Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Giants - Earth Day 2009

He may be the only snake in the world to have thrown an opening pitch. Balthazar, a red-tailed boa constrictor, took centre stage with the San Francisco Giants this afternoon in celebration of Earth Day.

Admittedly, Chris Andrews, Director of the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, threw the ball with his right hand, but wrapped around his left was Balthazar, opening the game between the Giants and the San Diego Padres.

The Giants were marking Earth Day this year in conjunction with the Academy at the Golden Gate Park, and PG & E, the Pacific Gas and Electricity company.

Inside the stadium, the Academy staff held an exhibition with small reptiles and tree frogs, and both the Academy and PG & E gave out information on the sustainability of the planet and on the effort that the Giants have made to turn their stadium green.

Outside, messages from the players about saving the planet were beamed in between play from the scoreboard.

The day was a sponsored Esurance Earth Day 2009, and the first 20,000 fans to arrive received a fabric grocery bag.

The Academy's Communications Specialist, Helen Taylor, said they had had 'a very positive response, people were interested to learn something new.' The team had engaged people's interest partly through asking trivia questions, she said.

A free gift of a smart black water bottle was given out and a leaflet, 'Sustainability Made Simple.' In it, the card has three categories of travel, food, including both purchase and eating in restaurants, and the home with tips on how to work towards saving the planet.

Samples of the examples: walk or cycle for short trips, and turn off your engine rather than idling; eat more chicken and seafood and less beef, and eat in local restaurants that offer local, seasonal and organic ingredients; turn off unnecessary lights and take shorter showers.

A carbon footprint calculator was also brought along by PG & E, which people were using with enthusiasm. The calculator allowed people to compare their footprint against the average Californian, the average American and the average person in the world.

It was certainly clear that the Giants players had more than baseball on their minds this afternoon. Filmed inside the Academy in the Golden Gate Park, the players urged their fans to save energy and recycle trash.

With brilliantly-coloured butterflies of the Academy's rainforest in the background, fans were even asked to write to their member of Congress to ask them to make saving the world's rainforests a priority.

The weather made it a particularly appropriate day to think about the environment. With a run of exceptionally high spring temperatures in the 80s continuing, the stands were scorching and views of the Bay breathtaking.

The Disneynature - Earth film being released today was advertized, and other gifts given away. One group received a poster, an evergreen seedling, wild-flower seeds and a plastic reusable shopping bag.

Brothers Jason and Justin from the Bay Area were part of the small group to receive the gifts. 'I think my wife, Carlyn, will be excited about the seedling and the seeds because we need plants for our patio. I'll give them to her when I get home,' said Justin.

As for the game against the Padres? 'We are all the way up in the ninth inning - there has not yet been a run scored this game,' said the commentator as the afternoon was winding down.

But it was not yet over. In the tenth inning, Bengie Molina, conserving energy and style to the end, scored a run and the stadium erupted as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 1-0.

pics show: player messages filmed at the California Academy of Sciences; Aaron Pope, Manager of the Sustainability Programme at the CAS, and Helen Taylor, Communications Specialist giving information and free water bottles; brothers Jason and Justin; the winning moment!

Mavericks Success in XXL Awards

Mavericks surfers are glowing with success after the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Los Angeles.

Greg Long out-surfed his fellow riders to win the coveted Ride of the Year award and $50,000, though for a ride in Cape Town, not at Mavericks.

The ninth annual awards, called the Oscars of surfing, drew over 2,000 top surfers and members of the industry and were presented on Friday in the Grove Theater in Anaheim by Mavericks pioneer and Contest Director, Jeff Clark.

'I am glad to have won this as a paddle in wave and without a PWC, - Jet Ski - because most recognized big wave surfers will tell you this is the most difficult of the two,' said Greg, aged 26 and the 2008 Mavericks Champion from San Clemente, south of Los Angeles.

'To catch a wave on your own power is an unbelievable feeling,' he is quoted as saying in Surfersvillage Global Surf News

Greg's achievement came in the Red Bull Big Wave Africa contest last July at Dungeons, off Cape Town. It came with the distinction of being the only entry in the Ride of the Year Category that was a paddle in, all the other rides being with the help of a Jet Ski.

'Paddling into a monster Dungeons peak and banking off the bottom into a huge tube ride, Long walked a fine line between glory and the punishing of a lifetime, before being spat out into the channel,' said Surfersvillage in their report.

The award is another notch for Greg in a line of successes in the Billabong awards.
Under his board are also the Biggest Wave Award for the 2006/2007 season, the Monster Paddle Award '07/'08, and two Best Over All Performance Awards for '07/'08 and '03/'04.

