WASHINGTON -- Making their third post-championship visit to the White House since 2011, the Giants felt compelled to bring some variety to Thursday's festivities with President Obama.
Citing Obama's "strong political base" in California, Giants president Larry Baer declared that the ballclub would execute a switch and bring the base to Obama. This was accomplished quite literally. Among the gifts Obama received, including a standard-fare autographed ball and the obligatory jersey, was a base autographed by the Giants and mounted on a handsome wooden stand about the size of a small-end table.
The Giants' final large-scale observance of their 2014 World Series triumph was more than just a gift exchange (Obama granted the team a private audience before the official ceremony in the East Room). It celebrated the franchise's rich past, reveled in the fruitful present and sharpened the focus on the future.
The future was captured in an announcement that the Junior Giants, the flagship program of the team's Community Fund, will combine with Major League Baseball and San Francisco State University to launch a Urban Youth Academy geared toward children around ages 15-18. Obama heralded the project as "a tremendous commitment from a tremendous team." It recalled the Giants' White House sojourn in 2013, when they revealed plans to establish the now-thriving vegetable garden beyond AT&T Park's center-field wall.
The past was embodied in Hall of Fame outfielders Willie Mays and Monte Irvin, who attended the afternoon affair. Both Irvin, 96, and Mays, 84, had to be hoisted into their onstage seats by a pair of naval officers. Once each legend was settled, respectful applause ensued from the audience, which included San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Of course, the event was primarily about the Giants of 2014. One of them, first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse, capitalized on a scheduled off-day for his current club, the Miami Marlins, to join the rows of Giants assembled behind Obama.
In welcoming the Giants to the White House, Obama referred to their trio of titles by saying, "To these folks, it's 'Welcome back.'" He added, "I seem to be good luck for them."
Obama also expressed his respect for manager Bruce Bochy. With a nod to the Hall of Fame status shared by Mays and Irvin, Obama called Bochy "a manager who seems to be making his own course for Cooperstown."
Obama teased Madison Bumgarner by characterizing the left-hander's record-breaking performance last October as "hard to believe -- and I'm not talking about his locker-room celebrations." Bumgarner gained attention during the postseason for chugging a fistful of multiple beers at the end of each postseason round, though a vast percentage of the suds splattered on the clubhouse carpet and never passed through his lips.
Bumgarner, who accompanied the team to the White House after the 2010 and '12 titles, didn't seem to mind the extra attention. During a brief news conference with reporters after the reception, he said, "It feels more special every time I come here."
Amid the praise, Obama, a Chicago resident before he moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, flung verbal jabs at the Cubs and White Sox. He particularly needled the Cubs by observing that with parity being so prevalent in baseball, "even the Cubs have a shot this year."
The Giants have other ideas, including breaking their pattern of winning World Series in even-numbered campaigns. Said Baer: "This year, we hope to convert this to an annual event."