Giants bat US presidential election into the bleachers


The San Francisco Giants’ progress in the baseball World Series has enthralled the city, leaving politics sidelined, writes ANN MARIE HOURIHANE

THE THING is, it looks like the San Francisco Giants are going to win the World Series. Even for those of us who don’t understand baseball – and that includes a surprising number of Americans; some straight men had to think hard when pitched the challenging question of how many people there are on a baseball team – this changes everything.

At the time of writing – Saturday night – the Giants have just beaten the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit 2-0. That was the third game in the World Series and the Giants only have to win four to have the whole thing in the bag. They won game one 8-3. They won game two 2-0. Even if they did not win game four, which was scheduled to be played last night, the chances are that they’re going to pick up another game quite soon. That’s putting it politely. Detroit do not appear to be at the races, or indeed at their own home ground, which is Comerica Park.

On the other hand, quite a lot of San Francisco has been at ATT Park, while the rest of it is complaining about not being there. “One hundred and fifty dollars for nosebleed tickets,” said one woman who ended up watching the second game in a taco bar. Even parking spaces at or near the ground are being traded on the black market.

The rate at which baseball teams are whizzed around the country seems amazing to a European. Two games, on Wednesday and Thursday, in San Francisco. Two games in Detroit, where it was 16 degrees colder on Saturday evening than it had been on Thursday evening in San Francisco. You never heard so much talk about the weather in your life. And then back to San Francisco – if Detroit last that long.

“Oh, for goodness sake, it’s not like they’re running around all the time, like in soccer,” said an unsympathetic man. No indeed. Someone has come up with the statistic that in three hours of your average baseball game the ball is in play for just 14 minutes. Far from being outraged by this statistic, everyone seems to accept it as sounding about right.

And so it is that some baseball stars are quite heavy. In fact, the hero of the Giants, Pablo Sandoval, is positively rotund. He is known as the Panda, and signed a bat he was giving to the Hall of Fame Kung Fu Panda. He hit three home runs in game one, only the fourth player ever to do that in a World Series game: the others were Babe Ruth, who did it twice, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.

President Hugo Chávez sent Sandoval a congratulatory text, but that was not surprising because Sandoval, like eight other players in this World Series, is Venezuelan. There are nine players on a baseball team. The Giants have five Venezuelans. The Tigers have four, and the main subs for both teams are Venezuelans. Here’s how foreign they are: after his triumph on Wednesday night Sandoval, who turned 26 in August, wanted to go out to eat. He went to the Mission district with his brother, Michael, and the proprietor of their favourite restaurant, Limon, opened it up for them specially.

In a city with food from every corner of the earth, there isn’t a Venezuelan community big enough to support one Venezuelan restaurant. Limon serves Peruvian food and the Venezuelan players, with San Francisco at their feet, make do with that.

All of these little stories, plus the pennants in the windows, plus the babies wearing Giants T-shirts, plus the old ladies in their Giants sweatshirts, which are also worn by their dogs, have had a profound effect here on public interest in the election. It just seems downright unpleasant when put up against San Francisco’s triumphal progress to its second World Series in three years. In terms of baseball this is in stark contrast to the fate of the Giants’ state rivals, the Dodgers, who are based in Los Angeles and have won two World Series championships in 31 years. In terms of politics California is pretty well ceded to the Democrats anyway, and all the Democratic Party workers are being bused in to canvass in Nevada.

The third presidential debate, for example, passed without a murmur. “Well, it was on foreign policy,” as one man explained.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Opera is showing as much baseball as any bar, and is forever flashing up Giants scores at the interval. On Tuesday night, at a performance of Moby-Dick, a slim young man, whom one can only assume was the composer, Jake Heggie, came out to take a bow and immediately put on a Giants cap, to a tidal wave of audience approval. It is reported that the Giants games are shown on TVs in the lobbies of the opera house, although I haven’t seen that myself.

San Francisco buses have been displaying “Go Giants!” signs on their destination boards since at least September.

The sheer happiness of the population in its team is amazing. Mayor Edwin M Lee announced on Saturday that yesterday’s game could be seen on big screens situated next to City Hall. You know the way sport can unite a town? You know that special quiet that falls on a city during a big game? All these things are happening in San Francisco right now.

Until we – I mean they – win the World Series, and possibly for quite a while afterwards, it is difficult to contemplate anything as routine as an election.

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