'I am feeling great, it’s my fifth time and now it’s the big one,' said Long. 'That is what is so amazing about this event, it brings everyone together at the end of the year.

'When we are out there riding waves, this is the last thing on our mind, we are out there because we love it.'

Greg had also been short-listed, along with
San Franciscan surfer and filmmaker, Grant Washburn, and others, for the Verizon Wipeout Award, but this went deservedly to Australian surfer Ross Clarke-Jones for a 'near life-ending battering' off the Tasmanian coast. For the first time, this aspect of the awards were voted on by the public.

But Mavericks did feature in the honours for Monster Paddle Award - surfing without a tow-in from a Jet Ski - when Derek Dunfee of San Diego came out top. Derek, of San Diego, 'used perfect positioning to complete a classic big wave ride' at Mavericks on November 30, '08, one of two days at Thanksgiving weekend that were arguably the best ever at Half Moon Bay.

Derek beat Grant 'Twiggy' Baker, from South Africa, who with Rusty Long, has just surfed a record 100ft wave hundreds of miles off Chile, and Californian Nathan Fletcher, competiton entries that were also from those two epic days at Mavericks.

'That day was the best day of my life and I wasn’t sure if I was getting nominated,' said Derek.

'I am 26 and I feel pretty honored to win and be up here with guys I have been looking up to all my life. I want to continue to work my way up and this could be a true turning point to the next stage of my big wave surfing career.'

Twiggy, however, triumphed
in both the XXL Biggest Wave Award, and the Surfline Men's Best Overall Performance when he beat fellow-nominee Greg Long. For the Overall Performance, the judges, who are a global panel composed of 250 surf industry, former pros and big wave specialists, gave him top marks for surfing skills exhibited in his win in the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event, a tow-in wave at nearby Tafelberg Reef, and feats at Mavericks and in Mexico.

His prizes were $20,000 and a new Honda Aquatrax PWC.

'When you look at my eyes right now, you can see that I am pretty pumped. Yeah, it is an amazing feeling, not just to myself but also to my family back home in South Africa,' he said.

'It is an honor to win Best Overall Performance and to be the first South African to do it,' he said.

He surfed the Biggest Wave at Tafelberg Reef, a wave claimed to be the biggest ever tackled in his home country of South Africa.

Surfersvillage commented, 'The victories came as a long overdue reward for (the) diminutive natural footer, who has been consistently nominated since the XXL awards’ inception but never taken out a win.'

For full reports and pics of the Billabong awards: and

Pics: Greg Long receiving his award; Derek Dunfee at Mavericks; Twiggy Baker receiving his award; Greg Long, Jeff Clark, Jamie Sterling and Frank Quirarte, photo by Seth Migdail

Saturday, April 18, 2009

1906 SF Earthquake Survivors

'I never expected all of this,' said 103-year-old Bill Del Monte, tucked in the back of the vintage car with 106-year-old Rose Cliver, mini-explosions of camera flashes and eager faces all around them.

At just after 5 am today, Bill and Rose were at the heart of the 103rd anniversary ceremonies to commemorate the 1906 earthquake and fire disaster that devastated San Francisco - see previous blog

Both centenarians are among the last few known survivors. Accompanied by their families, they were amazingly lively and alert and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.

Bill was only three-months-old when the quake and fires occurred so doesn't remember them, said his neice, Janette, but his older brothers could recall them throughout their lives.

He was the baby of six children, his siblings being Attilio, Eugene, Angiolina, who tragically died as a toddler, Guido, and Eva, Janette's mother, who didn't quite equal Bill in the longevity stakes but did achieve the grand age of ninety-six.

Their home was badly damaged in the quake. His grandmother picked Bill up, said Janette, and he was bundled with the rest of the family onto the back of a buckboard. His brothers remembered their father driving the horse and cart down to the Ferry Building through streets burning on both sides.

As a family they were more fortunate than others for they owned a home across the Bay. They were able to catch a ferry and they stayed across the Bay until eventually they could return.

But the family were keen to return to the city. 'We always wanted to be in San Francisco,' said Bill, who now lives in Marin and says he has lived half his life in the city and half across the Bay. They were also fortunate, said Bill, in that neither any of the family or friends of the family died in the quake.

His father, Angelo Del Monte, was the restaurateur who founded the Fior d'Italia Restaurant in 1886. The restaurant was also badly damaged by the quake. 'He had to rebuild it,' Bill said, 'Not that I remember,' he added.

Today it is the oldest Italian restaurant in America and although the family no longer own it, they have been invited there by the current owners for a nostalgic anniversary drink.

This is the first time Bill has attended the earthquake anniversary in San Francisco though he has attended others around the Bay for about the last ten years.

