I was the 4th son born in a family of 6 boys in late 1959 – just a year after the Dodgers came to my home town, Los Angeles. Sports were a big thing in our family, and my dad was a sports junkie. So by the time I was 6 years old, I was a big Dodgers fan. This is when dad got transferred to the bay area.
Being only 6 years old, I did not have a grasp on what sports rivalries were all about. I dimly recall hearing about the Juan Marichal - Johnny Roseboro brawl, but I did not know much more than that the Giants were ‘the bad guys’. And Johnny was – at that time – my favorite player because I was a catcher, too, on my little league team, of course.
For those not familiar with that incident, you really should check it out sometime, as it is one of the most serious incidents in the long-running rivalry. http://miscbaseball.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/the-fight-between-juan-marichal-and-john-roseboro/
When my neighborhood pal invited me to attend a Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick Park with his dad and uncle, I wondered if it might not be a good idea to wear my Dodgers cap. This was a ball cap I did not wear out to play baseball with my brothers and kids in the neighborhood. I wore my little league hats for that. No, my Dodgers cap was only for special occasions.
I was wearing my Dodgers ball cap proudly as we entered Candlestick and climbed the ramps to the third deck, along the left field line. I can remember that place like it was there yesterday. It was very not much like Dodger Stadium to my young eyes. Where Dodger Stadium always felt sunny and bright, Candlestick felt dark to me. Almost like an indoor stadium. Perhaps it was the fact that many of the games I attended there were in overcast weather.
The game had not even started when the men in the row behind us started talking about my Dodgers cap. I tried to ignore them and looked to my buddy’s dad and uncle to see if they were aware of the foul words these big men were saying. But they either did not hear the things being said, or did not want to deal with it.
Maybe it was a mistake on my part, but I finally turned to look at them and confirm that they were saying those things to me. I immediately regretted that decision. The man sitting directly behind me said another curse word as he snatched my cap off my head. Then he stood up and tossed it over the rail, down to the next deck.
I lost my breath. I actually felt as if I had been hit in the stomach as I kept replaying what I had just seen – my beloved Dodger ball cap flying in the air and disappearing down into the crowd below. Laughter came from all around me as my eyes teared-up and I tried to catch my breath.
Afraid to look back at the laughing men behind me, I turned to my friend’s father and uncle in hope that they would come to the rescue of me and by ball cap. They said nothing at first. I expected them to turn and confront the men behind us – especially the man who had stolen my hat and thrown it over the rail! I thought – I KNEW – that if my father or even my big brothers were there, that they would do something. Do anything!
Finally, my friend’s dad just looked at me and said: "what did you expect?" I learned all I needed to know that day at Candlestick Park. I was a Dodger fan, and ALL Giants fans were the enemies!