Great Stadiums (9): Daphne du Maurier Stadium (Oracle Park in San Francisco)

One can sense (Wilhelm) Richard Wagner’s Valkyrie (Die Walkuere) in the background: amidst too much fowl territory!

Daphne du Maurier wrote “The Birds,” a short story expanded upon by Alfred Hitchcock to a film of eco-psychology that features his greatest special effects, glamorous skulduggery on Mount Rushmore notwithstanding.

Oracle ParkPacific Bell, then SBC; after those corporate-naming auspices were exhausted, AT&T, the latter noted in the accompanying photo and video—is the real-2019 name, not Daphne du Maurier Stadium, of the San Francisco Giants home field.

Oracle’s a stunner on the Bay and a vast improvement over elevated Candlestick Park, which saw gale-force winds and freezing night-game temperatures during its run, especially before it was enclosed as a multipurpose stadium. Oracle is indeed one of the most beautiful stadiums in Major League Baseball. But it has one big-time flaw. (Read on.)

(Willie Mays, almost as magnificent a centerfielder as the great [as Hemingway calls him] Joe DiMaggio [a San Francisco native and as stylish as any element of that most-stylish city], probably lost a number of homers off his career total of 660 by playing a lot of his games at Candlestick. Mays’s exciting trademark basket-catches were put to the test every night. Needless to say, playing conditions were no Rice-A-Roni treat.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, a home-field disadvantage to perhaps the best player of the 1960s. [Ironically, Candlestick opened in April 1960, to kick off that controversial decade: with then-presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon tossing the first ball no less and the Beatles performing their last paid-show there, on August 29, 1966.] Famously retold is how, a decade before, Horace Stoneham was shown the site of his new ball field, with all that parking, on the way from the airport and the Daly City Cow Palace, in the smug sunniness of the Northern California daytime. Who knew? Chub Feeney got the gone-with-the-wind details from someone among the stadium-construction team.)

Such a marvelous place, Oracle, night or day—except for the sea gulls that swoop and swarm during late innings. No one quite understands how the birds understand when the game is wrapping up.

It is said the proliferation of seagulls, all unplanned and unanticipated by the stadium architects (Stoneham returns), has to do with newer-ecological city-disposal ordinances and the quick burial of food-waste. Thus, the birds arrive elsewhere (i.e., the Oracle bleachers) for late-game nourishment.

(There has been a reciprocating issue in neighboring Oakland for similar reasons; its Athletics, a franchise that, for many additional reasons, raw-sewage leaks and the existence of Oracle among them, has threatened to move for years.)

Ironically, the old Polo Grounds in upper Harlem, where the Giants played till 1957, was a pigeons’ paradise. Fans in the grandstands, certainly by the time the Polo Grounds was home to the New York Mets in 1962, wore newspaper-hats to avoid the liquid siftings.

A skein. A gaggle. Even human-fans have been flocking to this great stadium….Really no bird lover, I (Evander): If I were on hand at Oracle, after the seventh-inning stretch, I’d be Alfred Hitchcock-terrified.

A strange bird the pelican,
His beak can hold more than his belly can:
I don’t know how the hell he can.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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