This year so far has produced a number of special events for him. He celebrated his 103rd birthday in January at Top of the Mark, the sky-bar at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, enjoying not just the party but views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

'He had a wonderful time,' said Janette.

Rose, at an equally incredible 106 years of age, is also very sociable.

'She is still very sharp.' said her niece, Gloria, the only difficulty in conversation being her hearing. 'She calls it her "tin ear" but her mind is as sharp as a tack.'

Because of Rose's hearing and the fact that she was seated at a slight distance by virtue of being in the vintage car, it wasn't possible to interview her. She smiled and intimated that it was too difficult, though to her credit she did have an animated chat with a tall gentleman who managed to lean over the back of the car and speak into her ear.

But her family were there to speak for her which, like Bill's family, they did in glowing terms.

Rose's parents owned a grocery store in 1906 and as the city was ravaged, rescuers looked for help from every quarter.

'One thing I do know,' said Gloria, 'they came and took groceries from the grandfather - ie Rose's father - to help feed the people who were homeless.'

The family lived in the south of the city and for a while fled their home.

'They lived in Excelsior but went up into the Excelsior Hills - Bernal Heights - and could see the whole city burning. And that's how they lived - without anything,' she said. Again, like Bill's family, they were fortunate in that none of the family or their friends were killed.

Rose's parents were Swiss, with the family name of Wyrsch. Her father, Joseph, was from Berne, and her mother, Lena, from St Gallen, though Rose was born in Portland before the family moved to San Francisco and settled in Excelsior where there was a high German-Swiss population.

Her father didn't start to have children until he was forty, though her mother was younger, said Gloria, but the couple went on to have twelve healthy children. Where they were living at the time there was lots of land. Her mother used to say she could have twelve children because she could let them run around, said Gloria.

Rose was the seventh child, number seven being the heavenly symbol for perfection!, with brothers Amiel, Albert, Alfred, Joseph, George, Herman, who was Gloria's father, Bill and Francis, and sisters Pearl, Mary and Bertha.

As with Bill, there is longevity in the family for Mary lived till she was 100 years-old and Bertha, who died only a few months ago, until the age of 98 years. Sadly, though, there was a family tragedy with Francis as a toddler. He used to carry a pencil around, said Gloria, and in those days there was lead in pencils. He died from lead poisoning at the age of seventeen-and-a-half months.

There is no doubt Rose is a trail-blazer for she continued to live alone until the last six months. 'Well into her hundreds,' said Gloria, she would cross 19th Avenue every week by herself to go to her hairdressers.

'Rose, why don't you take a cane when you go out?' Gloria used to ask, but the question fell on deaf ears in more ways than one. Rose cherished her independence. She only finally used a walking aid when she reached the point of needing a walker.

Gloria began to help her with her groceries 'at least 12 years ago,' she said, though not sure about the exact passage of time. But otherwise Rose remained independent, cooking and cleaning her home. And very clean it was, said Gloria.

Today, Rose has three 'roses' in her life, for six months ago she went to live with her son, Don, aged 77 years, and his wife, called Rose, in Santa Rosa. Sadly, her daughter, Roberta, died about last year, said Gloria.

Rose, however, maintains a zest for life. The family weren't sure if she would have wanted to come to the anniversary commemoration but she was very keen to do so. 'And she LOVES to gamble!' said Gloria - on slot machines.

'She loves to do things. She's very active. 'The doctors look at her and can't figure her out. She is amazing. She's never had surgery.'

Celebrating Rose's life as well as commemorating the Great Quake, were not only family members, but family who have kept up a tradition of being firefighters. Rose's brother, Albert, was a firefighter, and with her that day were nephews Victor and Herman, now retired firefighters, and Paul, Gloria's son, a serving officer. Not able to be there was Paul's brother, Greg, also in the fire service.

Fittingly, the commemoration was not just about the past earthquake and fires but also about preparing people for the unfortunate possibility of another huge earthquake hitting the city.

Fire officer Harold French, Chief's Aide, compared firefighting skills in 1906 to today.

'They didn't have the equipment we have today. It was much harder, you can't put out a fire with a bucket, they had to use brute strength,' he said. 'Nowadays we have fire engines that can pump 300 or 400 gallons a minute.'

The worst of the fires in the earthquake were over in three days but Harold has read of some fires continuing for a week or ten days. They built with heavy timber, and once they get going...' he said.

Buildings in San Francisco today are of mixed construction standards because rebuilding after the quake was done in such a hurry that some of the codes were deregularised. Although the city is doing its best with retrofitting, not all are up to current standards of being quake-proof.

I asked the Chief's Aide about the hazards.

Most buildings in San Francisco have to be sprinklered, he said, but a lot are so close together and built of wood, especially in North Beach, that the fire risk is very high. And the streets are so narrow and winding, he added.

He admits that a major earthquake is one of their biggest fears. 'We train and have drills freqently just in case, but it's still one of the biggest, biggest concerns,' he said.

'Fires we can contain, but earthquakes...'

pics: Bill and Rose; Cari and Herman, Gloria, Paul, Victor; Janette

1906 San Francisco Earthquake Anniversary

The terrible events of the 1906 earthquake and fires that devastated San Francisco were remembered this morning in a brief ceremony with two of the few remaining survivors as guests of honour.

Marking the exact time and date that the earthquake struck - 5.12 am on April 18 - up to 200 people gathered in the dark for the anniversary at Lotta's Fountain on Market Street in the heart of the city.

Sitting in a vintage car, surrounded by many members of their families, were Rose Cliver, 106-years-old, and Bill Del Monte, 103-years-old. For both Rose and Bill, it was their first appearance at the city's ceremonies which have been held for many years.

Lotta's Fountain, restored to it's original 1875 state and once again flowing with water, was one of the few monuments left standing after the quake that flattened among many others the City Hall. It became the desperate focal point for people seeking information in the search for survivors.

The quake only lasted for about a minute but in it's wake was one of America's greatest natural disasters that took about 3,000 lives, left 225,000 to 300,000 people homeless and caused damage in today's currency of over $8 billion.

Measurements of the quake intensity vary but the US Geological Survey puts it at 7.8, with the epicenter at Mussel Rock, south of the city on the Pacific
Coast and the point where the San Andreas fault enters the San Francisco Peninsula. The quake ruptured the San Andreas fault and caused damage as far south as Los Angeles, north to Oregan and inland to Nevada.

Today that era was invoked with some people dressed in period costumes. Rose and Bill sat in their vintage car in the middle of the ceremonies. Members of the San Francisco Fire Department, who brought a vintage fire engine, participated as well as representatives of the Red Cross and other civic dignitaries.

Rose and Bill were formally thanked for their longevity in a short speech, most of which was inaudible on the sound system. There was a minute's silence, a piper played Amazing Grace and then came the eerie sound of sirens wailing together with the frenetic clanging of a bell from a vintage street car.

Senator Mark Leno laid a wreath on the fountain and the crowd sung 'San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gates.'

After that, the crowd milled, many of them surrounding Rose and Bill with great interest and taking photos. Rose, who was three-years-old at the time, lived on Bernal Heights and looked down on the city as it burned. Bill, who was three-months-old, was carried with his family through the burning streets on a 'buckboard' - a horse-drawn cart - and ferried across the bay to safety. Interviews with Rose and Bill and their families are in the next blog.

Not long after, Rose and Bill were driven away for the second part of the ceremony, the painting gold of a fire hydrant in Dolores Park that saved the Mission District churches.

One of the costumed couples were Bea and Dana. 'It's our first time to come here to the event,' said Bea. 'We're trying to connect, that here the city celebrates its history, because we think history is important.'

Also included in this weekend's events were a 'Bloody Mary' breakfast at Lefty O'Doul's, a private screening of Alon Aranya's film '1906' at the Westin St Francis in Union Square where Rose and Bill were treated as guests last night, and a Survivor Luncheon at John's Grill.

pics show: Rose Cliver and Bill Del Monte surrounded by admiring well-wishers; the crowd with Lotta's Fountain to the right; Bea and Dana; Kij and Gregg

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mavericks Closing Ceremony 2009

They're some of the world's finest big wave surfers, and last night they met for the final time as part of the elite Mavericks Surf Contest 2009.

The surfers, their friends and family, and media gathered for the Closing Ceremony with cocktails and dinner at the Oceano Hotel & Spa in Half Moon Bay Harbor, and with the rueful memory that Mother Nature did not produce a wave large enough for the contest to take place within it's allotted time span from January to March.

'Tonight was a special night for everyone who is associated with Mavericks,' said Mavericks CEO Keir J. Beadling. 'It gave us a chance to thank everyone who has worked to make this contest possible. We would like to thank the surfers, who have been as as patient as they are courageous. We are also grateful to our sponsors for all they have done to support this event.'

But contest surfers and organizers are also looking forward with a vengeance not just to next season, but to an early opening of the window on November 1, for the 2009/2010 season.

'We recognize the importance of having the contest window open at the start of November, and we are currently working very hard to make this happen,' said Keir.

Mavericks pioneer and Contest Director Jeff Clark said, 'It’s nearly impossible to overstate the significance of opening the contest window on the 1st of November. If we’d had the support to do so in previous years, we would almost certainly have been able to put on a contest every year. If we are able to do so for the 2010 contest, we will be ready for whatever Mother Nature offers us.'

