Wednesday, October 31, 2012

World Series Fare

Barry Zito. Barry Zito is a hero. A HERO, I tell you. I'm trying hard to think about what I would have said if you'd told me I'd be saying that come October, after the first game of the season that I took Smunch to...that one where we got there late, Barry Zito was pitching and by the time we arrived (in the middle of the first inning) the score was already 4-0. Mind boggling, really.

If you'd told me that they'd be playing the Detroit Tigers..the team of Prince Fielder and Miguel the World Series and that Zito would be pitching against Justin Verlander. I would have laughed. It wouldn't have been a pretty laugh either.

That's my extra long-winded way of saying that just two days after Smunch and I witnessed that epic Game 7 at AT&T Park, the Giants won the first game of the World Series against the mighty Detroit Tigers, behind another stellar start by Barry Zito. I think it was the 14th start of his in a row that the team won. They never lost another one that Barry started after the one Smunch and I went to.

I don't tweet. But if I did, perhaps I would have cottoned onto the #RallyZito hashtag. I don't really know. I'm far too old fashioned for such things. Look at me. I have a BLOG for goodness sakes!

Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs that night...two of them off Verlander. As Mike Krukow would say, "Ownage is ownage." Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval OWNS Justin Verlander. It's as simple as that. It spawned silly pictures, like this one:

The Giants won, 8-3.

And the rest of the series? Well...It was all just about as mindblowing as Barry Zito, actually. On Monday, Smunch and I were there to see if our team could make it. Less than a week later, on Sunday, in fact, they were the World Champions. By Halloween, there was a parade down Market Street.

What? What just happened???

Our team wasn't supposed to make it out of the NLDS after being down 2 games in a best of five series and heading out to Cincinnati. Our team wasn't supposed to make it past the NLCS when they were down 3-1 in a best of 7...where they were still in St. Louis and would have to win three games in a row. And then there was gonna be Justin Verlander. Heh.

Madison Bumgarner shut the Tigers out 2-0 in Game 2 on Thursday. He'd struggled at the end of the season, but held it together for this one big night. The Giants left for three games in Detroit. On Saturday, for Game 3, I made "Rally Enchiladas" in honor of Ryan Vogelsong's favorite pre-game dinner. Gosh, they were yummy.

And the pitching wasn't too bad either. Vogelsong also shut the Tigers out 2-0...on their home turf.

Of course, it wasn't just the starting pitching. There were so many amazing defensive plays. How 'bout that relay Gregor Blanco made from left field, missing his cutoff man, but hitting Scutaro who was backing up Brandon Crawford at third, then Scutaro throwing a shot to Posey to tag Prince Fielder out at the plate? How about any number of Brandon Crawford's crazy defensive plays? I swear that guy's arms have elastic in them. And Blanco was plain incredible out there too.

So, that left Sunday, when I decided it was only appropriate to have hot dogs and apple pie with our baseball. Now all I need is a Chevrolet.

Matt Cain started Game 4. I don't know what he eats or does for luck. He was driving golf balls off home plate before his perfect game. I suggested we go mini golfing, but we didn't really have time.

The game was a whole lot more tense than the previous three. If you peek at the score in that photo of the TV, it's the top of the 8th with the score tied 3-3. But our friend Marco Scutaro, Mr. Clutch, came through yet again. DH, Ryan Theriot got himself his first hit of the game and had been sacrificed over to second. Somehow, you just knew, when Scutaro came to the plate that this game had an excellent chance of being over. I've never seen anyone on the planet hit in the clutch like Scutaro. So, when he hit the ball, I had a lot of fun watching the look of joy on Theriot's face as his hand slid across homeplate.

Then in was Sergio Romo's turn. He struck out two before Miguel Cabrera came up. Romo throws a wicked slider and he'd thrown all sliders until his last pitch to Cabrera...a fastball that Cabrera watched as it flew over the plate.

SWEEP. And then there was a parade on Halloween. I wasn't there...again. It was Halloween. I had pumpkin math to teach and a costume parade to attend. My favorite kids will always trump my favorite team...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Haunting

You know how sometimes you do something cool and you have a lot of fun, but you forget to really tell anyone about it? And then after a week or so it's not even a story worth telling?

