Monday, September 04, 2006

When Barry Bonds leaves town, it's Bye-Bye, Baby

As Barry Bonds sent his 730th career home run (his 22nd this season) over the right-center field wall at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park this evening, I was reminded that even in as mediocre a campaign as this one has been, being a Giants fan is still pretty sweet as long as Bonds is around. And lately, he's been around quite a bit: six round-trippers in his last 12 games, during which time he's hitting .472 (17 hits in 36 at-bats), pumping his batting average from an anemic .235 to a no-longer-embarrassing .263.

Of course, we probably won't have Barry here next year. He'll either retire — now that he's only 25 home runs behind Henry Aaron's record-setting 755, that's looking increasingly improbable — or he'll move over to the American League (probably the Nowhere-Near-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), where he can focus on chasing Hammerin' Hank without further demolishing his decrepit knees by playing left field five days a week.

Bonds' likely departure means that in 2007, the Giants' marketing department will actually have to sell the team for a change, something they haven't needed to do very much since Barry moved his Hall of Fame parade from the arctic confines of Candlestick Park to the spectacularly picturesque, constantly renamed ballpark at McCovey Cove. For those of us whose Giants obsession predates the arrival of Number 25, the prospect of a serious marketing push by the G-Men is fraught with terror, as we recall some of the lame slogans the team trotted onto the airwaves in years past.
  • "Giants Hang in There!" I believe this campaign from the early '80s was supposed to remind one of those infernal posters so popular once upon a time, which depicted a kitten dangling by its forepaws from some precarious perch. Why the Giants brain trust wanted the team to be viewed as kittenish, or why they didn't tumble to the defeatism inherent in this slogan ("We can't win, but we'll hang in there!" Yeah, I want to spend my hard-earned cash to see that), always escaped me. Nevertheless, this tepid tagline hung in there for a couple of seasons of mediocrity.

  • "Real Grass. Real Sunshine. Real Baseball." This was the Giants' tagline in that fateful 1985 season, when the Men in Orange lost 100 games and a significant portion of their fan base. Recalling that '85 season, I remember that the grass was indeed real. The sunshine was too, as the Giants scheduled a preponderance of day games in an effort to attract folks resistant to the notion of freezing their hindquarters off in the icy night winds of Candlestick. The baseball? Not so real. Not so real good, either, if you'll pardon the grammar.

  • "You Gotta Like These Kids." The 1986 Giants featured a major youth movement, led by rookie first baseman Will "The Thrill" Clark, second baseman Robby Thompson, shortstop Jose Uribe (often referred to as The Player to Be Named Later, because he changed his playing identity from Jose Gonzalez to Uribe Gonzalez to Jose Uribe, all within his first few days with the Giants), and third baseman Chris "The Tin Man" Brown. "You Gotta Like These Kids" didn't promise much on-field success, just a bunch of likeable kids. Sort of like Peanuts.

  • "Humm-Baby!" Then-manager Roger Craig's rallying cry carried the marketing flag for a couple of years. Trust me, as a Giants fan, I got sick of "Humm-Baby!" awfully darned quick. After a while, one just wanted to say, "Humm THIS, baby."

  • "I've Got a Giant Attitude." Cranky-pants baseball, accompanied by the glowering, lampblacked eyes of Will Clark, who did, in fact, have a giant attitude. And not always a good one.

  • "All of Us Are Created Equal. Some of Us Become Giants." Paraphrasing landmark historical documents is never a good marketing plan. This arrogant-sounding tagline from the '90s demonstrates the reason why. Great for political speechmaking, as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King proved. For selling tickets to sporting events, not so much.
In anticipation of the Giants possibly needing a dynamite slogan for a Bonds-less 2007 campaign, I've jotted down a few ideas:
  • "Now 99 and 44/100 Percent Steroid-Free!"

  • "If You Close Your Eyes, It's Like Barry Never Left!"

  • "You Gotta Like These Castoffs From Other Teams!"

  • "Enough of Those Pesky Splash Hits, Already!"

  • "Our Mascot Can Beat Up Their Mascot."

  • "We Got Your Clear and Cream Right Here."

  • "Hey, How About That Ballpark?"
Feel free to help yourselves, Magowan and Company. And if you need more ideas, drop me an e-mail. We'll do lunch.

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Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

"Our roster officially endorsed by AARP"

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