The Mavericks competition invites 24 of the greatest big wave surfers around the world to enter, and who have to remain on 24-hour alert throughout the contest season. The ability to open the contest in November is dependent on sponsorship. Sony Ericsson are presenting the contest, and the biggest-ever prize money donated for this last season remains in place at $150,000.

'We would like to thank Moose Guen and Jane Sutherland of MVision, as well as Barracuda Networks for ensuring that these incredible athletes will once again be competing for a prize purse that pays tribute to their talent and bravery,' added Keir.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

$6 Million Crouching Spider Moved to Houston

The giant spider that dominated the Bay's sidewalk at the Embarcadero has gone.

Removed from its waterside spot south of the Ferry Building last week, it has been transported to Houston, Texas, where, according to a report in the Examiner, it has been bought for $6 million by a private collector.

'Crouching Spider' is one of a series of immense spider sculptures created by Louise Bourgeois who is considered to be one of the greatest living artists of today. Made of bronze and stainless steel, it is about nine-feet tall, 27 feet across and weighs two-and-a-half tons.

Louise Bourgeois' spiders, the largest of which is 'Maman' at 30 ft tall, are in honour of her mother who was a weaver and spinner. Born in Paris and living in New York, the artist celebrates her 98th birthday on Christmas Day.

She loaned her spider to San Francisco two years ago through the San Francisco Arts Commission. It was installed with a ceremonial welcome that included members of the city's art world and mayor Gavin Newsom.

The sculpture 'set a new precedent for public art in San Francisco,' said Luis R Cancel, Director of Cultural Affairs. 'It has been truly wonderful to have such a magnificent sculpture by a world-class artist placed at the entrance of the city where it was viewed and enjoyed by thousands of people.'

'We thank Mayor Newsom for his enthusiasm and support for the public art program.'

Luis Cancel was quoted in a press release on an art blog, Les Cahiers - notebooks - d'Alain Truong -

Alain Truong also reported: 'The sculpture, which was originally cast in 2003 from the artist’s famous Spider series, was made specifically for display in San Francisco. Initially lent for eight months by the artist, courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco and Cheim & Read, New York, the sculpture’s stay was extended due to popular support.'

The spiders are probably Louise Bourgeois' most well-known pieces of art. When the Tate museum in London purchased the giant Maman 1999 sculpture, they wrote in their press release:

'Bourgeois has said, “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother. “'

Alain Truong also adds, 'The immense scale of the spider sculptures corresponds to the monumental importance of the artist's mother to her daughter.'

Six bronze casts of Maman have been made and are on display at renowned museums around the world.

A fascinating interview with Louise Bourgeois was posted on YouTube in May 2008. In it, the artist speaks of her work in a trailer for a documentary titled The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine.

'The purpose of the pieces is to express emotions. My emotions are inappropriate to my size. My emotions are my demons,' she says.

'It is not the emotions themselves. It is the intensity of the emotions are much too much for me to handle. And that is why I transfer the energy into sculpture.'

'This applies to everything I do. It has nothing to do with the craft. It has nothing to do with how to manage materials. Materials are not the subject of the artist.

'The subject of the artist is emotions and ideas. Both.'

British contemporary artist, Stella Vine, interviewed in the Observer Newspaper and quoted in Wikipedia - - says of Louise Bourgeoise that she is one of the 'greatest ever artists' and that 'few female artists have been recognised as truly important.'

There is a 'juxtaposition of sinister, controlling elements and full-on macho materials with a warm, nurturing and cocoon-like feminine side,' she says.

Bourgeois, she concluded, is 'incredible: she's known all these great men and outlived them all.'

Crouching Spider was displayed by permission of the San Francisco Port Commission and was insured by the Arts Commission for $6 million.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SF Giants Opener 2009 - First Win of the Season

Garlic fries, one of the mainstays of days at the San Francisco Giants been more popular than ever on Opening Day 2009 - see previous blogs for more on Opening Day 2009 - now that they are being served from the country's first ever green garlic fries stand.

'It's been a good day!' said Gilroy manager Saudia. 'Garlic fries are one of the most popular things in the ballpark, apart from alcohol!'

But since the stand has been painted bright green to reflect it's new green energy-saving status kitted out with, among other things, lower-energy fryers and recyclable and compostible accessories, it has hit fans in the eye!

'They think it's something new!' she said.

It is not the only new feature for the 2009 season.

Nostalgia covers part of the walls of the promenade, a mural of huge pics of former Giants' legends reaching as far back as 1883.

