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Giants fans excited about World Series

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002 10:00 pm

The San Francisco Giants are the hottest ticket in Lodi.

It's been over a decade since San Francisco played for a World Series championship, but all that changes today with Game 1 against the Anaheim Angels in baseball's first all wild-card World Series.

The fans couldn't be merrier.

Tokay High School Athletic Director Ken Israel, a Giants fan for more than four decades, said the World Series frenzy may not be blatantly obvious on the streets of Lodi, but it does exist.

"I happen to know of many longtime Giants fans in town," Israel said. "And every single one of them is ecstatic about the World Series."

The fans have endured the lean years after the Bay Bridge Series against the Oakland Athletics in 1989 and an even longer drought following a 1962 World Series matchup with the New York Yankees.

Unfortunately, San Francisco lost both times, being swept 4-0 by cross-bay rival Oakland, and losing to the Yankees 4-3.

The only world title for the Giants came while playing at the Polo Grounds in New York back in 1954.

After 44 years and only two World Series appearances, the fans are just as, if not more, hungry as superstar Barry Bonds.

This year's National League batting champion is seeking his first World Series ring in 17 years, while the fans are hungry for the franchise's second title and first on the West Coast.

The 1989 series is remembered for the Loma Prieta earthquake. Two local Giants fans attended Game 3 at Candlestick Park that year not once, but twice, when the tremor interrupted play.

Lodi Parks and Recreation Supervisor Mike Reese and Israel agree that the circumstances were unusual, but they were glad to attend two games for the price of one.

"My son was a little apprehensive about going back for Game 3. And rightfully so. But it was worth the return trip," said Israel, who has been a Giants fan since he was 10 years old when the team relocated to California in 1958.

With picturesque Pacific Bell Park nestled next to San Francisco Bay, many Lodi-area residents have made the 90-minute drive to "The City" on a regular basis.

San Joaquin Athletic Association Commissioner Randy Snider, a season-ticket holder since 1982, said the park itself is reason enough to attend a Giants game. He currently splits season tickets with three others.

"It's a fabulous facility," Snider said.

Reese agreed.

"It's a gorgeous ballpark and it's a joy to go to attend a game," he said, adding that the Giants making the World Series has given him a second postseason life this year.

"I was home (last) Friday with a sick child and I missed a call at work to go to Game 5 against the Cards," Reese said. "The guys who went got sprayed with champagne and got to high-five the players. I would have loved to have been there. But I'll get another chance to get tickets … hopefully."

Israel, who shares season tickets with two friends, said he'll be at Game 4 on Wednesday and he's counting the hours.

"I was at Game 7 in 1962 when Bobby Richardson caught Willie McCovey's line drive to win the series for the Yankees," said Israel, who still has the program from when the Giants played their first game in San Francisco. "I have many vivid memories and I'm sure that I'll get new ones this year."

However, with frustration levels reaching an all-time high for fans trying to obtain tickets, getting to the World Series is a tough road.

"My wife, who works at Delta Radiology, said people at work are having trouble even speaking to live bodies when they try to order tickets online or on the phone," Israel said. "The demand for tickets is overwhelming the agencies and as a result getting tickets is nearly impossible."

A search on the Internet confirmed that.

One ticket source is currently selling tickets for Game 3 for between $375 to $1,500 each. VIP tickets cost up to $5,400.

But there are alternatives for the majority of Giants fans who can't gain entrance into Pac Bell Park.

From watching at bars or restaurants, to inviting friends over and ordering takeout, fans in Lodi will be glued to television sets today and for the remaining games of the World Series.

Pine Street Pub co-owner Gary Smith said the National League Championship Series increased business and he's expecting more during the World Series.

"Everybody wants to be with their buddies when they're watching the game," Smith said. "When something as big as the World Series comes along, business always picks up."

Pizza Works assistant manager April O'Neill said Monday night was busy.

"We had 49ers and Giants fans all wanting to watch their teams play," O'Neill said. "I'm sure it will pick up even more during the World Series."

Restaurants haven't been the only businesses to benefit during San Francisco's ride to the World Series.

Lodi Sporting Goods reported that while normal items such as Giants hats haven't sold more than usual, requests for official World Series replica hats and T-shirts are high.

Manager Gene Keith said license-plate bumper stickers have been a hot ticket lately and that all 12 jerseys in stock were sold.

"The NLCS and World Series stuff will sell out as soon as we get it," Keith said.

All-Star Sports and Batter Box manager Mike Conroy said he expects sales to increase even more if the Giants win the World Series.

"Most fans that attend the games already have their stuff, but they don't have the World Series and NLCS gear yet," Conroy said. "That's the gear they will want."

If the Giants win the World Series, orange and black will be seen everywhere, said Israel, whose "Giants" license plate is the only one in all of California.

"I haven't seen many of the kids on campus decked out in Giants gear yet," he said. "But where I only saw one New England Patriots jersey last year before the Super Bowl, the kids jumped on the bandwagon after they beat the St. Louis Rams. The same can be expected if the Giants win."

Israel said he has seen several adults sporting Giants ballcaps.

"I think the World Series means a little more to the older people who have history with the Giants," he said. "Adults have a greater appreciation for how hard it is to get to the World Series and they understand that they better enjoy it because there aren't any guarantees that the Giants will be back in the World Series anytime soon."

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