Grateful Giants fan part of star-studded pregame ceremony
Burke, who caught Ishikawa's NLCS clincher, throws first pitch; SF greats, Henderson on hand
By Alyson Footer
SAN FRANCISCO -- World Series pregame ceremonies typically involve famous people, celebrity anthem singers and great players from the team's past. The Giants had all of that prior to Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, but they also included a neat twist -- honoring an unassuming fan for simply being selfless and decent.
Frank Burke, a small business owner from Oakdale, Calif., caught Travis Ishikawa's home run ball that won Game 5 of the National League Championship Series for the Giants and clinched the NL pennant. But instead of hoarding the ball for himself, he gave it back to Ishikawa, who now has possession of one of the more famous home run balls in Giants history.
It's not uncommon for teams to seek out fans after a significant home run is hit. For example, when a rookie hits his first career dinger, you may see a club employee scurrying out to the stands to broker a deal of sorts with the fan. Give the ball back, and you might be able to exchange it for something signed by that player or another player the fan may admire.
When the Giants got a hold of Burke, he told them he fully intended to give the ball to Ishikawa, even if he hadn't been asked. After he had it authenticated by the Giants, he met the outfielder outside of the Giants' clubhouse and made the exchange. Ishikawa got the ball, and Burke walked away with a signed bat -- and eventually, an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 3.
"This guy's got to have a tremendously big heart to do what he did," Ishikawa said. "I've got to imagine that ball's a pretty big collectors' item for Giants fans. I think it just shows the character and testament to the city of San Francisco and the fans that we have that he would willingly do that. I think he approached us to give the ball away. Nobody asked him for it. I'm truly appreciative of it."
Just the experience of presenting the ball to Ishikawa was enough for Burke.
"We went down, waited in the hallway in the clubhouse, which was a great experience in itself," Burke said. "They opened the door, the guys are shooting off champagne. You could see the whole thing going on. They brought Travis out and I was so grateful to be able to meet him. I'm so happy that we are in some form connected in Giants history -- him for what he did, and me just being lucky."
In terms of pregame ceremonies, the scene that took place on the field prior to Game 3 may have been the best one ever. With only about 25 minutes to work with, MLB and the Giants covered all of the proverbial bases.
The ceremony started with a touching tribute to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who passed away June 16 from cancer. Gwynn's wife and several family members stood on the field as a moving video played, honoring the affable outfielder. When the video was finished, the AT&T Park crowd gave the family a standing ovation.
Seated at home plate were the five Giants Hall of Famers -- Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda -- who were introduced and saluted by the fans.
The anthem was performed by Grammy Award-winning country group Little Big Town. The group, consisting of members Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and Jimi Westbrook, just released its sixth studio album, "Pain Killer," which features the Top 10 single "Day Drinking" and fan favorite "Girl Crush."
A giant American flag was unfurled, and upon the conclusion of the anthem, colorful streamers came cascading down from every corner of the ballpark. That was in perfect sync with the flyover above the ballpark, a staple of postseason baseball.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the earthquake that interrupted the 1989 World Series between the Giants and Athletics and caused massive devastation throughout the Bay Area. To commemorate the anniversary, the Giants brought back the cast of the local theater show "Beach Blanket Babylon," who performed the song "San Francisco," just as they did in '89 when the World Series resumed for Game 3.
The managers from the Giants and A's in '89, Roger Craig and Tony La Russa, delivered the game ball to the mound with Shenali Nand, 16, from the Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club from San Mateo, Calif.
A member of that A's team, Rickey Henderson, was on the field as a special guest of MLB during batting practice, and he recalled his memory from that earthquake.
Henderson and Dave Parker had been in the clubhouse playing dominos. Henderson retreated to the restroom, and he heard what he thought was thunder. Henderson figured it was just noise from the crowd, getting riled up for the World Series game about to begin.
He soon learned that it was something far more serious.
"The drama that followed -- the bridge that fell, the people that passed -- that's what ended up the most memorable," Henderson said. "We were hoping we could provide just some joy by continuing to play the World Series here."
The pregame ceremony concluded with singer Huey Lewis, a Marin County native, bellowing to the crowd, "San Francisco -- are you ready? Say it with me: 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' And play ball!"
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.