I know the precise moment I began falling in love with baseball. It was April 1958, and the newly minted San Francisco Giants were playing their second week in Seals Stadium. My father and grandfather held my hands as they led me up the ramp. When we emerged into the brilliant sunshine, I was flabbergasted by what my eyes beheld. It was love at first sight! Spread out before my six-year-old eyes was the impossibly vast expanse of the bright emerald green grass of Seals Stadium. I dont remember what team the Giants were playing. I do remember being enraptured by the distances the ball flew and how the graceful Giants center fielder glided about the broad green expanse to catch the impossibly high-hit fly balls. His name was of course Willie Mays, the incomparable superstar, and he became my childhood idol that sunny, breezy, blue-sky afternoon.
Thus began my lifelong love affair with baseball. This book is a collection of short stories describing my memories of being a fan of the Giants as well as my own memories of playing our great game. Most of the stories originally took the form of e-mails that I sent to family and friends over the past decade. Fittingly, there are 24 stories in this book to honor my childhood idol and the best baseball player of all-timeWillie Mays. Baseball fans need no explanation of the significance of 24, the number Willie wore with such distinction and class for 22 stellar years.
I was born in San Franciscos Mission District at Marys Help Hospital (now Seton Medical Center in Daly City), which stood directly across the street from the former Recreation Park, the ballpark that the San Francisco Seals played in for 27 years prior to Seals Stadium. So, right from birth Ive had San Francisco baseball in my blood.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrigs disease (even this terrible disease has a baseball connection). In my seven-year battle with this horrendous disease, I’ve slowly lost the ability to speak clearly. As the disease progressed, I took to writing as my primary way of communicating my thoughts. I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly good writer, but when I posted my stories on baseball blogs and sent them out to family and friends, I received an overwhelming number of positive reactions. This surprised me! KNBR 680s Marty Lurie, the excellent host of pre- and post-game for Giants broadcasts, even read some of my stories on the air. I was extremely flattered when the talented baseball writer, Andrew Baggarly, asked if he could publish my story of the greatest pitchers duel of the twentieth century on the CSN Bay Area website on the fiftieth anniversary of the duel in 2013. I’m referring, of course, to the classic sixteen-inning pitchers duel between a young Juan Marichal and the ageless Warren Spahn at Candlestick Park in 1963. Although CSNBA recently removed that story, you can read an improved version of it in this book.
But the real reason you hold this book in your hands is due to my dear friend Robert Sockolov. Bob asked me for several years to gather together my stories for possible publication. Being flattered but thinking he was just being kind, I dragged my feet getting my stories and e-mails to him. Finally, when my lovely wife, Elizabeth, and I saw Bob and his beautiful wife, Audrey, at a rare in-person Giants game we attended last year, I began organizing my writing for Bob. Upon receiving the manuscript, he sprung into action! Within weeks Bob, Audrey, and their lovely granddaughter, Jill, produced a draft layout for this book. My wife and I were delighted with the initial mock-up. How Bob and Audrey did it so quickly belied their octogenarian ages!
I’m totally indebted to Bob and Audrey, who are minority owners of the San Francisco Giants, for the fact that Falling in Love with Baseball has been published. Thank you both! I don’t think its possible for me to ever repay you for your generosity and hard work on this project.
I’d also like to thank Jill Sockolov for her skill and hard work in designing this book along with photo and archive director Missy Mikulecky of the Giants. They both contributed a lot to this endeavor.
Thanks to my father and both my grandfathers for passing on the love of baseball to me at such a young, impressionable age. To my dear loving mother who drove me to years of practices and games, thanks, Mom! And kudos to the wonderful nurses who have helped keep me going these past seven years.
To all my fellow Giants fans in sections 122 and 123 you know who you are thanks for all the great times we’ve shared. In the words of our beloved broadcaster, Mike Krukow, youre all Gamers and Gamer Babes!
A big tip of the cap to future Hall of Fame manager of the only three San Francisco Giants World Series championships, Bruce Bochy, for contributing the foreword to this book. Bruce and his gorgeous wife, Kim, are neighbors in our building. Thanks, Boch!
Thanks to Marty Lurie, KNBR 680s talented host, for contributing a second foreword. In many ways, this book wouldn’t have been possible without Marty’s encouragement by reading my writing on the air. Thanks, Marty!
Finally, to my beautiful wife of thirty years, Elizabeth. Without her love and care through this battle with the monster that ALS is, none of this would have been written. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Babydoll!