Mariotti: A Bum ride for the ages 

click to enlarge Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner parades around the warning track on a horse while waving the World Series banner. - JEFF CHIU/AP
  • Jeff Chiu/AP
  • Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner parades around the warning track on a horse while waving the World Series banner.

The prairie is still the prairie, wherever you want it to be. Dirt is dirt and grass is grass, whether it's manicured immaculately in AT&T Park or made ragged by nature and manure down yonder in Caldwell County, N.C. So in a city that lets flags fly free and encourages eccentric behavior, it was only right that the Giants let their World Series god ride a horse during their third banner ceremony in 48 months.

Not that Madison Bumgarner necessarily wanted the joyride to happen. Seems the gusts in China Basin made it too dangerous for skydivers to land, forcing the Giants into an ad-lib. The idea of MadBum mounting a horse had been floated for weeks, recalling how he'd asked some of Police Department's finest to ride one last autumn at the victory parade, a request politely rejected. Still, no one was sure if he'd do it Monday until the Giants needed a lockdown reliever for the grounded skydivers.

It was only poetic that they turn to Bumgarner in the crunch again, even if he was sheepish about how his teammates would view it.

"He did ask me. I think he was a little concerned how it might look," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guy's grown up on a horse, so he's comfortable getting on a horse. So I was fine with it. I think we were supposed to have some jumpers, but it got a little windy. Madison came to show by getting on a horse. The players had some fun with it."

Fun? The MadBum-horse's ass jokes are still bouncing off the walls of the luxurious new clubhouse, one reason he was less than thrilled to chat about his romp in the park.

"Are you guys going to ask me questions about it? You don't have to," he said after the 2-0 loss to Colorado.

But the media asked, and he answered. And it might surprise you, in yet another lesson about perceptions juxtaposed against reality, that Bumgarner claims not to have been on a horse in a long time. "The last time? I can't remember," he said. The convenient narrative after his hulking postseason performance was that he rides horses, saws down trees and wrestles pigs in mud 24/7. I can't blame him if he's tiring of it. Common sense says a man who lives half the year in an off-The-Embarcadero condo isn't feeding chickens all that often anymore. That said, he went along with the Bum Ride, knowing the fans would enjoy it, which was very cool.

Because it's fitting to reward a hero who really did grow up in a log cabin built by his father — and really did give his wife a cow as a wedding gift — by letting him mount a colt on the warning track and have him transport the folded 2014 World Series cloth to waiting teammates in the center-field stands. If they can't bring San Francisco to the Carolina backwoods, then bring the backwoods to San Francisco and paint two orange "SF" logos on the horse's backside. The initial instinct, given the Giants' injury woes, was to hope he didn't fall and break his already-overworked left arm. But once he was up there, in full mount, the scene was the perfect poetic tribute to a most unlikely Northern California icon.

"Yeah, I was thinking about just making a couple of laps around the field," Bumgarner said. "But our outfielders might not have been good about it.

"I don't know if anybody ever has done that before or not, but it was pretty interesting. And it was fun to do in front of the fans at home. We had a good time with it. It was an option we'd talked about before for a while. I didn't really know what we were going to do until we got out there."

They even transported a troupe originally from the Carolinas — the Marshall Tucker Band — to do "Fire On The Mountain" as Bumgarner handed the banner to Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo and others who've been here for all three titles. They made their way upstairs to the concourse, where the standing-room-only folks got an up-close view of Romo and the boys pulling the cord and hoisting the latest banner. No one needed to know that Marshall Tucker's biggest hit, "Can't You See," was recorded in 1973, 16 years before Bumgarner was born and just as a teenaged Bochy was entering Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla.

Somehow, it all worked.

Just as, somehow, the Giants won three championships in five seasons.

"It's crazy. It's just been unbelievable to be a part of it, to experience all this," Bumgarner said of his whirlwind six months. "It's been awesome."

And when he was greeted by a long, loud ovation? "That's just extremely humbling being part of that, getting a chance to sit back and listen," he said. "I'm just blessed to be here."

It shocks no one that baseball's best team this decade, which plays in baseball's best ballpark of the era, also showed a memorable touch in manufacturing another smirky-good championship snapshot. As you watched the vivid images — the Lon Simmons tribute, Jon Miller doing hosting duties with an orange flower by his lapel, the Rockies impatiently standing on the first-base line and having to take it all in — the eyes grew fixed upon the three Series trophies behind the pitcher's mound. They were brought there by Bochy, Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum, all of whom entered through the center-field fence and carried the hardware as the 328th consecutive sellout crowd roared from all tiers, corners and crannies. Three in five years ... three in five years ...

Is this going to happen again anytime soon? In my lifetime, your lifetime, the Marshall Tucker Band's lifetime? In the modern era, only the A's, who won three straight from 1972-74, and the New York Yankees, who won four between 1996 and 2000, join these Giants in winning triplets in as few as five years. With baseball locked in a parity era driven by taxes and subsidies, and with the international draft about to make it easier for a club to buy, say, a Cuban star in any given winter, it's as mind-boggling to think any club can win three as it is that the Giants have won three.

Before accompanying Bumgarner to the horse — let that roll around your head — Bochy reminded his players to appreciate the enormity of the accomplishment. "Take it in, savor what they accomplished," he said of his speech. "You have a game to get ready for, but there's nothing wrong with taking time to realize what you accomplished. For us to be doing this a third time truly is amazing."

If it's too early to say the Giants won't win a fourth this season, their inability to score runs is a pressing problem that must be addressed. After splitting two 1-0 games in San Diego and scoring three runs in 31 innings in one stretch against the Padres, they couldn't score against the Rockies, leaving 12 on base. They provided no support for rookie Chris Heston, who delivered his second quality start. The margin for error is so slim, the cause was lost in the seventh inning when Heston chucked a wild pitch and then dropped a relay in a collision with Colorado's Nick Hundley.

Hunter Pence is a terrific ballplayer and presence. His return alone won't save this offense. Pablo Sandoval probably is giggling — he's hitting .324 for the 5-2 Boston Red Sox, though with no home runs and just three RBIs — and I'll say it again: The Giants must reward their fans — and recognize the strength of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Padres — by pursuing serious bats as the months progress. They look tired, not a good sign on April 14. And don't tell me they haven't had a day off yet after a seven-game road trip. They stay in Ritz-Carltons and fly on a new charter, equipped with first-class seats for all.

There will be time later to grouse. And there will be time to ask the Incredibly Shrunken Barry Bonds to be please shut up, after he tried to upstage the home opener by asking why baseball isn't celebrating Alex Rodriguez's impending milestones. A-Rod, like Bonds, was a mammothly disgraced figure from a Steroids Era we're trying to forget, assuming it still isn't alive with positive Stanozolol tests from four big-league pitchers this spring. Yet a scolding Bonds says we should cheer Rodriguez as he stands only five career homers behind Barry's godfather, Willie Mays. That would be the same Mays whose name is on the plaza at Third and King streets, the Mays referenced by Miller in the pregame ceremony. I prefer to remember Willie for his role in the first of these ceremonies, in 2011, when he handed a banner to Bochy and started a celebration that became a minidynasty.

After another empty effort in the eighth, more than a few fans headed home in the sunshine. Spoiled? Nah, they'd already seen the big show, a Bum Ride you couldn't have invented in San Francisco in a million acid trips.

Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at jmariotti@sfexaminer.com. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.

About The Author

Jay Mariotti

Jay Mariotti

Bio:
Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at jmariotti@sfexaminer.com. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.
Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

More by Jay Mariotti

Latest in Jay Mariotti

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation