A gray sport-utility vehicle rumbled down the street a little after 6 p.m. Tuesday, and the driver, all too aware of what was happening at the corner of 10th and K streets, leaned out of his window and yelled, “Go, Oakland!”
None of the hundreds of San Francisco Giants fans waiting to get inside Modesto Centre Plaza seemed to notice.
That’s because Giants fans have bigger things on their minds than quarreling with rivals who root for that team on the other side of the Bay Bridge.
Such as posing for pictures with the team’s three championship trophies, for instance.
The Giants’ 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series trophies continued their Northern California tour with a stop in Modesto. An estimated 2,000 fans showed up to pose with baseball’s version of the Holy Grail. They could snap photos with their own cameras or pay anywhere from $20 for a 5-by-7 print to $175 for a deluxe package.
“I’ve been a fan since I was my son’s age,” said Modesto’s Tony Escobedo, sporting a No. 44 Willie McCovey jersey and pointing to his soon-to-be-5-year-old son, Anthony. “Our family loves the Giants; we’re die-hard since Day 1.”
The Escobedos didn’t show up at the plaza until 6 p.m., about an hour after fans first were led inside the plaza. From there, they were guided into the Arbor Theatre, where they wound their way through a rope line until it was their turn to step behind a table draped in black cloth, where the trophies were perched.
Fans of all ages, wearing the jerseys of their favorite current players – Buster Posey (probably the most popular), Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence, Sergio Romo, Tim Lincecum and Angel Pagan, to name a few – showed up the day before pitchers and catchers are to report in Scottsdale, Ariz., for spring training.
Modesto’s Pete Mamalis, a lifelong Giants fan who grew up in Wyoming, celebrated his 57th birthday with the trophies.
“I didn’t take my picture with the trophies the first two times,” said Mamalis. “So I figured I better come down and do it this year. You never know when it will happen again … probably next year.”
Most Giants fans seemed resigned to the fact the team’s every-other-year approach to winning championships is likely to continue. Ripon resident Tyler Perry has a theory about that.
“I think after they win a title, their hands get a little heavy from wearing the ring and they’re not used to it,” said Perry, who posed for pictures with his girlfriend, Tyler White, while wearing an oversized top hat with shocks of orange hair shooting out from under the brim. “That’s (the theory) we’re going with.”
According to Stephanie Smith, a recreation coordinator with the city of Modesto, each stop on the tour has doubled, and sometimes tripled, what it did after the 2012 title.
“I don’t know why,” said Smith, who noted the trophies will be at the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, today and at the Los Banos Community Center, 645 Seventh St., on Monday. “I think everybody’s just excited about it.”
Steven Matthew Solidarios Jr., a photographer for Brand Affinity Tehnologies who has traveled with the trophies all over the nation, can attest to Smith’s claim. “I notice Giants fans far and wide, all over the country,” said Solidarios, of San Jose. “You see San Francisco hats wherever you go. And we’re seeing double the fans from the 2012 tour at every stop.”
Also on hand was Brent Bohlender, a former Modesto water polo and swimming coach who is the winningest high school coach, regardless of sport, in the history of California. Naturally, Bohlender is accustomed to winning. But as a Giants fan, he grew used to losing.
“I’d never miss it,” said Bohlender, a resident of Turlock who posed for pictures with his wife, Julie. “I go all the way back to Seals Stadium in ’58 and the ’62 World Series.
“In 2010, I ran out into the street screaming; in 2012, it was ‘Oh, my God, we did it again!’ And last year it was, ‘Kids are never going to appreciate how hard this really is.’”