The oddest thing happened late in Wednesday's San Francisco Giants game, as the team was running up a 9-1 victory over the Houston Astros. The crowd in the section next to mine -- where Giants' owners sit -- gradually rose and gawked at a scene up front, near the field. I couldn't see what was going on; the way the crowd slowly stood up, and its uneasy curiosity, made me think maybe people were looking at a fight. Gradually my section got up too, but I couldn't see much. The occasional person near the commotion was clapping, but mostly people were just looking. I thought I spotted Hall of Famer Willie Mays making his way slowly down the aisle toward the field, and I was right, but the crowd reaction didn't add up. Mays gets applause when he's around, but not whole sections standing; he's a regular fixture at the ballpark. In front of me a man said, "Oh that's right, I heard Condi Rice was going to be here."
And she was. She sat in front next to Republican donor and Giants president Peter Magowan and his loyal No. 2, Larry Baer. Blue-jacketed Secret Service men were everywhere. One fan ran around with a brown cardboard sign that read "Stop lying Condi. Impeach Bush." A few people ran up to snap pictures. Interestingly, her face never flashed on the giant screen in centerfield. The Giants' management likes to flash any sort of celebrities when they're at the old ballgame. Robin Williams and Danny Glover are semiregulars; I've seen Lauren Hutton treated like Helen Mirren; former President Bill Clinton was constantly on the big screen during a rain-delayed game when the park first opened. But Rice was never shown. Maybe it was for security reasons; as likely, it was the same reason President Bush can't throw out the first pitch on Opening Day anymore: too many boos.
But the Giants owners' restraint was for naught. When Rice left after a couple of innings, she was loudly booed in the sections that could see her, though to be fair there were a few folks clapping and shaking her hand in the aisle as she left. Rice is best known as an NFL fan; some folks say she'd make a good commissioner. And her boss, George W. Bush, might have made a good baseball commissioner, too. Instead they've blundered us into an awful war, with more soldiers dying every day. I'm sure Rice was hoping for a little respite at the ballpark, back near Stanford University, which her spokesman just told Alex Koppelman she hopes to call home when she leaves Washington. (Be sure to read Koppelman's great piece about "Think Condi" loyalists here.) But she didn't get much respite, even in the fancy seats at AT&T Park with a Republican owner as her host. I was surprised to hear people booing so loudly in the fancy seats, and kind of proud too.
And the Giants have won four in a row!