The Ron Herbel Appreciation Society

That was going to be the title of this thing when first we conceived it, sometime around, oh, maybe yesterday morning. For those of you who don't know who or what "Ron Herbel" was, we're not sure a simple explanation will suffice. The facts are these. Ron Herbel was a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants from 1963 through 1969. His was a singularly unremarkable career. He won some games, he lost some games. He was primarily a starter his first few seasons, then switched mostly to relief. His only contribution to the record book is an entirely negative one: his .029 career batting average is the absolute lowest of any player with more than 100 at-bats. It's awful even for a pitcher. The only time we saw Ron Herbel pitch, in person at Candlestick Park, was on July 3, 1966. He was lit up by the Atlanta  Braves that day, surrendering one of the two grand slams hit by Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger in that game. Though he's gone to his reward now, Ron Herbel lives on as a talisman, an antitype, a symbol of a bygone age whose echoes even now resonate down through the years. Or perhaps he reminds us of our own shortcomings as ballplayers, though our memory tells us we were better hitters than that.  

If you've been following the Giants for any length of time, perhaps this is all starting to make sense now. If not, give it time. And if you're actually old enough to remember Ron Herbel, at this point you are probably thinking of other things. Things like:
  • Randy Moffitt's pitch hitting the handle of Bill Russell's bat with the bases loaded;
  • Mike Ivie 'retiring' from baseball due to 'mental exhaustion';
  • A certain baseball team forgetting how many outs there were-- twice in one week;
  • A guy  named Jose Oquendo;
  • Another guy named Bob Robertson;
  • Still another guy named Steve Finley;
  • You get the idea.    
 We've been following the San Francisco Giants since 1965, and this ongoing pursuit has roamed far past mere entertainment, casual attraction, or simple enjoyment, into something like dogged, inexorable obligation. Since 1987 we have catalogued every Giants game, every year,  into a condensed 162-row spreadsheet filled with arcane symbology known only to us, each entry punctuated with short, pithy (we hope) commentary summing up the game, or perhaps our mental state afterward. These logs remain unpublished, though we expect the National Archives to be getting in touch with us any day now.

For a time, we published a statistical journal, Giants Complete Breakdown, which had a hard core of perhaps three dozen subscribers, some of whom have since been paroled, so we hear. It was pure unadulterated numbers, heavy on the sabermetrics, and completely commentary-free. If you wanted (or worse, needed)  to know how well Shawn Estes performed in Tuesday night road games on artificial turf-- well, you were probably one of our subscribers. It was fun, but the advent of the team, MLB, and ESPN websites with their plethora of sortable statistics available in real time simply rendered that old, printed and stapled, compiled-on-an-IBM-mainframe-computer format obsolete.    

And every so often-- in 1993, and in 1997, and in 2002, for example, you know, those times when the Giants actually contend-- we put together a day-by-day journal of the pennant race, from the hopeful turn of August/September to the inevitably bitter end. (The Giants have not won a World Series since 1954, when they were still the New York Giants.)  A few of these rambling commentaries are still languishing on various rarely-visited websites. Now, with everyone and his brother already having started a blog, we too have lurched into the modern age, like a gate-crasher arriving to the party three hours late and announcing, "Whoa there, Nellie, I got some catchin' up to do!"

We do our best to update this thing daily during the pennant race, and the playoffs, if the Giants make the playoffs. Our home is in the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, three time zones east of San Francisco, and therefore the timing of the posts may sometimes be a little erratic. We remember those bygone days when the morning paper would arrive without the "late scores from the Coast," and sometimes we wouldn't know whether our beloved Giants had won or lost until that evening. But this is the doggone Information Age, folks, and we're plugged into it. Whether or not being far from Pacific Bell Park (sorry, we still use that name, and for those of you who don't know it, her nickname is The Bell, not The Phone!) adds or detracts from the commentary herein is a judgment best left to you, Constant Reader.      

Well, we gave up on the Ron Herbel name because finally, when we came down to it, the whole idea was just too doggone cute, too smug, too self-referentially witty to be plausible, or palatable for that matter.  So we kept it simple. We remember a football coach who, at practices, used to bellow "Clowns! Clowns! CLOWNS!" at his hapless players as they ran through drills. That's good enough for our purposes. 

And finally, we must acknowledge that this blog would not even exist if not for our old friend Gregg Pearlman, of "EEEEEE!" fame. Gregg's explanation of what "EEEEEE!" means is far superior to the Ron Herbel Syndrome outlined above. Gregg was the first one to publish our Giants pieces on the Internet (or anywhere else for that matter). You can still find Gregg's treasuries of deathless Giants prose on the web; just google "EEEEEE" and see what turns up. Thank you, Gregg. It's all your fault.