This is one of those. I don't know that it's no longer worth telling, but the lustre has worn off. Had I written about it earlier, it would have been a more charming story, no doubt. But I wanted to have it for posterity, so here it is regardless.

This Halloween season (Really? Is there a whole season now?) I was invited to a Halloween party. That's pretty rare. The last time I went to a Halloween party was probably 15 years ago. This party was sort of a team-based mystery/scavenger hunt thing and part of the game was that all the teams were supposed to go around and "haunt" the other team's houses. Each team had a the Devils & Demons or the Spiders & Skeletons and we "haunted" others' houses in theme with our team names. So, there was a week in there where my house was being haunted nightly...sometimes multiple times. It was always fun to peak out the door and see what might be out there next! Our windows were painted in window graffiti, there were bats hung from the porch, a doormat replaced with someone else's, super spicy brownies, streamers, lollipops dressed as ghosts... This kids found this all VERY entertaining.

This was sort of a school-based party, so I knew most of the other guests and the folks haunting my house. But there's a little boy who lives on our street who doesn't go to the same school as my kids. He saw all the new decorations around our house. I think Mam must've explained them to him. And he was jealous! Mam said he really wanted for his house to be haunted too!

I'd been planning to meet some friends for brunch in San Francisco Sunday morning, but the Giants pulled out the miracle of returning from St. Louis with games left to play and Smunch was going to Game 6 with his dad, who suddenly had tickets that were good for something. So, I stayed home with Mam...and we went shopping.

Of course, this wasn't girly shopping. The first thing she insisted upon was a screaming doormat. Ohhhh-kay. Nothing's too good for our neighbors! We went to every drugstore in town...Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens...and scooped up whatever was on sale or just looked too fun to pass up.

Fortunately, I also happened to know that our neighbors were going to a soccer tournament in Carmel in the afternoon. They wouldn't be back 'til late evening. So Mam and I hauled our bags and a ladder down there and staged the best darned haunting EVER.

And the screaming doormat was just a little part of the whole plan. There was caution tape across their front door, tombstones along their path, a ghost floating in their carport, creepy crawlies scattered about, little lollipop ghosts in all sorts of unexpected places, a larger spider web and spider across their lovely bay window and their trellis, now decked out in orange twinkle lights a big glowing spiders.
Mam and I also baked some cupcakes, which I sadly forgot to photograph, with funny zombie wrappers and instructions to make the light pink frosting look like exposed brains. We left those for a ding-dong-doorbell-ditch the next day, when we knew they were home.

Mam could not wait for them to get home that night. Unfortunately, it was far past her bedtime by then, but as she was going to sleep she said to me, "Mom, this was one of the most fun days, ever!"

A little while later, I received this e-mail entitled "Is everything okay at your house?" It read: "We just got home and our house has been haunted...really, it's really everything okay at your house? p.s. are you missing some scissors? we have them here."

And if the rumor I heard was true, one little boy came home to a very spooky house and declared it the BEST day of his life!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game 7

I mentioned something, somewhere back there, about the San Francisco Giants' improbable run through the National League Divison Series (NLDS) and their arrival at the National League Championship Series (NLCS) where they promptly went down 3-1. I lamented that Barry Zito would be pitching Game 5 against the Cardinals. It was an elimination game and Barry? Well, he hasn't had a particularly celebrated history with the Giants.
Still, Zito put on a stellar show and the Giants won Game 5 in St. Louis, 5-0. Because they were not eliminated that night, it meant the series returned to San Francisco. Now, for the uninitiated, those who do not have season tickets for the Giants, but want tickets to a playoff game, have to enter a lottery. If your email address is chosen in said lottery, you have the privilege of paying a lot of money to purchase tickets to the series. I think I put my email address in the lottery a day too late to be chosen for the NLDS. And I wasn't chosen for the NLCS at first either, but then they had what they called a "second chance lottery" and I was chosen. The only options were for "Home Game #3" or "Home Game #4".
Had the Nationals defeated the Cardinals in their NLDS, the Nationals would have gone on to play the Giants. And the Nationals would have had home field advantage. There would not be a "Home Game #4". I found myself some nice tickets in the upper deck for "Home Game #3"...and then I realized, as I sat at my desk at work, that I'd left my wallet in the car. I ran down to get it, but by the time I got back? My browser session had timed out and I could no longer get tickets for "Home Game #3". So...I settled for purchasing two tickets for "Home Game #4".
Now, what that meant is is that my tickets would automatically be no good (and refunded) if the Nationals beat the Cardinals. It also meant that should the Cardinals win, the Giants would have home field advantage, but the series would have to go to seven games if I was to get to go. The chances that all the stars would align for that to happen seemed pretty remote. No worries, I thought. At least I'll get my money back.