'For me, it brings back all the memories of the Giants,' said Robb - apologies to him

because the pic didn't record

'I've been coming to the Opening Day for 20 years at least,' he said as he perused the banner.

He picked out Darren Lewis and Brett Butler. Marvin Benard was another. 'I actually came to a game in 2001 when Marvin Benard hit a home run and won the game for us,' he said.

Back outside on the terrace, Ron and Mona had their eyes peeled on the pitch.

'I wouldn't miss it for the world,' said Ron of Opening Day. 'I had tears coming from my eyes when it started, I miss baseball so much.'

The Giants were on a winning streak as we spoke. 'I think we've got a great chance,' Ron said of the new season.

'Considering they expected a wet day,' said Mona, 'it's been a beautiful day in San Francisco and they've had a great Opening Day.'

Like so many, Mona was thrilled at the Giants' pick of Sully Sullenberger to throw the ceremonial pitch.

'It was great for him to be a part of Opening Day because people look to him as such a hero right now. It was probably just as great for him to meet Tim Lincecum as for Tim Lincecum to meet him,' she said reflecting on the pre-match meeting of the heroes.

'I think it was a great day to start the season.'

What of the play?

'I think the Giants play well. We got to see a lot of new pitchers today,' she said, hoping that Brian Wilson who was just going in to pitch would close play for the night.

He did! Not long after that, the stadium erupted. The game was over, a jubilant 10 - 6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The crowd streamed out of the stadium to the strains of 'I left my heart in San Francisco,' not just with garlic fries under their belts but the first win of the 2009 season.

By early evening, a lustrous rainbow beamed over the ballpark.

***The match continues on Wednesday at 7.15 pm and Thursday at 4.05 pm. Tomorrow night Tim Lincecum will be presented with the 2008 Cy Young Award and there will be fireworks after the match over the Bay behind the ballpark

SF Giants Opener 2009 - Best Dressed Fans 2

It was a day for dressing one's best! Not just any orange and black, but for some fans a day to turn the San Francisco Giants' Opening Day into a sartorial occasion - see previous blogs

Inside the stadium, enjoying a celebratory drink were Faham and Matt while outside on the terrace was Jeff in a vivid orange suit, bow tie and hat, completed by a button-hole and walking cane.

'This is the first year I've worn it,' he said of his stunning outfit. 'It was handed down to me, I believe it was bought on eBay.'

He has been an avid Giants fan for much longer. 'My entire life, all 22 years,' he said. Jeff is from San Francisco and has

lived in the city all his life.

His all-time favourite player is Matt Williams from the 90s. 'He was going to break the all-time home run record in 1994 but there was a shortened home run season when the players had a strike,' he said.

Setting out on the path of life-long allegiance to the Giants and of being a Giants' fashionista on Opening Day - without even taking her first steps - was Kiali who will be five-months-old on Good Friday.

How much of a fan is she?

'Huge!' said her dad proudly. ''On the way to the ballpark I was telling her how much of a fan she is going to be. She's going to know baseball better than her mum!'

SF Giants Opener 2009 - Ardent Fans

Barbara and Jan sitting in prime seats at the Giants' ballpark for the opening ceremony are two of the Giants' ardent fans - see previous blogs

'We haven't missed an opening game in years, not since they had the baseball strike in the 90s,' said Jan.

Said Barbara, 'We've been coming here - ie to Giants games - way before that, when they were in Candlestick Park.'

'We love this place,' said Jan. 'Where else can you see the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco skyline and the Bay?'

Barbara and Jan were appreciating the stunning views surrounded by the enormous, rapidly-filling stadium and the pitch preparation. Below, grounds staff hauled back the vast sheet that covered much of the field and mopped up the rain with water-sucking machines.

They were especially thrilled that Captain Sully Sullenberger had been invited to throw the ceremonial pitch.

'He's astronomical. Look at him, he's all over the place. I think it's an honour to have him here, I think it's great the Giants have asked him,' said Jan. 'And he's from the area, Danville, across the Bay.'

What were they most looking forward to?

'A Giant's win and a complete game!' said Jan.

SF Giants Opener 2009 - Best Dressed Fans

As the Giants prepared for their Opening Ceremony and match against the Milwaukee Brewers - see previous blogs - there were fans who'd obviously let the Giants go to their heads!

Outside the AT & T Park in eager anticipation were Carrie, Linda, and Susan with 'my lucky trout. It works 50 per cent of the time!' she said.

SF Giants Opening 2009 -

Giants fans arriving on Opening Day for the match against the Milwaukee Brewers - see previous blogs - braved the rain and the uncertainty of the game going ahead as they set out early this morning.

