Double Play in SF is a mecca for the Seals and, gone

We were driving home on Bryant Street the other day. The traffic light on 16th Street turned red, and I turned to Sailor Girl, my little adventure buddy. “There’s double play,” I said. “We really should come for lunch these days.” She agreed. The time was wrong that day. But one of these days.

When I heard about the fire, my first feeling was sadness: I’ve always loved this place. Double Play is an agency in San Francisco. And an American. Rafael Hernandez moved to San Francisco from Mexico and got a job as a dishwasher at Double Play in 1988. He worked his way up to become a chef and bought the place nine years later. His wife served at the table and their eldest son was the bartender. This is a San Francisco place.

The second emotion I felt was regret. Sorry, I don’t go to doubles anymore. I’m sorry I didn’t try hard. Maybe just stop for a beer. Maybe go watch the last Giants game of the season on TV. Double Play is a great place to watch baseball on TV. I put it on my list. But you know how it goes. I am very busy. Maybe next season.

Double Play is the closest we’ll get to San Francisco’s baseball mecca. It’s across the street from Seal Stadium. Most San Francisco people know that the first major league baseball game on the West Coast was played there on April 15, 1958. The newly formed San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-0. Willie Mays was in that game. So does Orlando Cepeda. This is historic.

But to other generations of San Francisco, Seals Stadium is historic because the Seals play there. Joe DiMaggio broke into professional baseball there. DiMaggio is a San Francisco native on this big day. Lefty O’Doul has been the SEALs manager for many years. He’s another San Francisco native, born and raised in Butchertown.

When I was a kid growing up in Potrero Mountain, when the Seals were going well and the wind was right, we would sometimes hear the roar of the Seals stadium crowd.

We also go to games sometimes and listen to Don Klein on the radio: from far away from Seattle and Portland. We don’t like the Los Angeles Angels and the Hollywood Stars because they’re from Los Angeles and we’re kids in San Francisco. Dodgers? Well, that’s East Coast stuff. We have to learn not to like them.

Finding a place where you can transition from old San Francisco to new San Francisco is a rare thing. Doubles did it. The walls are covered with old things like a museum: shows, baseball cards, old gloves. Clippings about high school games from long ago: Mission High, Lincoln, Poly, Sacred Heart.

Double Play used to have a back room with walls painted as if clients were sitting at a Pacific Coast League game, and the Seals had a narrow lead. The baseball mural, San Francisco’s version of the Sistine Chapel, assumes Michelangelo was a baseball fan.

One small thing: All the players in that doubles mural are left-handed.

When the landlord remodeled the building, the frescoes were lost and the extra space was used for other purposes.

But baseball is always on the Double Play menu. The games are usually shown on TV and the customers are paying attention. I remember stopping during the first exciting day of the Giants World Series. Barrizzito is pitching. Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs.

Double Play packed the bar, with customers standing at the booth cheering and high-fiving.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done after a race,” Jon Clifton, one of the customers, told me that night. “It’s like being part of a crowd. You’re drawn to the energy.”

I fondly remember that night. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a dozen World Series in person, but the World Series on Double Play TV is my favorite.

The Giants’ season ends this weekend. This is disappointing. There is no Orange October this year. But I might have been able to catch a game in a two-player game. That would be fun.

Maybe doubles will come back. There is a GoFundMe campaign to rebuild it.

But the new dual-play won’t be like the old one. That’s gone. If that’s any lesson, it’s regret in the air, like the bitter taste of ashes. Sorry I didn’t go to doubles as often when I had the chance. We only traveled this road once.

Carl Nolte’s column appears in the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email:

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