AT&T Park has been home to the San Francisco Giants since the team left Candlestick park after the 1999 season. Back when it opened on April 11, 2000 it was called “Pac Bell Park” and was considered by many to be the greatest of the new ballparks. On the Giants team website I found this quote from Peter Gammons at the time.
"“It’s hard to say what’s best about [SBC] Park, except that it is San Francisco. The view from the worst seats in the house still gives you a view of the Bay Bridge and the marina. As great as Camden Yards, Turner Field, The Jake and Coors Field are, this is the best fan’s ballpark because it was conceived, built and paid for by Giants owner Peter Magowan, a legitimate baseball fan.”"
Funny enough, the Giants had a hard time getting it going that first season by the cove. The Dodgers won the first three games, sparked by Kevin Elster‘s 3 HR performance in the opening game. In fact, the Giants lost 6 straight to open up the park. It wasn’t until April 29th against the Expos, that the Giants got their first win at Pac Bell.
Since then the team has thrived at home. In that first season the Giants went 55-26. Overall they have gone 651-485 during the regular season and 17-10 in the playoffs. The best season at home for the Giants? That’s the 2003 team that went 100-61 overall, 57-24 at Pac Bell. Heck, even this past season’s team posted a winning record at home. Through 14 seasons playing in the shadow of a Coke bottle, the Giants have only had 3 losing home campaigns. The last one occurring in 2008.
So when you combine a beautiful park and a winning team, there are bound to be some memorable moments. I’ve come up with 10 of them. Now, we all have our most memorable moments from games we attended. I for one will never forget a Saturday back in August. But for our purposes here I’m looking at moments that could be felt not just at the park, but also by most of us watching at home.
Since there are 10, and I’ve already typed a lot of words, I’m going to split it up. First, the Barry Bonds era. Now, this doesn’t split it up evenly, but events don’t always dictate being even. Bonds was the centerpiece for the first 8 seasons at AT&T Park. The last 6 have been an entirely different era. Not every one of these has Bonds in the middle, but Giants fans will remember them all.
- 2000 NLDS Game 2 vs. Mets –
Yes the Giants eventually lost this game. But so much led up to it, that it was truly the first big moment in the park’s history. As J.T. Snow willed the ball fair with his arm, the fans went crazy as it landed safely for a 3 run home run. It’s what led up to this that made it a great moment. The Giants had taken Game 1 of the 5 game series against the Mets. Game 2 was a tight one all along. It was 2-1 New York entering the top of the 9th inning. But the Giants pitching gave up a home run to Edgardo Alfonso and the Giants trailed 4-1 heading to the bottom half of the inning.
Barry Bonds led off the 9th with a double. Jeff Kent followed with a single. Ellis Burks hit a shallow pop fly to right field for the first out. Then, on a 2-1 pitch from Armando Benitez, J.T. Snow tied the game. It was the loudest it had ever been at that park. Alas, this moment was fleeting. The Giants lost in extras and then lost 2 straight in New York to get eliminated. But that magical feeling of seeing Snow’s ball stay fair will never leave.
October 5, 2001 – Bonds hits 71,72
Once again this turned bittersweet for Giants fans. This is a moment that may never have happened at home. Due to the 9/11 attacks, baseball was shut down for a week. Because of that, the games that were lost were played in the week following the original end to the season. Yes the Giants would have ended the season at home against San Diego, but who knows what Barry’s home run total would have been entering that final weekend.
Bonds did not waste any time either. Shawn Estes couldn’t even make it through the 1st and the Giants were in a 5-0 hole. In his first at bat, Bonds hit a 1-0 pitch from Chan Ho Park deep in to the night. The ball landed in the people and the crowd roared its approval. Barry Bonds had just set a new single season home run record. He hit number 72 later that night and added one more 2 games later. Here’s where it turns sour though. On the same night Bonds broke the record, the Giants couldn’t rebound and were eliminated from the race in the 11-10 loss.
2002 NLCS Game 5 – Lofton sends Giants to World Series
Finally, a moment that’s joyful. The Giants had to work hard for this victory and it paid off in a trip to the World Series. The Giants had a 3-1 lead in the best of 7 series heading in to this one. They could afford to lose, but who wants to fly back to St. Louis? The Cardinals did, as they held the Giants down for the first 7 innings. Finally in the 8th the Giants got to Matt Morris when Bonds tied the game at 1 with a sacrifice fly.
Tim Worrell pitched around a 2 out single in the top of the 9th to keep the game tied. The Giants sure made it interesting in the bottom half of the 9th. After 2 quick outs to Ramon Martinez and J.T. Snow it looked like extra innings. David Bell then singled up the middle. Shawon Dunston, who was playing right field at this point in the game, followed with another single to center. Steve Kline came in to replace Morris and only threw one pitch. Kenny Lofton turned on the ball for a single to right field and Bell raced home to send the Giants to the World Series. It was their first trip back since 1989, and the first ever at the new park.
2002 World Series Game 5 – J.T. Snow saves Darren Baker
There’s not much to write on this one. Every Giants fan remembers watching this happen. It has been told that the reason Darren Baker rushed out so quickly for the bat is because he just loved Kenny Lofton. It was Lofton’s triple that started the confluence of events that led to little Darren Baker needing a rescue.
August 7, 2007 – Barry Bonds All Time Home Run King
This was the final big moment of the Barry Bonds era. With one out in the bottom of the 5th inning, Bonds hit home run number 756 to deep right center field. He passed Hank Aaron and moved in to first place on the all time list. The pitcher for the Nationals that day was Mike Bacsik. Bonds would go on to hit a few more home runs the rest of the season to end with a total of 762.
So what do you think? Are there any moments from the Bonds era that I may have missed? Tell me in the comments below or feel free to share your own favorite moments.