Baseball Time is Here Once More Again
Baseball time is here once more again Go and see our Giants score again Go on hit the ball out in the field Watch those Giants and the bases they steal We hope the pennant is in sight again Giants try with all your might again Go, go Giants and win today We’re with you Giants all the way . (Lyrics from a souvenir recording by the Art Mineo Combo, song written by Joe Jordan}.
Does anybody out there remember that little tune? It was “Go Giants Go,” introduced by Joe Jordan in 1963. It was available on a 45 RPM, and it was part of the merchandise being sold at the Tacoma Giants souvenir shop at Cheney Stadium. I couldn’t have been the only kid in T-town to have embezzled his father out of his weekly allowance. It cost only four bits (50 cents) and I didn’t even have to clean our basement for it. Such a deal!
“Go Giants Go” was performed one day during intermission of a twin-bill (day-night double header). Joe Jordan was accompanied by the 80-piece Lincoln High School band, the school’s 50-member male choir, and the Tacoma Giants Booster Club led by baritone Jack Sonntag. And other times it would play over the stadium’s public address system, drowning out the home run foghorn, the clanging cowbells, and the humming organ from the grandstands. To this day, I hold dearly in my possession, “Go Giants Go” in my personal hall of fame and memorabilia box. I have even gone as far as duplicating it onto a CD.
The following story is about my love for baseball as a youth and for the passion I have for the sport today. My hometown is in Tacoma, Washington. This story takes place there back in the ’60s.
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 completed by local lumberman, Ben Cheney. Who would have guessed the next six years were 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 heat during the days of the Kiwanis Soap Box Derby or observing the high-kicking wind-up of Tacoma Giants’ pitcher Juan Marichal on the mound and the fielding excellence of shortstop Gil Garrido, my hero then, No. 17. If I was anywhere near Bantz Boulevard, I had the best of both worlds. Let us not forget the Cheney Studs playing hardball in nearby Heidelberg Field. I always chose the land of the “Giants.”
With these memories turned so intricately toward yesteryear, I remember the battle of sports entertainment where Tightwad Hill made its barrier between the Soap Box Derby race track and Cheney Stadium. I can almost feel the wild, yellow-flowered Scotch broom as I huffed up the hill from the soap box track to the high left field fence of Cheney Stadium. I equipped myself with binoculars as I mischievously marched away from my parents watchful eyes. I can even feel my mother’s twisting pinch to my right arm for disappearing from the dusty derby hill. Wow, she had a mean pinch of obedience! I didn’t care. I endured all pain. It was worth it.
But it was all worthwhile back then, because wherever I appeared I wore my old black baseball cap with the orange capital “T” representing the Tacoma Giants. I was simply a hard-core Giants fan and would rather hear the crack from a Louisville slugger than the thud of the planks at the starting line and the wave of the checkered flag at the derby finish.
If people thought I was a Giants fan, then I should introduce my dad. It was just about “like father, like son” with us and the Giants. After all, Dad was the one who took us to the first game at Cheney Stadium forty-seven years ago. I remember the many nights my dad worked in his garage out back. He would be listening to his tube radio late at night, tuned in to “Mr. Voice of the Giants,” Don Hill. “The Giants win, the Giants win! How about that, Giants fans?,” Hill would absolve. Then Hill would close with, “so long and be a good sports fan.”
Another winning game was over. I couldn’t get enough. My brothers couldn’t get enough. And most of all, my dad couldn’t get enough. My mom had had enough already, however. She was too busy placing old newspapers down on her kitchen floor. Dad would run in from the garage and track grease and dirt all over her clean floor, only to repeat the play-by-play countless times to us kids. I can still see him grinning, his lips serving him in gallant fashion. He almost sounded like Don Hill.
My dad was one of us when it came to the Tacoma Giants. He would get so excited. I wonder if my mother was happy with the Giants. I don’t think there was any love lost. From April through 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 that unwelcome mat. The newspapers would disappear after September, only to return the following spring.
Dad tried his best to interest mom in the Giants, but it took all of us to encourage her. Especially when it came to the Mother’s Day Sunday double headers. That was a nine-inning game plus a seven-inning post-game. I was all for the 16 innings of delightful fun. If I had it my way, 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 over 47 years have passed and that April thrill keeps coming back each spring. Cheney Stadium has seen seven professional baseball teams batter its walls and sometimes break their fans’ hearts. And we shouldn’t forget the days when Cheney Stadium was host to the land of the Giants, the Cubs, the Twins, the Yankees, the Tugs, and the Tigers. And now for the past twelve years, they are proud to be the Tacoma Rainiers, the farm club of the Seattle Mariners.
I’m not peering over the Scotch broom on Tightwad Hill these days, and the Soap Box Derby has long since gone. The Tacoma Giants are long gone too. But the memories are still among Cheney Stadium and its Tacoma Rainiers today. I’ve discovered box seats and grandstands 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 future generations will always catch this spirit of fun and hold onto these memories as I did and always will. I’ll see you all in the seats at Cheney Stadium when I’m 77 because that boy of 7 will surely be there tomorrow.
For all the die-hard Tacoma Giant fans of yesteryear–an excellent book to read is entitled, 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 were alive today, he would need to revise his song, “Go Giants Go.” His new version would have to be “Go, Rainiers Go–and win today. We’re with you Rainiers all the way.”
Baseball Time is Here Once More Again