I remember one of the first Giants games I ever went to. It was at Candlestick (RIP) and we sat in the upper deck somewhere. I was…four? Maybe? Old enough to know “We’re at a baseball game!” but too young to understand or follow the game for more than one inning. I had these black and orange pom-poms (that are probably still somewhere in my parents’ house) and I remember everyone cheering at one point, and Mom telling me “Will Clark just hit a home run!” and I jumped up and waved the pom-poms around. (Will the Thrill was my first favorite player for no other reason than I recognized the name.)
That probably wasn’t my very first game ever (Mom? Dad? Care to confirm?), but it’s the first clear baseball memory I have. It was the first time I felt that burst of excitement, the electricity in the crowd after a big play. The first time I enjoyed one of those chocolate malts and got too much sun and probably fell asleep in the car ride home.
Now, obviously there are three clear winners when it comes to my “favorite baseball memory.” (2010, 2012, 2014.) But I’ll never forget the six games we went to in 1999 — the last year the Giants played at the ‘Stick. Sometime before the season began, I found a special “Tell it Goodbye” ticket special — a six-game package that also included seats at one of the three final games. I showed it to my dad, who didn’t need much convincing to buy five packages.
We sat in the lower deck (under the overhang, so somewhat protected by the wind) on the first-base side. As it happened, a group of guys — maybe 10 altogether? — with the same package had seats right in front of us. They were maybe college-aged or a little older. And they were so fun. They were there to have a good time, but they were all legit fans, they knew the game and they were there to watch it. They’d talk to my dad about how a certain pitcher was doing, they’d high-five us kids (I was 13, my brothers about 11 and 8 at the time), they’d teach us cheers — mom’s and my favorite being “Hey JT, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind! Hey JT! Hey JT!” (chanted like “Hey Mickey,” if you didn’t gather that, for hunky then-first baseman JT Snow).
We also learned how to play “Mound Ball” from them — at the beginning of each inning, everyone puts a dollar in a cup. One person gets to hold the cup for the inning. At the end of the inning, if the catcher or another fielder tosses the ball back to the pitcher, and the ball stays on the mound when he drops it, the person holding the cup gets to keep the money in it. If the ball ends up anywhere else (on the grass, tossed to a fan in the stands, whatever), everyone puts another dollar in, the cup gets passed to the next person, and so on.
So much about a good experience at the ballpark has to do with the people near you in the stands. I’ve watched great games that were ruined by the group of women who wouldn’t know a curveball from a line drive gossiping behind me the whole time. I’ve watched really terrible games made amusing by the antics of other fans (and copious amounts of beer). We lucked out with that package.