But what do you know? Those Giants won Game 6, 6-1, behind Ryan Vogelsong on October 21st. And that meant I had tickets to the tie-breaking game of the series...the game to decide who would go on to the 2012 World Series. Holy cow.

And so it came to pass that I picked up one very happy little boy half an hour early from school on Monday...and we drove to the train station, where we caught the train to AT&T Park.
Now, as parenting moves go, this is an arguable one. The kid had stayed out super late the previous night...when his dad took him to Game 6. It was another school night. I took him out of school early. And then there was the weather forecast. Rain.

When the series was in St. Louis, it had rained. There was a 3.5 hour rain delay in the middle of Game 4 (I think). I was envisioning a real nightmare...a stadium packed with people trying to get out of the rain, sitting there for hours with my bored 10-year-old. What was I thinking?

Fortunately, my imagination was wrong. It was a beautiful day at the ballpark. We arrived just after the rain stopped. There were boats in McCovey Cove, puffy clouds, sunshine, a floating Delorean. (A what?)
Matt Cain was pitching against the Cardinals' ace pitcher, Kyle Lohse.
Cain pitched a perfect game earlier this year and is currently considered the Giants' ace. But he wasn't at his best. The first few innings were a little tense. But the Giants scored against Lohse and they scored again and again. By the end of the third inning, it already felt like the ninth. The score was 7-0, Giants.
The Cardinals had come back from a 6-0 deficit to win the NLDS against the Nationals. It was an awesome feat. So, a seven run lead didn't necessarily seem like a lock either. But it made the crowd...the very, very noisy crowd...a lot less tense. It was just one big party out there.
And with his team winning, Smunch was having a blast.
Sometime around the seventh inning, it started to drizzle. There was enough wet to make both Smunch and me put on our rain ponchos, but a few minutes later, we felt kind of ridiculous and took them off. However, by the end of the eighth, the rain started for real.
New playoff rules say that they can't call a game because of rain. They can delay it, but with just an inning left to play and the score now at 8-0, that seemed silly, so they let the game go on.
And it rained, and rained and rained. Brandon Belt hit a home run that almost made it to the Cove. 9-0. The infield began to flood. It was the top of the ninth. Javier Lopez, the Giant's sidewinding lefty was pitching. He walked Carlos Beltran. From everything I could tell, he walked him because he couldn't keep from sliding down the muddy mound. With two runners on and two out, Bruce Bochy strode into the rain and took the ball from Lopez as the grounds crew ran out to the infield and tried to repair the mound and spread sand on the basepaths. As soon as the crew retreated, you could no longer see the work they'd done. Rain came down in sheets.
We were sitting in the upper deck, so our ponchos provided the only protection from the rain...and our backpacks didn't have ponchos. I hear that if you were under the overhang in the lower decks, you stayed dry, but you couldn't see a thing with the rain cascading off the decks above.

To the giant roar of the soggy crowd, Sergio Romo jogged from the bullpen to the mound and induced a pop fly from Matt Holliday, which was caught by the game's hero, Marco Scutaro. And poetic justice was served. Just days earlier Matt Holiday mowed Scutaro down as he "slid" into second base and Scutaro had to leave the game with an injury to his hip. Now the mostly-healed Scutaro squinted through the heavy rain to make the last out and send his team to the World Series.

As baseball experiences go. This was EPIC. Memorable in every way.

Like most of the crowd, Smunch and I did not leave. We stood in the pouring rain as the team celebrated on the field below. The National League trophy was presented and Marco Scutaro was named MVP of the NLCS.

Couldn't have happened for a nicer guy.
Then we hightailed it toward the train, where a crowd of wet people awaited a happy trip home. We won't be in attendance at the World Series this year, but you can bet we'll be there every step of the way.

