WASHINGTON -- Despite everything that's on his mind, President Barack Obama proved Monday that he could quickly grasp Giants culture. Turning to look at Brian Wilson, whose presidential introduction prompted heavy applause from an East Room gathering at the White House, Obama stared at the closer as the cheering ebbed and said, "I do fear it," referring to the right-hander's famous beard. Laughter ensued. It was that kind of ceremony, as Obama welcomed the Giants to the White House for the traditional visit from the reigning World Series champions. The president seized every opportunity to flash his wit while praising the ballclub. The Giants reciprocated with gifts for the man who has almost everything. Manager Bruce Bochy, who sported a perpetual smile despite wearing a necktie for the first time in years, presented Obama an autographed jersey bearing the number 44, reflecting his place in the presidential line. Matt Cain, the team's player representative and longest-tenured Giant, handed the chief executive a personalized and signed bat. Managing general partner Bill Neukom and general manager Brian Sabean brought Obama a set of fielder's gloves for him and his family.
Obama, who canceled two fund-raising events earlier in the day to deal with the debt-ceiling crisis, seemed to appreciate not only the gifts but also the brief respite from more pressing matters. "Maybe we should do something like this every day," he said after receiving his haul from the Giants. Of course, this was anything but an everyday affair, as reflected by the VIPs in the audience. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was joined by two of his predecessors, Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown. Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and defense secretary Leon Panetta, described by Obama as a "big Giants fan," joined the full house that included players' wives, team employees and the families of the club's chief investors. The investors themselves squeezed in among the three rows of players, coaches and clubhouse and support staff situated behind the president's lectern. Maybe this affair should have been shown live to fans on the video board at AT&T Park. It was that Giants-centric. After introducing Willie Mays, who drew a prolonged ovation, Obama recalled flying with the Giants legend to the 2009 All-Star Game at St. Louis. "Very rarely on Air Force One am I the second-most important guy on the plane," Obama said, referring to Mays' universal popularity. Reciting some of the legend and lore of Tim Lincecum, whose surname he stumbled over briefly, Obama cited the right-hander's mastery in the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas. He concluded by saying, "America learned sometimes it's a good idea to bet on the skinny guy" -- linking himself to Lincecum, whom he flashed a thumbs-up. Obama summarized Wilson thus: "Underneath Brian's beard and his Spandex tuxedo and his sea captain's costume and the cleats with his face on them is also one of the most dominant closers in baseball." Obama also credited the Giants for their charitable efforts and community outreach. Though he didn't specifically cite Barry Zito's "Strikeouts for Troops" program, he mentioned the team's commitment to "wounded warriors and their families." Obama also lauded the Giants for being the first professional sports team to back the It Gets Better Project, which helps gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers struggling with their identities and the scorn they receive from others. Obama taped a public-service announcement to amplify It Gets Better's message, as did the Giants. After Obama posed for a group photo with the ballclub, grasping one side of the "44" jersey as Mays held the other, the audience briefly but spontaneously chanted, "Let's go Giants!" Even with portraits of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt staring at them and chandeliers hanging over their heads, many people apparently felt at home.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.