"Hooha!" There was no doubt in the sky club about that voice. The only question was, who had crack radio salesman Bobby G wrapped in a bear hug this time? The lucky woman was none other than Jewel Goldman, vice-president for KFAN-TV, the San Francisco Giants new flagship television station. She was stepping into, and he was stepping out of, the largest of the sky box suites. In Bobby’s bubbly embrace, her arms clung stiff as dead cod to her illegally curved, drop-dead hips.
The behemoth booth belonged to a fellow named Head Cheat. It was the jewel of the Throwback Seats deal that Bobby G had crafted. It had seen a lot of Head in its day.
Head Cheat had co-founded Cheaters sports bars. He was a fanatic Giants fan and attended as many games as his schedule permitted. Jewel Goldman was a fanatic fan of television commercials and she wanted Head. She wanted Head to tip his toe into the murky waters of television advertising. "After all," she was wont to remind anyone who might listen, "if a mere radio voice can sell a product, a sponsor gets way more bang from his buck when the audience actually sees the product."
While Jewel angled toward Head, Bobby G exited. Outside now, he squared his lavender lapels, shot the monogrammed cuffs of his Wilkes-Bashford custom silk shirt, twirled his pewter links and rolled his bony shoulders. Then, he spun to head up to the stadium Throwback Seats section.
Fanny Hill deftly navigated stadium steps schlepping beer. And, peculiarly, she was waiting for a bus.
Across Lefty O’Doul bridge, Dad yelped when the trunk lid pinched his pinkie. His kid took scant notice. He was fiddling with the electrical end of the jagged handle of a two-tone baseball bat, his eyes glued to hand-written hieroglyphics on a fistful of pastel 3x5 cards.
The team trainer would be maneuvering the locker room by now, but tonight, down Highway 101, he struggled from the back seat of a Town Car, vainly trying to secure his teenage daughter’s seatbelt. Before long, she would melt the kid with the electric two-tone bat handle into mush.
The deep bronze eyes of the Willie Mays statue surely stared incredulously across King Street at two fellows wearing letterman sweaters (yes, sweaters) gleefully pushing and tugging at one another in feeble attempts to dazzle and defrost the ice cold bartender at the cozy end of the bar at Brucie’s Pop-Top Tavern.
And down the right field line, a lithe Asian with super-model cred, was about to sit down. That’s when Sammy the Seat stood up. So to speak. To Sammy’s left, the beauty’s disheveled, unlikely escort, was poised to plop atop Izzy Dean.
Overhead, curvy wisps of purple twined the fading orange sun that fought vainly against its inevitable summer twilight dissolve into drunken fog slinking in from the Pacific, to coyly spiral upward to encircle the San Francisco Giants’ baseball park.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and join Sheryl Crow in singing ‘God Bless America.’ Please remain standing to honor our national anthem, rendered a cappella tonight by Huey Lewis.”
Rise? Remain standing? For voluble Sammy the Seat and his wooden companions, that wasn’t about to happen. Never had. His was a foursome as apt to remain standing as a platypus was apt to run a marathon. Might as well be bolted to concrete. Of course, the four seats were bolted to concrete, in pairs, adjacent to an aisle of steep steps teeming with late-coming fans who were shuffling and slogging to gain headway, which is rough sledding when one is feigning to remain standing.
Fanny Hill filled out every wrinkle of her pink and white-striped blouse. Her fluffy crimson hair with its crooked auburn streak, pulled snugly through the wedge in back of her “Beer Here” cap, flopped in a lush pony tail as she dodged and descended, and ascended and dodged, all the while balancing a square metal tray resembling a cupcake tin, each circular indentation designed to cradle a cup of frothy Anchor Steam beer.
“Pssst, offer you some suds, Phil? Hah.”
Phil Sage spun to his right. Well, supposing a stadium seat could spin. He was ready. He had unearthed a sneaky one for his protégé tonight. “Aaaaah Fanny, you light of lights. You one of wonders.” Thus began their evening whisper. Well, Phil really wasn’t compelled to whisper.
"To do is to be," he prompted.
"To be is to do."
"Voltaire," beamed Fanny.
"Do be do be do."
Fanny was stumped.
"Sinatra," grinned Phil Sage. Supposing a seat could grin.
Off Fanny skipped, muttering merrily, "thank heavens for good ’ol Phil. Jabber, jabber, jabber, those other three haven’t a clue.”
Weeknights, Fanny gamely endured the grumbling, bragging, rambling commentary among Phil and his three unwitting mates. Phil, secured beside the aisle in front of Sammy the Seat, is Fanny’s confidante and mentor. Fanny is the only person in the ball park able to hear Phil and his three compatriots. And, Phil is the only seat able to banter with her. Peculiarly, when he does, his three mates hear nothing. Nada. Zip. They are shut out. As for Fanny’s coy asides to Phil, well, were he still shaking wood, Edgar Bergen might learn a trick or three.
To Sammy’s left, was dreamy Izzy Dean, the only seat showing faint signs of rust from slumbering day to day beside the bay. Back, back, back, his memories tumbled… when he was awake.
