As a beat writer, you get so used to the consistent hum of a ballpark during a 162-game season that it's jarring when you encounter something different on the road. As someone who covers the Giants, there are two stadiums in the National League where that would happen.
The first is Petco Park -- or AT&T Park South as it was jokingly known in the years following the first title. It wasn't as noticeable after the downturn in 2017, but for a few years there you could sit in the press box and look down the third-base line and feel like you still were in San Francisco. That side of the park would be primarily orange and black, which made sense. A lot of Giants fans live in Southern California, and it's an easy trip for anyone looking to get away. Who doesn't want to spend a weekend in the Gaslamp?
The second spot always caught me by surprise, though. When the Giants visited Citi Field in New York, the experience always was the same. At some point in the middle innings, a Giant would hit a homer or drive in a run with a double, and a shocking amount of noise would come flooding out of the outfield seats. The Finnerty's buses had brought another large group of Giants fans in for a takeover.
Finnerty's, a popular Bay Area sports bar in the East Village, announced Monday what many had feared. The pandemic has robbed big cities of many of their beloved small businesses, and Finnerty's was not spared. They've closed their doors for good, announcing the difficult decision in a YouTube video that includes some must-watch footage of Bay Area sports fans.
This column is simply to say thank you to everyone who worked there and gave Bay Area natives a second home.
If you go through the mentions underneath the initial tweet today, you'll see dozens of fans replaying their best experiences at Finnerty's, and I did the same this morning. I woke up and saw the news and immediately thought of the 2016 postseason, when the Giants visited Citi Field for the Wild Card Game and Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie made more memories.
Finnerty's rolled out the red carpet, allowing NBC Sports Bay Area to film multiple shows there that week and give me an experience I'll never forget. It's actually pretty weird to cover a postseason run. You go from airport to hotel to ballpark day after day after day, and while I've covered two title teams, I didn't actually spend much time around Giants fans until the parade. Occasionally you run into a group as you're boarding a flight and see how much each win means, but for the most part you have your head down for a month.
But we spent that night at Finnerty's around the diehards, and long after our show was over we hung around and talked to Giants fans who lived on the East Coast and went there for every big game. They would proudly walk down 2nd Avenue in their Giants hats and Posey jerseys until they got to the familiar brick building with 49ers, Giants, Sharks and Warriors logos displayed in the windows. It was their home away from home.
The next spring, I met a girl who lived in New York. She would become my fiancée, but before she moved to San Francisco, I spent an offseason in Manhattan and got to see what the bar really meant to the Bay Area transplants who lived there. It was a go-to spot for me for Warriors and 49ers games, a break from all the bars showing the pathetic Knicks and Jets, and I feel for the fans who no longer will have that experience when life gets back to normal. Even walking past the building during the day made you feel like you were back home for a few seconds.
Finnerty's did that better than any sports bar I've known, and when the Giants finally won a World Series, it allowed fans to come to their favorite local bar and actually see the World Series trophy. Finnerty's became such a big part of the Giants' trips to the East Coast that the team took the unusual step of putting out a statement Monday morning to note the closing of a sports bar 3,000 miles away.
I walked away from one of those trips with a t-shirt that said "Only 2567.76 miles from homeplate" on the back, as I imagine many did. We're sorry it turned out this way, but to everyone there, thanks for all the memories!