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Coastal Commuter

In enemy territory with a charm and a prayer

During the summer of 2012, I was doing one of my increasingly frequent stints in Los Angeles for work, and I received a call from a friend asking if I would like to see the San Francisco Giants play the rival Dodgers the next night. It was a while since I had been to the stadium built in Chavez Ravine on the east side of the city, just north of downtown. For the record, I have long referred to the location as Chavez Latrine, but what else can you expect from a life-long Giants supporter?

Anyway, I was eager to see Bochy’s boys in orange and black take on the blue-clad Dogs, although I was leery of showing up at Dodger Stadium in any Giants gear. The previous year was marred for any true baseball aficionado by the ugly, vicious, life-threatening attack on Giants devotee Bryan Stow by purported Dodger fans in their stadium’s parking lot. Stow was wearing his team’s colors, making him a target for the lunatics who beat him unconscious. He was still in bad shape 14 months later (and, as we know in 2016, is unlikely to ever fully recover), so I decided to err on the side of caution and avoid any overt signs of my allegiance. I had no intention of doing something as gutless and traitorous as donning a Dodger cap or putting on a shirt in neutral shades. Instead, I decided to get creative.

ORANGE AMID THE BLUE

On game day, I donned my usual all-black ensemble, including the requisite motorcycle jacket, and went to the backyard of my L.A. digs where I plucked a small orange off of a tree heavy with the tasty citrus treats. Placing the orange in my pocket, I headed to the stadium where I met my friend and fellow Giants backer at the will-call window for our tickets.

The place was, as expected, a sea of blue (and vocal) Dodger lovers. Arriving at our seats, I surreptitiously showed the orange to my pal and to a few other Giants faithful on our row. I may not have had the cojones to show up in an official San Francisco jersey and cap, but I was representing in my own way: I was rooting for the Orange & Black with a genuine orange that had been harvested in SoCal, as if to usurp the power of the local nine from the very earth beneath them. Everyone discretely rubbed the wee fruit for good luck, and I placed what had quickly become a totem back into my jacket pocket.

The game started. It was a back-and-forth struggle with the Giants finally going ahead for good in the top of the 7th inning thanks to a timely RBI by S.F.’s superstar catcher Buster Posey. All the while, our impromptu Giants fan club was passing my orange around and silently invoking its energy. We all stayed until the final out, and quietly jubilant, we headed out into the warm and welcoming L.A. night. But not before I made a show of dubbing my lucky charm “The Magic Orange.”

EMBRACING THE MOJO

From that point until the end of baseball season, I kept the Magic Orange at hand, particularly while watching the Giants, whether in person at the team’s own jewel of a ballpark — best in the known world — or via broadcast. And though my orange may not have assured their success, the G-Men triumphed over the odds facing a gauntlet of elimination games in a division playoff and the National League Championship Series, and winning every one until finally triumphing over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It would be their second championship in three years, and in 2014, they would win their third since relocating to San Francisco from New York in 1958, the same year that the Brooklyn Dodgers, their nemeses, would also move to the West Coast to become L.A.’s darlings.

As summer gave way to fall in those last two Giants championship seasons, you could find me at playoff time, clutching the Magic Orange on every pitch until sweet victory was certain. And when the parades and street parties were over, I would pick an appropriate time to go down to the Embarcadero, right next to Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park (or whatever the sponsor is planning to call the team’s home in the future). I’d stroll to the walkway along the exterior of the right-field wall and toss that season’s spent and hardened Magic Orange into the waters of McCovey Cove, with all honors.

In 2013 and 2015 when the Giants didn’t win it all, that edition of the orange was suspect in my eyes and would not get a proper burial at sea. Garbage cans were more likely destinations. Regardless of each season’s outcome, I have since followed the same ritual every spring, scanning the tree branches for a likely suspect to pluck — an orange imbued with the same mojo that surely helped bring about those even-year championships.

INFILTRATING THE STRONGHOLD AGAIN

That brings us to last month. A new Magic Orange in my possession, I accompanied a few comrades to the Dodger Doghouse — uh, Stadium — for the rubber match of the second Giants-Dodgers face-off in 2016. It’s an even year, so the disappointments of 2015 are moot. I made it to the Latrine early enough to wander around club level, pregame. Despite my distaste for the SoCal franchise, I had to marvel at the extensive memorabilia lining the air-conditioned corridors along the perimeter of the building.

There were fascinating mementos of the enemy squad’s history, from its origins in the late 1800s as the Brooklyn Baseball Club and the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (really) and on into the 20th Century as the Brooklyn Superbas, the Brooklyn Robins, and eventually the Brooklyn Dodgers and … well, you know the rest. My enmity was tempered for a bit, especially when I saw a few hilarious renditions of the team’s de facto mid-century mascot — a grinning, rather unsavory-looking hobo whose image was derived from angry followers deriding the team as the Brooklyn Bums when they lost.

Truth be told, my field-level seats were great, other than the broken cup-holder (something you wouldn’t see at AT&T), and there were enough Giants lovers in my section that safety wasn’t a concern when the Orange was proffered. It was a beautiful evening in L.A., except for one thing. The Giants booted an early lead and, ultimately, the game. Was the 2016 edition of the Magic Orange at fault? Only time and the remainder of a lengthy season would tell.

OK. You don’t seriously think that I believe this superstitious mumbo-jumbo, do you? It’s simply a juicy piece of produce that happens to come in my favorite team’s dominant color. Nothing more. Nothing less. But just in case things aren’t going well for Los Gigantes by June, I’m ready to hit up the tree for a more Magical Orange.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's David Feldman Show and on Michael Snyder's Culture Blast, via GABnet.net, Roku, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster

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