Disembarking from Caltrain, the roads were still wet for this group pictured below. But the scene, when they arrived at the Willie Mays Plaza was business as usual, except for the protest they had to pass.

A small, orderly but vocal demonstration of AT & T workers were circling with placards and chanting, and handing out orange info sheets headlined 'You are out!'

AT & T sponsor the Giants' ballpark at China Basin which is known as the AT & T Park. The protestors say that while the corporation made $12.9 billion in profits last year it is 'on the brink of a strike with its employees, insisting that it needs huge concessions from its workforce.'

Issues of executive pay and

shareholder dividends are part of the argument. Top executives, they say, were paid $33.5 million last year, and investors $9.8 billion in dividends, aside from money spent on campaigns, lobbying and gifts.

It is 'at the bargaining table with over 100,000 employees in 22 states - including about 25,000 right here in California. Can AT & T afford to provide decent, middle class jobs to its employees?...Yes, AT & T can,' say the workers.

On the other side of the Willie Mays Plaza at the rows of ticket windows people were queuing to collect pre-ordered tickets or standing in the hope of picking up some of the very few remaining tickets that were coming in slowly as returns.

With the clock ticking at 12.30 pm, one ticket seller said she thought all the tickets had gone, but she would check again.

'Two have just come in,' she said, 'they're $135 and $71 dollars.' The last-minute purchaser took the cheaper that came with good views at Club Level. Passing through the gates, the ticket collector said the capacity of the park at ballgames was 40,100 - and the house was almost full!

San Francisco Giants 2009 Opening Ceremony

The first pitches of the opening game of the San Francisco Giants were thrown by Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum to the thrill of thousands of fans - see previous blog for Captain Sully Sullenberger and the ceremonial opening pitch

The opening ceremony before the match with the Milwaukee Brewers began at 1.05 pm with Voice of the Giants, Jon Miller, introducing the players.

It may not be the perfect day to play, he said, referring to the earlier downfalls and the pitch that had water-sucking machines rolling over it, but it is time for the latest chapter in the long history of the Giants!

And then with outbursts of applause from stands heaving with full-capacity of over 40,000 fans, he announced the players one by one. There was a 25-roster line up with new young players, homegrown players and familiar faces with the greatest cheer reserved for the last man to be called out, Tim Lincecum, the 2008 winner of the Cy Young Award. Tim received a standing ovation.

When the players had lined up, fans were asked to stand and remove their caps in respectful memory of former Giants players and staff who have died since the start of last season. Displayed on the scoreboard in tribute to those who had died were their names, their role with the Giants and their photos.

The Bay Area Joint Forces Colour Guard standing in the middle of the field were introduced, and then Taylor Hicks, American Idol winner, sang the National Anthem. As he finished, fireworks flared into sky above the scoreboard and red, blue and silver streamers burst over the crowds.

San Francisco Giants 2009 Ceremonial Opening Pitch

Hero pilot Captain Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger 111 has thrown the ceremonial pitch for the San Francisco Giants before over 40,000 fans to mark the much-anticipated opening of the 2009 season.

Despite fears about the heavy rain earlier today the skies cleared before midday, the sun shone thinly through the rainclouds and fans poured into the stadium at China Basin for one of their great celebrations of the year.

For the opening ceremonial pitch, Captain Sullenberger wore a special Jersey the Giants had had printed for him, one with his name and the number 155 on the back, to commemorate the number of lives he saved when with outstanding skill he brought his plane safely down on the chill waters of the Hudson River in January.

Captain Sullenberger is aged 57 and from Danville, across the Bay. A former U.S. Air Force F-4 fighter pilot, he was flying Flight 1549 for US Airways when he experienced a double bird strike on take off, crippling both engines.

'We welcome a true American hero,' said the Giants announcer in her introduction.

And then it was left, at about 1.30 pm, to Captain Sullenberger to stride confidently out across the sodden turf, ready himself, take aim, throw the pitch to great applause. He returned to the sidelines as one of an illustrious elite to open baseball games around the country this week.

Yesterday saw former President George W. Bush throw for the Texas Rangers in Arlington and Vice President Joe Biden pitch for the Baltimore Orioles, in place of President Barack Obama who is in the Middle East. Today Senator Ted Kennedy was on the field for the Boston Red Sox.

After Captain Sullenberger's pitch he was escorted away surrounded by the media.

The 2009 season of the San Francisco Giants is truly underway!

SG Giants Opening Day 2009

pics show Joe at the Willie Mays Plaza listening to the KNBR broadcast forecasting the possible raining off of the Opening Day ceremony and match against the Milwaukee Brewers - see previous blogs - and Tom and Sherman.

