During games, abandoned newspapers and napkins and popcorn sacks and scorecards fill the air like confetti tossed from a tall building, swirling down from the stands to clutter up the diamond. The flags in center field usually stand out stiff toward right field, but sometimes they also blow left, and once in a while they blow straight up. One day the American flag blew all the way down. "There is no such thing in this ball park," says Bobby Bragan of the Dodgers, "as an easy fly ball."
Candlestick Park is not only windy, it is cold. San Francisco's warmest weather arrives in October, which would have come in handy had the Giants been able to arrange for a World Series then without first having to play 77 ball games in a city whose mean average temperature during the summer months is 59�. As Mark Twain or Charley Dressen or someone once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
The weather does not faze the natives, who simply wrap up in parkas and blankets and Martinis and sit there as if shivering were fun, but ballplayers are not used to such treatment. Pregame batting and infield practice is so unattractive to the Giants that a coach usually has to come into the dressing room and shoo everyone out. "It gets you inside," says Blasingame, who comes from Mississippi. "You just don't feel like playing baseball out there." Says Wally Moon of the Dodgers: "No ballplayer likes cold weather. You hit one on the fists and your hands hurt for four days."
The wind and the cold are not all that ballplayers object to in Candlestick Park. The only background for hitters is a high blue sky, out of which a good fast ball comes like a rocket. (In June, Stoneham promised to erect a $15,000 green fence—40 feet high and 150 feet long—to serve as a background, but he never did.) The infield has been doused with oil, in an attempt to contain dust swirls, until it has become so hard and lumpy that ground balls now ricochet like a rifle slug going down a canyon. Dampness from San Francisco's early-morning fog leaves the outfield grass as slick as an ice rink.
Obviously, the Giants have every right to be unhappy about Candlestick Park. Whether they should be demoralized is something else. Around the National League no one really believes that this wind-blown error of a ball park adequately explains what has happened to the Giants this year; it is merely a contributing factor and the only one considered fit for public consumption by those on the inside.
In private, when this self-imposed censorship is relaxed, there are several dozen players, coaches, managers, writers and executives who will tell you what is really wrong with the Giants: too many Negroes. They said it last year and they are saying it now, out of the corners of their mouths, after looking warily around. Sometimes half a dozen people will be looking around and speaking out of the corners of their mouths in one small room at the same time. "That's the real reason the Giants are losing," they will say, "but, of course, you can't print it."
The reason you cannot print it—and mean it—is that it is not true. There are racial blocks, of course; there are also psychological and environmental and geographic barriers at least as strong. It is less a matter of pigmentation than what is inside each Giant that keeps the team apart.
In actual numbers, the Giants sometimes have six Negroes on the field when Andre Rodgers is filling in for Davenport at third base and when either Sam Jones or young Juan Marichal is pitching. Only Mays, Alou, Kirkland and Cepeda are considered regulars, however, and the Dodgers ordinarily have more Negro ballplayers in their lineup every day than that. What the Giants lack is leadership—and the responsibility here must be shouldered by the whites.
THE WHITES WOULD BALK
The best ballplayers on the club are Negroes, yet the Negroes, even if they chose to, could not lead because the whites would refuse to follow. Things being the way they are, this is something one can understand. Perhaps the only Negro ballplayer capable of that type of leadership was Jackie Robinson, and on the team on which he played there was no reason for Robinson to lead, not with Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges and Carl Erskine around. The thing that hurts the Giants is the absence of Reeses and Hodgeses and Erskines.