Barry Zito is slated to start Game 1...

Epilogue: Less than one week after Smunch and I attended Game 7 of the NLCS, the San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series by sweeping the Detroit Tigers. Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 and Barry Zito got the win. Game 4 was the most exciting by far, going 10 innings. And guess who drove in the winning run...Marco Scutaro.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Into the Spirit

It's a been a while. In fact, it's been long enough that the title above could refer to any number of things. It could be able the SF Giants' improbable run through the NLDS...

In fact, here's Smunch at Game 2 of the NLDS...where the Giants lost 9-0. To say he was disappointed is an understatment, but he also wasn't crushed, and neither was his team. They lost two games at home, then went on to sweep the Reds in Cincinnati and win the series.

That prompted a very rare NLCS-related event in my house...the spirited self-manicure.

The Giants are currently down 3-1 in the NLCS. Barry Zito is pitching tonight. It's not lookin' so good.

People who don't know me always think my October fingernails are about my Halloween spirit. Admittedly, a group of folks at school have really gotten into that this much so that my house has been decorated multiple times a night for the past week.

But that's really not what I'm about to write about at all. This was more of a red-white-and-blue event than an orange-and-black one. See, it's also election season. And while I was an avid Obama supporter four years ago and I still support him now, I'm not a hugely political person. Still, when my friend T invited me to a concert in The City, I was inclined to go. This was a big deal.

There were lots of bubbles.
Lots of protesters.
LOTS of people.
And a lonely little guy on a rooftop with binoculars. He must be sad. Don't you think? All dressed in black like that?
There was plenty of rah-rah too. Honestly. When I'm faced with too much politics and I'm feeling particularly jaded, I can't help but agree with these two.
I'm sure I shouldn't find them funny, but I do. They, however, don't look like they find anything funny.

We spent a lot of time standing around, but it was a fun evening! We collected our tickets at will call, waited in a line for a couple of hours and finally got in to the auditorium, where we found we had standing spots on the floor. Nice and close to the stage, but no seats.

Everything mercifully started right on time, with a funny speech by Alex Smith, quarterback of the 49ers. It was a great little speech. I wondered who wrote his stuff. He was followed by tight end Vernon Davis who was far less comfortable up there and less entertaining. Then we had a fun little performance from Michael Franti and Spearhead. He came all the way out into the audience, only feet away.
There were more speeches - San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee and California Attorney General, Kamala Harris. There was a performance by John Legend...
which was, perhaps, a little mellow for the packed house.

And finally, right on time, we reached the main event.

And this is why I came. It doesn't really matter what you think of this particular man. It's kinda cool to be so close to a sitting president. He spoke well...which was more than I could say for his televised debate a few days earlier. He was funny and responsive to the crowd.
It was oddly a lot like watching President Obama on TV though.

Still, it's something I can say I've done. And it was a great evening out with a couple of old and good friends.

And, now, back to working out just how to get into that Halloween spirit. I accepted an invitation to a Halloween party. I don't know why I didn't realize that would require me to have a costume. Ergh. Fortunately, I had a little creative moment yesterday and managed to make one myself...

Friday, October 5, 2012


Today, while in line at the grocery store, the man behind me commented on my hair. I truly don't believe he was hitting on me. He was a little older and from a foreign country and he said the most peculiar thing.

"It's so refreshing to see a woman who is letting her hair go grey naturally," he said. "It is lovely."

I have never, EVER had a stranger say something like that to me before. Don't think I never consider coloring my hair. I do. I've been going grey for at least 15 years now. I don't really want anyone commenting on my many pigment-challenged hairs. I didn't quite know what to say, so I laughed and said, "Don't tell my mother that! Actually, on second thought please tell my mother!"

Every now and then my mom will take a look at my hair, comment on its greyness and ask if I'm ever going to dye it. To her deep disappointment, I always say 'no'.

The stranger continued. "You are growing old gracefully."

"Well, that was the idea, but I'm not so sure how well it's working out!" I laughed some more.

But the more I thought about it, the bigger a compliment I thought it was. If I could just have more grace in living my life! And really, isn't it nice of a stranger to take note of just about anything and comment on it in an admiring and respectful way?

Before I left, I turned around and thanked him for making my day. And it'd already been a pretty good one.