The last time 79-year-old New Yorker Kenneth Kelleher went to a Giants home game, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, gas cost 24 cents a gallon and Elvis Presley was all the rage.
It was the last game of the 1957 season for the then-New York Giants, and the final game the organization ever played before relocating to San Francisco. Kelleher still remembers specifics of the game, including the 9-1 beatdown the Pittsburgh Pirates put on the Giants, an amazing play in which Willie Mays threw out a runner from dead-center field and a near riot that was started in protest of the team leaving New York.
“My father and I already left the game, but the fans went out on the field, went right up to the clubhouse and were yelling, ‘Stay team, stay!’” Kelleher said.
Since that game, Kelleher married the love of his life, had four children and worked as a New York City Transit subway conductor for 28 years before retiring in 1987. Despite never getting the chance to see the Giants on their home turf in California, he kept rooting for the team year after year.
The dedication finally pays off tonight, as the loyal fan and his three sons head to AT&T Park to watch the Giants return from the All-Star break against the New York Mets, marking Kelleher’s first Giants home game in more than 50 years.
It’s usually the other way around, with Kelleher rooting for the Giants at Shea Stadium when they come into town to play the Mets. Because he raised his family in Brooklyn, all four of his children grew up rooting for the Mets, but they have never been able to make a Mets fan out of their father.
This week’s trip to San Francisco was put together by one of those Mets fans, Kelleher’s son, Ken Kelleher Jr., who says he planned the trip as a way to say thank you for everything his father has done for the family. He says his dad worked extremely hard to take care of him and his siblings, especially his youngest brother James, who had learning disabilities, and was later diagnosed with autism.
“He sacrificed a lot for us,” Ken Jr. said. “He worked 12-hour days when he was working for transit so that I could go to a good school and my brother Michael could go to college, and my younger brother could get the medical treatment that he needed because he wasn’t getting anything from the state at the time.
“This is probably the best thing that I can think of to get him. He loves baseball, he loves his Giants and he hasn’t been to a home game ever since they moved.”
Kelleher attributes his loyalty for the Giants to his own father, John, who was also a longtime Giants fan.
“He was the one who indoctrinated me,” said Kelleher, who went to his first home game at the age of six when the team played at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan. “When he took me to the first game he said, ‘You’re gonna be a Giants fan.’ My father would not go to the Yankee games, he didn’t like the Dodgers, so where did I go?” Kelleher asked. “The Polo Grounds.”
For the first time in 53 years, Kelleher will root on the Giants in their home ballpark, this time taking the tradition to AT&T Park.