59, my grandparents got me a transistor radio. My grandfather got me a subscription to Baseball Digest, a b/w pamphlet that collected various writings from various publications. I was 7. There were plenty of words I didn’t understand. It was a good way to learn them. "Unwritten rules" were among them.
At the first house in Oakhurst, we had no TV or phone, but at the second in ’60 we did. It was further up the ridge and caught the signal from Fresno under some conditions. And my grandparents kept visiting and my grandfather would talk to me of seeing the greats: he had played against O’Doul, Grimm, and Lazzeri. He had a spike wound from this latter worthy and often showed it off. My grandmother was a constant Annie. She married my grandfather because she "admired" his baseball presence. She was 17 when they married.
They loved the introduction of The Angels to LA media in ’62, and they became ready fans. During visits to LA, young Gallo got to see games on TV and listen to them on radio with my grandparents. Unlike Grant, my parents weren’t interested except that during games in Oakhurst, I would be occupied by listening on the transistor. Lon and Russ. Occasionally Thompson. School was ok, but these games were my life, and I read The Digests daily.
In ’66, I got to go to some games at The Big A, just off the freeway in Anaheim, including the first Spring game where Mays hit two homers. I went to the ’68 All Star game there and saw Clemente close up in right field showing off his arm for the Latino kids all around me, throwing strikes, knee high, to all three bases, the last to home to the amazement of the guy hitting bp. (I’ve written about this in detail before.)
I listened to all 32 innings of the double header against the Mets and was sorry when it ended, though the Giants won.
But then college came in ’70 and I had affairs. I’d been following The Angels for years, and even The Dodgers when I could pick them up on AM. Now at UC Irvine, I could actually watch them. And I developed affinity. I don’t apologize, though there are, at this moment, people on True Blue who don’t like Gallo, but that affinity was true. This was before MLB or even cable. I guess I "rooted" for them. I admit it. Other than the very rare national game, no Giants were available. Condemn me if you wish. Should I have gone without?
No. In ’74 I moved back to Fresno and into a consistent relationship. Then back to Orange County for ten years in ’78, then back to Fresno in ’89, but media had developed. Alex was born in ’84 and I had a young fan to develop. He didn’t immediately take to it. It took another decade and Barry Bonds to bring him in. We watched the Gagne AB together, and that was what brought him into the fold, I think.
I think of him every day. On Oct. 31 of ’10, a Monday, he walked from his apt on U St. in mid town to where I was on L to watch the last inning of that game. He died on June 5 of ’12, and we had watched the game together that night. A week later, I went to watch Matt Cain pitch.