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Baseball Time is Here Once More Again
Baseball time is back Go see our Giants score again Keep hitting the ball in the field Watch these Giants and the bases they steal We hope the pennant is in sight again The Giants try hard again Go go Giants and win today We are with you the Giants until the end. (Lyrics from a souvenir recording of the Art Mineo Combo, song written by Joe Jordan}.
Does anyone remember this little piece? It was “Go Giants Go”, introduced by Joe Jordan in 1963. It was available on a 45 rpm and was part of the merchandise sold at the Tacoma Giants souvenir shop at Cheney Stadium. I couldn’t be the only kid in T-town to rob his dad of his weekly allowance. It only cost four coins (50 cents) and I didn’t even have to clean our basement for it. Such a deal!
“Go Giants Go” was played one day during the intermission of a double bill (double header day-night). Joe Jordan was accompanied by Lincoln High School’s 80-piece band, the school’s 50-member male choir, and the Tacoma Giants Booster Club led by baritone Jack Sonntag. And other times he would play over the stadium’s PA system, drowning out the home run foghorn, ringing bells and buzzing organ from the stands. To this day, I hold dearly in my possession, “Go Giants Go” in my personal hall of fame and memory box. I even went so far as to duplicate it on a CD.
The following story is about my love for baseball in my youth and the passion I have for the sport today. My hometown is Tacoma, Washington. This story takes place there in the 1960s.
I was only seven years old when the San Francisco Giants franchised their farm club to Tacoma’s beautiful Cheney Stadium in 1960. Cheney Stadium was just built and finished by local lumberjack, Ben Cheney. Who would have guessed that the next six years were going to be the most impressionable years of my life? I often wondered what meant more to me during the hot summer days of the early to mid-60s – seeing my older brothers win a round during the days of the Kiwanis Soap Box Derby or watching the Tacoma Giants wind up? pitcher Juan Marichal on the mound and the on-field excellence of shortstop Gil Garrido, my hero then, No. 17. If I was anywhere near Bantz Boulevard, I had the better of both worlds. Let’s not forget the Cheney Studs playing hardball at nearby Heidelberg Field. I have always chosen the country of the “Giants”.
With those memories so narrowly focused on the past, I recall the sports-entertainment battle where Tightwad Hill made its barrier between the Soap Box Derby race track and Cheney Stadium. I can almost smell the yellow-flowered wild Scotch broom as I walked up the hill from the soapbox track to the field fence at the top left of Cheney Stadium. I equipped myself with binoculars as I mischievously walked away from the watchful gaze of my parents. I can even feel my mother’s twisted pinch on my right arm for disappearing down the dusty derby hill. Wow, she had a pinch of obedience! I did not care. I endured all the pain. It was worth it.
But it was all worth it back then, because everywhere I appeared I wore my old black baseball cap with the orange capital “T” representing the Tacoma Giants. I was simply a die-hard Giants fan and would rather hear the crunch of a Louisville slugger than the thud of the boards at the starting line and the wave of the checkered flag as the derby came to an end.
If people thought I was a Giants fan, then I should introduce my dad. It was pretty much like father, like son with us and the Giants. After all, it was dad who took us to the first game at Cheney Stadium forty-seven years ago. I remember the many nights my dad worked in his backyard garage. He was listening to his tube radio late at night, tuned in to “Mr. Voice of the Giants,” Don Hill. “Giants win, Giants win! How about that, Giants fans?” Hill reportedly absolved. Then, Hill ended with “so long and be a good sports fan.”
Another winning game was over. I couldn’t get enough. My brothers never had enough. And above all, my father never had enough. My mother had already had enough, however. She was too busy putting old newspapers on her kitchen floor. Dad would come running from the garage and stalk grease and dirt all over his clean floor, only to repeat play by play countless times for us kids. I can still see him smiling, his lips serving him gallantly. He almost looked like Don Hill.
My dad was one of us when it came to the Tacoma Giants. He would be so excited. I wonder if my mother was happy with the Giants. I don’t think there was any love lost. From April to September, she always had the stack of old newspapers in the hallway near the kitchen. Specifically for the Tacoma Giants, Don Hill and my dad. It took a lot of newspapers to roll out this unwelcome rug. The newspapers disappeared after September, to return the following spring.
Dad did his best to get Mom interested in the Giants, but we all had to cheer her on. Especially when it comes to Mother’s Day Sunday double headers. It was a nine inning game plus a seven inning postgame. I was all for the 16 rounds of delicious pleasure. If I had the choice, there would always be extra innings. I begged and begged for more baseball until there were holes in the knees of my jeans.
But now more than 47 years have passed and that April thrill returns every spring. Cheney Stadium has seen seven professional baseball teams pound its walls and sometimes break the hearts of their fans. And let’s not forget the days when Cheney Stadium was home to the country of the Giants, Cubs, Twins, Yankees, Tugs and Tigers. And now, for twelve years, they’ve been proud to be the Tacoma Rainiers, the farm club of the Seattle Mariners.
I don’t look over the Scotch broom on Tightwad Hill these days, and the Soap Box Derby is long gone. The Tacoma Giants are also long gone. But the memories are still among Cheney Stadium and its Tacoma Rainiers today. I have discovered the boxes and the stands now. As long as I and a few thousand others are fans, Tacoma baseball and Ben Cheney’s stadium will never die.
I sincerely hope that future generations will still capture that spirit of fun and hold on to those memories as I did and always will. I’ll see you all in the seats at Cheney Stadium when I’m 77 because that 7-year-old boy will surely be here tomorrow.
For all die-hard Tacoma Giant fans of yesteryear – a great book to read is, Six Seasons: A History of the Tacoma Giants 1960-1965, written by Jacob Jordan. This book covers it all. I highly recommend it. It is available on the Internet.
If Joe Jordan was alive today, he would have to revise his song “Go Giants Go”. His new version should be “Go, Rainiers Go–and win today. We’re with you Rainiers all the way.”
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