McCovey Cove used to be one of the really fun things about going to AT&T Park and seeing a San Francisco Giants game. With all the boats and activity, it was like a big pool party. I hadn’t seen that many drunks on the water since my last booze cruise or since the annual houseboat trip I take to Lake Shasta each summer.
It was a raucous crowd in rowboats, kayaks, floating dirigibles, ski boats – I even saw a guy one time floating around in a wash basin. The interplay among the sea faring revelers was one of the most fun aspects of the whole affair, especially when Barry Bonds came to bat.
We met one gentleman last season that made quite a nice little career out of kayaking in McCovey Cove and retrieving Barry’s home run balls. Known to everyone as “Kayak Man,” he was out there every game, day or night, and had captured more than his 15 minutes of fame for getting some of Bonds’ more celebrated homers, including #660. People would notice him on the streets of San Francisco and his chest would puff out. He even made a little side income producing “Kayak Man” t-shirts and bandanas.
But, now all that is dead. Bonds has been blacklisted out of baseball and McCovey Cove is just another body of polluted sea water. As if on cue, even the seagulls are staying clear. The other day, I did see a sea lion in McCovey Cove…taking a dump. Even the sea mammals of the bay know when a place has been relegated to The City’s “B” List.
The state of the Cove is really indicative of how the whole season is going for the Giants. They’ve been losing games in droves and Barry Zito, their big star pitcher, hasn’t won a single game. It’s sad to see how far the team has fallen since Barry left town.
Yes, it’s true—McCovey Cove (and the SF Giants) has lost its balls. And that’s not all that has gone wrong for the Giants since the departure of Barry Bonds.
This appeared on the Associated Press Wire earlier this week:
The San Francisco Giants this year got off to one of their worst starts since moving here from New York in 1958, losing 11 of their first 17 games.
Fans believe they know what is missing. "Bring Back Barry," read the sign of a young boy in the stands on opening day April 7.
In other ballparks, home-run king Barry Bonds was reviled for his alleged use of steroids and general aloofness.
But here at AT&T Park, fans never stopped loving Mr. Bonds. He drew them to games even when the team was slumping. Fans rented kayaks to float in the waters off right field to await balls Mr. Bonds hit out there. They bought thousands of Bonds jerseys and bobbleheads. In their most peculiar tribute to him, they purchased boatloads of rubber chickens.
During 15 seasons with the team, Mr. Bonds won five Most Valuable Player awards and propelled the club to three National League West titles and the 2002 National League pennant. In 2001, he set the single-season home-run record at 73. Last August, he blew past Hank Aaron's record of 756 career home runs, adding six more before the season ended. "Over the years he played here, Barry was like the greatest show on earth," says Jules Tygiel, a baseball historian and professor of history at San Francisco State University.
But in September, the club announced that it wouldn't re-sign the 43-year-old local hero, citing a need to "move on." That announcement came only weeks before a U.S. District Court grand jury indicted Mr. Bonds on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges related to his alleged use of performance-enhancing steroids. Mr. Bonds has pleaded not guilty in the matter, which remains pending, and has said he never knowingly used steroids. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Bonds declined to comment for this story.
Whether the absence of Mr. Bonds is a factor in the team's slow start is a matter of debate. But unquestionably it is responsible for the drop in sales of rubber chickens at the stadium. So serious an offensive threat was Mr. Bonds that pitchers routinely walked him intentionally. In 2004, he set the single-season record for intentional walks at 120.