A sour breath in front of Izzy, to the left of Phil Sage, was the seat least likely of the four to gather rust: The Fun Gun. The Pistol. Given name? Johnny Pistola.
So, left to right, top to bottom, the line-up from the right fielder’s vantage was Sammy the Seat, number 121. To Sammy’s left (to the right fielder’s right, right?) Izzy Dean was tattooed: 122. In front of Sammy was Phil Sage, 111, and to Phil’s left, 112 was branded to The Pistol. Yep. They say you can’t tell the seats without a program.
Suddenly, Izzy Dean let loose an asthmatic “oomph,” when an aging, knackered radio star plopped onto him. He was a thin, reedy fellow, clad in the oldest Lynyrd Skynyrd tee on the planet, half-tucked into a beltless, paisley-patched pair of Wrangler jeans cuffed way too high above the flaming red shoelaces of a pair of blue and yellow high-top Converse Flyers that Sir Elton John would simply die for. Straw, dun hair mopped every which way, this would be Bumper. Bumper Morgan. Dawg Radio’s lead dog.
Izzy Dean’s "oomph" was trumped a San Francisco-second later, when Sammy the Seat toothed a whistle that could paralyze a beagle three furlongs away. Then a louder one. Then another. Fanny Hill heard his last two from the mezzanine beyond the right field foul pole where her supervisor, Smoky Burgess, was topping off her cupcake tray.
“Ladies and Gents, tonight’s starting line-up. Batting first...”
Earlier, when the stadium lights had blipped, wiggled, then segued from faint infant blur to intense illumination, Phil Sage stirred and blinked an eye to fend the late afternoon glare. Behind Phil, Sammy the Seat woke to proclaim for the umpteenth time, “if seats told tales, I could spend years, dishing to Oprah, tales of the tails that have graced and disgraced us seats over the years. Could write a book. Someone ought to."
(Yeah. Someone ought to)
Izzy Dean woke begrudgingly from his interminable dreams: reminiscing of days long gone; some gone, gone, gone, way gone. Back as far as 1962, the year he and Sammy the Seat broke into the Big Leagues, arm in arm.
Johnny Pistola wasn’t around in ‘62. The Pistol kicked off his career in 1983 as a left field cheap seat in the Giants’ previous stadium. Alas, when the seats of Candlestick Park were reconfigured after the World Series earthquake in ’89, he had been demoted, shipped armrest to armrest with Phil Sage down to the minor league Arizona ballpark. Then, when that club moved into its new ballpark, he and Phil Sage lamentably found themselves shackled and stacked inside a window-less storage room of a massive South Phoenix nightclub. There, he and Phil had languished until they were “discovered,” and suddenly shipped back to San Francisco to anchor the new ballpark’s Throwback Seats section that had been fashioned by a blustery salesman who sold radio commercials for the deejay named Bumper.
Tonight, the despicable Dodgers were in town for the Friday night opener of what promised to be a memorable weekend series. Tomorrow night’s Dodger pitcher, Roger Clemens, had lost his re-election bid so he promptly unretired for the 6th time. He was closing in on the half-century mark, weighed north of 290 pounds and pitching for his eighth major league team. But it was the unretired Barry Bonds for whom the Giants faithful had turned out. Indeed, fans from Calcutta to Kiribati, from Adak to Tierra del Fuego, were tuning in. It was his birthday. It was July 24, 2012. Bonds was 48 years old.
"Every player in his secret heart, wants to manage some day. Every fan, in the privacy of his own mind, already does."
Neither of his fellows bothered to remark on Sammy the Seat’s nightly ode to the "professor of the press box," Leonard Kopett, who had written about baseball for six decades.
"’Baseball is easy,’ Woody Allen will tell you. ’It has rules and foul lines. Women are different.’"
"Hah," guffawed Johnny Pistola. "I’ll be fair with her, Phil, even if she’s foul. But five will get you ten, I’ll lay down the law on her. Brmmm bum."
That sailed over every seat’s back but the boys were warming to the night. Izzy roused to toss in the old slider about New Englanders: "baseball is not a matter of life and death. But the Red Sox are."
"Right-o, Izzy, the Sox are back on top these days, but wait and see. There are a multitude of ways," drawled Sammy, "to tumble from wiener to loser in the quirky game of rawhide round ball."
"Casey Stengel knew how to win and he was always quick to dish you his recipe." It was Phil Sage. "’One third of your players like you. One third don’t like you and one third don’t care. The trick is keeping the third group away from the second.’"
Ouch! Phil Sage felt the kid before he saw him. The boy and his dad had tumbled onto 111 and 112. Felt him on his lap, then saw him, then heard him.
“Daaaaadd, be careful! Please!" The kid’s baritone sounded to Phil like a young Don Pardo.
In no time, Dad helped the kid assemble an array of electronic gear. Phil watched the youngster set up. At first he was bewildered. Then, he caught on.
“I’ll be hum-dinged,” Phil smiled. "This kid is setting up to call his own play-by play.”