A friend of mine on Facebook asked me if I knew a certain Giants executive. Immediately I was reminded of this experience.
In May 2000 Lizzy and I travelled to Oklahoma City for my youngest daughter’s, Stephanie, high school graduation. Before we were to leave,Saturday, on Friday we watched the Giants blow a 5 run lead in the bottom of the 7th inning to fall behind 10-7 at Milwaukee in old County Stadium. The Giants battled back to tie it in the 8th inning only to lose it in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 10th. It was our Giants 7th straight loss!
A little background is in order. The 2000 edition of the San Francisco Giants got off the a slow start. After opening our jewel of a ballpark, Pacific Bell Park by losing the first 5 games in our beautiful bayside yard. They had an awful 3-9 record after that ignominious first homestand and solidly brought up the rear in the NL West.
The Giants righted themselves after that bad start with some good baseball to climb out of the cellar. On May 10th, after a torrid 15 out of 20 stretch, they stood in 2nd place and trailed the high-flying Arizona Diamondbacks by 5 games with a respectable 18-14 record. Then came that 7 game losing skid topped of by that frustrating walk off in Milwaukee. Now in 4th place in the division they trailed the D’backs by 8. I remember telling Lizzy after we watched the latest meltdown that this team was just too talented to be playing like this.
After my daughter’s beautiful graduation on Saturday I was troubled by seeing on the news that night that my beloved Giants’ losing streak had stretched to 8 games! Fortunately, the 3rd year D’backs had lost so the deficit remained at 8 games. Lizzy looked at me with her best, “what’s wrong?” expression and I repeated they were too good to be playing this badly. “Baseball is a marathon Lizzy. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish”, I claimed with confidence.
It was against this background that our big surprise happened the next morning. As we were leaving for breakfast with my kids and former in-laws I got the surprise of the year … or a few years! We entered the elevator outside our room.
It was crowded, Lizzy and I stood by the door as they closed. My beautiful wife had noticed a guy standing in back of the elevator holding a Pacific Bell Park bag. She casually mentioned, “Oh! Have you been to our beautiful new ballpark? We have season tickets behind the Giants dugout.” The guy in back with the bag answered in an amused tone, “Yes, I’ve been to the ballpark and it is beautiful.” Alarms immediately went off in my head! I recognized that gravelly voice. I spin around so fast I startled the lady standing behind me.
“Brian Sabean! What the hell are you doing in Oklahoma City?”, I asked excitedly. The rest of the passengers in the elevator chuckled nervously. The sunglasses wearing Giants GM smiled and replied, “I could ask you the same.”
“We’re here for my daughter’s high school graduation. But what are you doing here?”, I asked, still astonished we would meet the Giants GM in Oklahoma City in an elevator!
“I’m here scouting a baseball tournament across the street.”, Brian said as we exited into the lobby.
“Boy! That game Friday night was painful. I can’t believe we’ve lost 8 in a row!”, I mused.
Sabean winced, “You had to bring that up! I don’t know what the hell is happening to this team!”
Trying to cheer him up I said, “I think they’ll turn it around and have a good season. Besides, as you know it’s a long season.”
We made small talk about baseball as we weaved our way through the lobby. This Sunday morning there were many college baseball players in colorful uniforms preparing for the tournament. Notici ng the Baylor uniforms I realized it was a Big 12 tournament. Unknown to me, a brand new baseball park coincidentally named SBC Brickyard Stadium was a block from our hotel. Who would’ve guessed our beautiful new bayside ballpark would be renamed SBC Park within a few years.
When we got outside I offered Brian a ride to the ballpark. He insisted on walking after thanking me for the offer. When we got to breakfast my former brother-in-law, Gordon who was a huge Giants fan, was amazed we’d met Brian Sabean in an elevator in Oklahoma City!
About a month later as Lizzy and I were walking into Pacific Bell Park I noticed Sabean nearby. I said hi and he replied in recognition. Three years later in 2003 we moved into a condo across the street from the ballpark in San Francisco. A few months after moving in I was again dumbfounded when I saw Brian entering our building! It turned out he lived 5 floors above us in a penthouse. That was 15 years ago and we still live in the same building along with the now 3-time world champion GM Brian Sabean.