10:12pm PT by Tim Goodman
World Series Game 1: Of Pandas, Barry Manilow and a Gleeful Critic
Less than five minutes after the final out of the first game of the World Series, I went on Twitter and said I needed a gif of All-World Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, mouthing “Wow” when Giants’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s second homer – opposite field no less – landed in the seats.
They came flooding in. They are still flooding in as I write this. The internet is a beautiful thing.
San Francisco’s beloved Kung Fu Panda would hit a third home run, of course, becoming only the fourth player in history to hit three in a World Series game. It turned my hardwood floors into a bath of bubbly (no problem, they were still sticky from the miraculous comeback to beat the St. Louis Cardinals just to get into the Series). Turns out getting asked to write the post-Game 1 blog wasn’t such a bad gig after all.
Truth be told, however, I did nix the idea of a live blog. As a die-hard Giants fan (sorry Dodgers lovers), my nerves were completely raw and frayed after having my team left for dead in Cincinnati, then left for dead again in St. Louis, only to make an improbable comeback in each to make it to this game. Yes, they left their hearts in San Francisco. You knew that was coming.
But how was a live blog going to read facing the best pitcher in baseball if everything went like the experts said it would? Giants fans know all about torture. But that would be a whole new level of pain, having to write about how Verlander was mowing them down and making the free-swinging G-Men look like fools (while ratcheting up my anger for having to document it).
As it turned out, Verlander merely became the latest ace to make experts look bad when they play the Giants in games heading toward (and into) the World Series – Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter, Verlander, etc. all took losses when the analysts were confident that it was going to be aces night at the park). But hindsight is a lovely, warm thing when your team comes out the other end with a victory – I still said no to the live blog.
But Game 1 of the World Series will go down as a TV event that saw Sandoval hit those historic three homers and, to a lesser extent, the no-Giants-fan-can-even-believe-it comeback story of Barry Zito, one of the biggest busts ever after a break-the-bank contract. Year after year Giants fans have cringed when Zito walked to the mound – even in non-stressful, beginning-of-the-season games – but hell, his story is pretty amazing and at least Fox’s coverage and that of the MLB Network have told it.
Elsewhere in the broadcast, if you’re a fan of baseball then you know Fox announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are often a lightning rod for critics. They had one doozy tonight, plus another that local fans were no doubt apoplectic over.
As the noisy, sell-out crowd chanted “Bar-ry! Bar-ry! Bar-ry!” to Zito in appreciation of his masterful pitching, McCarver accurately noted that such a chant was a real rarity for the formerly maligned pitcher. Said Buck: “They used to say it for somebody else around here.”
The reference was clearly to Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run leader and controversial star who was so incredibly popular in San Francisco and hated by everyone else. The Giants beautiful AT&T Park is sometimes described by locals as “The House That Barry Built.”
Unfortunately for McCarver, he followed up Buck’s “They used to say it for somebody else around here” with “When Barry Manilow was playing -- in a concert.”
That one lit up the Internet and Twitter. But for locals, another major gaffe occurred when McCarver was talking about Sandoval – who is often referred to, even by announcers, as merely “Panda” – by calling him “Pandoval” by accident, and then laughing as he explained how he merged the two and blurted out, “I coined that!” Buck followed with “The T-shirt is just waiting to be made.”
Actually Pandoval t-shirts have been around since his rookie season and, like the ubiquitous Panda hats everyone wears to keep warm at night games, it sells briskly at the Giants store.
Someone go buy McCarver a Pandoval shirt, pronto.
However, for this local, it’s hard to get too upset about either man because they have been so effusive about Giants Park, the House That Barry Built or, if you must, AT&T Park, which is a source of unending pride for Giants fans who tout it as the best park in the country. Buck and McCarver have raved about it so often – combined with some truly beautiful aerial shots from Fox both day and night – that our peacock feathers are at attention. Not only that, but both men have gone out of their way to marvel at how loud the fans are and how dedicated and loyal they are (which, ahem, isn’t too difficult when they’re in the playoffs and now in the World Series), but the claims were true and they’ve been duly noted.
As far as the game action goes, well, you saw it. The last thing you need is me pouring more orange and black into your computer. But there was one other special and amazing moment during the game that had nothing to do with what was happening on the field. That was the Stand Up to Cancer campaign which gave fans, players, managers, camera operators – anyone who wanted one – a card that said “I Stand Up For” and a blank spot to be filled in. It was an incredibly touching display as the cameras focused on the signs that read, “My Mom,” “My Dad,” “My Son,” “Me” and hundreds of people’s names written on them. It was an emotionally visceral moment for everyone.
After the game, just as I did after the Champagne flowed in the Giants locker room after beating the Cardinals in Game 7, I tapped into my iTunes and cued up “Panic In Detroit.”
Here’s hoping not to have to eat those prideful displays anytime soon.