10/12/2002 5:27 pm ET
Giants fans enjoy postseason party
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was 80 minutes before the first pitch of Game 3 and J.D. Drew was the first Cardinals hitter to send a batting-practice pitch clear out of Pacific Bell Park.
As the ball sailed over the right field bleachers, the fans inside the park gave up on the it and turned toward McCovey Cove.
"Look out below!" came the command from the stands.
All at once, the fans on the sidewalk behind right field rushed toward the railing on the water, and the folks in the water looked toward the heavens.
The ball made a dent in the water about 20 feet out and came bobbing back to the surface. In the water, five small rubber rafts made their way toward the prize.
Up on the sidewalk, out came the home-made retrieval contraptions. One was a small molded net with a small weight which would require incredible precision from the weathered man with a fishing line attached to his fist.
His throw was way off the mark.
Soon thereafter, his buddy, who had a larger net attached to what looked like a football lineman's collar pad, sent his fishing line out from a fishing pole. It landed 12 feet beyond the target and he started reeling.
Then the dogs closed in.
Just off to the south side in the water were two small rubber rafts with ball-fetching dogs peering off the bow. Wow! Ball-fetching dogs? Sure, why not. Maybe you've heard, catching home runs balls at Pacific Bell Park is big business.
And it's real important to the dogs, too.
These dogs are on the official water-dog team from the Pets in Need Adoption Center in Redwood City, about 20 minutes south of San Francisco.
"The adoption rate has about doubled since we started coming out here every Sunday two years ago," said Robert Higa, a volunteer for the center. "We auction off the balls we get and the money goes to the center."
Higa said the dogs fetched one of the 22 home run balls hit directly into McCovey Cove in the last two seasons. But it was not one of the 20 Barry Bonds home run balls.
"It was hit by Felipe Crespo and the dogs went right for it," said Higa. "Most of the folks out here know that Sundays are for the dogs (insert joke here)."
But Game 3 of the NLCS wasn't on Sunday. It was Saturday in San Francisco and home run ball retrieving was every man, and beast, for himself. Consequently, the guy with the horseshoe-shaped net fished Drew's collectible from the drink and left the dogs barking.
"Aw, give it to the dogs," said Billy Renata of Oakland. "They need it worse than you."
Ball-retrieving water dogs were just part of the party-animal atmosphere at the park before the game. Not far from the splash-down action, hundreds of fans enjoyed the free "knot-hole gang" view from the five fenced-in cubbyholes just under the right field bleachers.
Ricky Gillian of Daly City and his wife, Marian, enjoyed watching Scott Rolen throw long tosses, and then cajoled an autograph out of Jeff Fassero.
"I would rather have gotten a Giants pitcher," said Ricky. "But you take what you can get out here. And it's free."
During the games, the Giants let 90 people at a time watch from those spots before rotating every three innings.
"Most of them get smart and leave with one or two outs in the bottom of the third inning and go get back in line to get in," said Angel Rivera, a member of the security staff.
Late Saturday morning and early in the afternoon, there were many thousands of fans milling around outside the park people-watching, drinking and enjoying live music at every turn.
The Giants paid for four different types of live bands outside the park -- Dixieland, Mariachi, accordian and steel drum -- to celebrate the different cultures of the area.
The only fans who didn't seem to be completely relaxed before the game were ... Cardinals fans.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.