Joe had been up at 4 am in Monterey and spent three hours travelling for the game. But he had arrived without a ticket and was hoping to be able to buy a late one.

If the game was rained off, 'it would be better for me because I don't have a ticket and a lot of people won't be able to come tomorrow, so I'll get a better ticket for a cheaper price,' he said, finishing his breakfast hastily.

'Today, though, scalpers are selling tickets for double, maybe triple,' he said.

Was his early rise and travel worth it?

'Oh yeah, definitely!' he said. 'I've been retired two months now.'

His favourite player?

'It's hard,' he said. Willie Mays is his all-time great and a few seasons ago it would have been Barry Bonds. But today?

'The Giants don't have anyone legendary at the moment, a Hall of Famer right now.'

And how does he think the team will fare?

'We'll be lucky to make the play-offs.' Critical of the team's hitting, he said their pitching was the best.

'But it's a beautiful ballpark!'

Joe counts himself as a member of the 'paparazzi family'. He collects autographs, and has among his collection those of Kevin Costner, two of the Eagles band, and The Doors whom he met backstage at the Monterey Music Festival.

Tom, with Sherman dressed in a smart orange and black collar to match his dad's colours, was horrified at the thought of rain-off.

'I've been waiting for this for about six months now! I just hope it doesn't happen. Everyone's been waiting so long for this game. It just seems so unfair with the weather we've had over the last few days,' he said.

Would he be able to make a game tomorrow?

'Yes,' he said, 'it's really easy for me to make it, but living here in this neighbourhood it's been like a ghost town for the last six months. Now it might not happen!'

His favourite player?

He thought a minute. 'Obviously Tim Lincecum is the popular man. I'll say Pablo Sandoval, go off the beaten track,' he said.

And his hopes for 2009?

'Finish ahead of the (LA) Dodgers!'

All this player talk went over Sherman's head, though at only 16-months-old already in training to be a Giants fan.

He is a placid Dogue de Bordeaux, a member of the French Mastiff family.

'He's just a French guy,' said Tom. 'He eats croissants and drinks lattes!'

His French roots should serve him well with the Giants - plenty of garlic in the fries!

SF Giants Opening Day May be Rained Off

The skies have opened and the rain is pouring down over the San Francisco Giants ballpark on what was the much-heralded 2009 Opening Day with the possibility that the game will be cancelled.

'You don't want to say they won't play...' said the broadcaster, not wanting to be too definite at this early stage.

By 10 am as fans were beginning a gentle stream towards the Willie Mays Plaza at the front of the park at China Basin, the voice of a KNBR sports presenter broadcasting over the park queried the possibility of the match going ahead and instead there being a 'double hitter' tomorrow.

At 1.05 pm Captain Sully Sullenberger, hero of the Hudson river, is due to cast the ceremonial pitch before the match with the Milwaukee Brewers - see earlier blogs

Fans will be gutted if the game does not go ahead.

First in line by 7 am was Ermelita, closely followed by her friend, Nicole. It wasn't raining at the start of the interview just after 9 am, but by the end ominous drops were falling.

Ermelita, dressed in a white zipper Giants top, was up at 5 am and took about an hour to travel there.

What did The Day mean to her and who is her favourite player?

'It's a very special day, it's the Opening Day for the Giants,' she said enthusiastically. 'And Tim Lincecum is my favourite player - he's all worth it, he's worth everything - rain or shine!'

Nicole had left home at 7 am and arrived outside the main gates at around 8.30 am.

'It's Opening Day and I'm a die-hard Giants fan,' she said, wearing her black Giants top with orange lettering. 'I'm so happy the baseball season is back, it's going to be so much fun. And Tim Lincecum is awesome, he's electrifying, he's good stuff, man!'

How often will the girls be supporting their team? As often as they could get there, they said.

Prospects for the season?

'I think they'll do really well. You've just got to have faith and believe in the Giants,' said Ermelita. Nicole agreed. 'They're going to do really good!

The girls were joined by James under a green umbrella. His expectations for the 2009 season?

'I'm hoping the Giants will make the World Series and will win the Division. Tim Lincecum will get the Cy Young Award,' he said. 'No doubt!' chipped in Ermelita.

Tim is already a Cy Young Award winner for last season and will be presented with the award tomorrow evening.

'I hope Matt Cain will pitch better this season than last season,' added James.

What did he think of the ballpark going green?

'Great idea!' he said.

Around the corner a small queue had formed at the ticket booth, fans hoping to get late tickets as they become available from others cancelling.

more interviews in next blog
pics show: Nicole, James, Ermelita; banner of Tim Lincecum and the bunting above the main gates at the Willie Mays Plaza; Nicole and Ermelita first in the queue!