Wet and dry
Hordes in McCovey Cove left Derby disappointed
Posted: Tuesday July 10, 2007 12:56AM; Updated: Tuesday July 10, 2007 3:31PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Duke of Medina Sidonia captained the Spanish armada into battle against the English navy in 1588, he had no idea he was sailing his fleet into the biggest upset in naval history. Seņor Duke probably couldn't have done much with the motley crew stationed in McCovey Cove during Monday's Home Run Derby festivities, either.
AT&T Park isn't known as a hitters' park, but still, the allure of the "Splash Hit" -- or a long ball that travels over the 24-foot wall in right field into the icy waters of China Basin -- has quickly romanticized the eight-year-old home of the Giants. Jeez, the park was practically built for Barry Bonds' chase with history.
You'd think that the stadium would be an ideal place to host a Home Run Derby. That's exactly what the hundreds of nuts who took to McCovey Cove in every variety of personal watercraft thought. Rafts, canoes, kayaks, dinghies -- hell, even surfboards. Everyone wanted the most unique souvenir possible during All-Star Weekend.
The "Bonds Army" in their matching kayaks and flags. A dot-com millionaire in a canoe rigged with a special waterproof LCD screen. The 17-year-old in a thick wetsuit clutching his surfboard. The four guys putting on the floating golf green. Even ESPN's Kenny Mayne, with a camera attached to his helmet that made him look like a contestant on a bad reality show. They all showed up for the massive party in McCovey Cove.
An army of 350 participants -- at least registered with the Coast Guard (there were clearly more than that in attendance) -- rowed in for a piece of the action, even without Bonds participating. The 42-year-old slugger decided to sit the Home Run Derby out to rest his aching bones, denying loyal Giants fans their opportunity to snag a piece of history in perhaps Bonds' final All-Star weekend.
"It would have been nice to have Barry here," said Scott Hoetker, an Internet marketer from nearby Lafayette, before getting ready to jump on a canoe and join the masses. "These fans deserve it."
Bonds did knock one into China Basin during batting practice, but wasn't around for the main event. To make matters worse, other left-handed sluggers removed their names from consideration as well, chief among them Ken Griffey Jr. and David Ortiz. That meant there would be only three lefties out of a field of eight participants in the Derby with the power to jack long balls into the Bay: Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard. And none made it out of the first round.
The enormous McCovey Cove party that was supposed to be epic was anything but. Only three balls made it into the drink, and each was either a foul, rebound or ricochet. And the massive scrum that often occurs during Giants games? There wasn't a single comedy highlight.
Twins first baseman Morneau did his best with a massive foul ball that traveled over the packed-in flotilla and landed near one lucky canoeist who found himself alone with the floating ball. Then, no action until Albert Pujols came to bat. The Cards masher is known for going opposite field every so often, and out in the Cove, the switch was on. Half the flotilla relocated themselves closer to center, but to no avail. Pujols didn't deliver.
And so it went in McCovey Cove. The giant party found other ways to entertain itself, throwing footballs and water polo balls, tossing each other beers -- and, of course, the time-honored tradition of chanting "Beat L.A." Other entertaining highlights? The chubby guy back-flipping off the bow of his raft. Hysterical.
By the time the first round ended, word traveled fast that no lefty was left in the competition. Even while Vladimir Guerrero was sending moon shots halfway to Napa Valley, the buzz died away. The sun had set, the breeze rolled in and the classically chilly San Francisco summer weather sent much of the flotilla home. Where were you, Barry, when they needed you?