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It's Baseball, and Foghorns, at Baghdad by the Bay

October 23, 2002|THOMAS BONK

With apologies to the late, great Herb Caen, newspaper columnist and Bay Area icon, Thomas Bonk reports on the scene in San Francisco with the World Series in town.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The World Series is back here this week and it appears that weather is totally up to the task. The morning of Game 3 was covered by a thick layer of fog. Either that or they started cooking the garlic fries a little early over at Pacific Bell Park.

Anyway, it was so gray outside that everything looked like the Angels' road uniforms. Whether that's a good sign for a governor named Gray is unknown, but we do know the state of the weather is always a lively topic around here, especially when it involves tourists. It's almost a rite of passage for visitors. They step down gaily from cable cars, camera straps around their necks, maps shoved in their back pockets and decked out in their finest summer resort wear only to be greeted by a whoosh of cold air that freezes the linings of their lungs and inspires desperate acts to acquire those fleece sweaters with the nifty SF embroidery. There are hall closets all over the country full of those things.

This is the tourist uniform, standard issue, but it is not the style of choice here this week. This is a Giant town, and in a case of truly impeccable timing, they just happen to be one of the teams playing in the World Series. People wearing Giant caps and stuffed inside Giant uniforms, lugging along those huge foam fingers and carrying baseball gloves, pry their way into the ballpark, eager to deliver huge wads of cash for tickets in exchange for the opportunity to swill chardonnay, suck down Krispy Kreme doughnuts, wade through a forest of garlic fries and watch baseball at the same time. Is America great or what?

ROVING EYE: At 9:30 a.m., waiters in crisp, white aprons set up the tables on the sidewalk on Kearney at Cafe Neibaum Coppola. Double-long buses and cars wrestle for space on Stockton, the most mercenary of streets in Chinatown, where shoppers compete for room to walk, jostling Giant caps as they search for fresh fish or fowl. The best latte in town, at Caffe La Piazza at Columbus and Filbert, is served up by owner Tony Rivera, a fireman who became famous for something other than coffee when he escaped injury falling off the firehouse roof during a skit entertaining neighborhood kids while dressed as Santa Claus. Next time, book Prancer for that job.

QUICK SHOTS: Who is this Francisco Rodriguez and why was the city named after him? Of course, it's not. St. Francis of Assisi has that honor; he is also the Patron Saint of animals. Just wondering ... does that include the rally monkey? Which brings up ... John Coss owns a fine restaurant in Vallejo with his partner, Cheryl Stotler. He is a Giant fan and she is an Angel fan, which can mean only one thing: They refuse to sit together for the games this week. An undercurrent of deep resentment runs through the kitchen. "She ordered a rally monkey and I'm going to kidnap it and deep fry it," he said. Can we get a side of garlic fries with that?

Tickets are more valuable than parking spaces this week. It is believed that no one has ever read those exact words in a sentence before. Last week, fans dragged their lawn chairs and hauled sleeping bags to the sidewalk outside the ticket office at Pacific Bell Park in the faint chance they might acquire a precious ticket to a World Series game. Giant ticket officials passed out wristbands so the faithful would not have to stand in line. But others took their place right away and this ignited a comical interlude. What about handing out wristbands to those of us without official wristbands, fans said. No, said the Giant ticket gods, because fans without unofficial wristbands would then demand wristbands too. Can anyone follow that logic without a map? A better way to solve the problem in the future is to pass out fleece sweaters. Everyone is official in those things.

Money experts, and we must always listen to them, say that the World Series may mean as much as $30 million to the local economy. Not all that money is derived from ticket sales, of course, but with tickets fetching as much as $6,000, it is possible that some fans would then weigh the very heavy dilemma of whether to buy a ticket to a baseball game or pay the mortgage for three months. This is a real-life situation, in the opinion of Keith McGregory, a waiter at Redwood Park, who noted that the restaurant was about two-thirds full. "They spent all their money on tickets," he said. However, novelist Danielle Steel had made her choice and dined at a corner table. Obviously, she had no problem finding a parking space.

The Giants hosted a gala ball Monday night at the Ferry Building, an event attended by several thousand and such glitterati as Mayor Willie Brown, former Mayor Frank Jordan, various Giant executives and former Secretary of State George Schultz. Also on hand was 87-year-old Jessie Foyle from Philadelphia, wearing a floor-length cloak covered with her tickets from every World Series since 1964. It was an impressive cloak, not only for its presentation, but also because it wasn't fleece.

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