SAN FRANCISCO -- Two Bay Area cultural institutions came together Monday night in a celebration of baseball, bobbleheads and rock 'n' roll as the San Francisco Giants hosted the fourth annual Grateful Dead Tribute Night at AT&T Park.
Some 4,000 Deadheads paid from $50 to $250 a ticket to honor the Dead and its late paterfamilias, Jerry Garcia, whose 71st birthday was Aug.1.
Fans who bought the VIP package enjoyed a pre-game meal in Triples Alley as the band Moonalice played Grateful Dead songs like "Stella Blue" and "China Cat Sunflower" and longtime Garcia roadie Steve Parish regaled the crowd with stories of Jerry's childhood and the bar his family owned not far from the ballpark.
"We're here to honor a special son of San Francisco," Parish bellowed. "Jerry loved San Francisco and he loved the Giants."
Longtime Deadhead Dave Hunter of Fairfax said Grateful Dead concerts were much like Giants' games.
"You never knew what was going to happen," he said. "You never knew when someone was going to hit a home run and win the game."
Original Grateful Dead member Bob Weir of Mill Valley joined voices with Giants' third base coach Tim Flannery and Flannery's opera-singing brother, Tom, in a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
Garcia's daughter, Trixie, threw out the first pitch with Weir and the world's tallest Deadhead, basketball hall of famer Bill Walton.
"We're so lucky to experience the staggering connection between these two cultural forces that bring so much passion, so much enthusiasm and creativity to this magnificent city," Walton philosophized. "We get to live, we get to dance, we get to dream and we get to play ball."
For Grateful Dead night, the bases were adorned with the band's iconic "Steal You Face" image of a skull and lightning bolt, renamed for the game against the Milwaukee Brewers as "Steal Your Base."
Fans who bought premium tickets received special bobblehead dolls of the Dead's Uncle Sam skeleton figure decked out in orange and black and leaning on a baseball bat. It may soon become a collectors' item like the Jerry Garcia bobbleheads that sell on ebay for $200 and more.
Garcia's former wife, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, said her late husband would have loved the tribute night, remembering him as a casual fan who enjoyed the excitement around the game of baseball as much as the game itself.
"He was into the hoopla," she explained. "He liked to be around everyone else's excitement."
The Giants tribute capped a week of activities honoring Garcia, who died in 1995, and the music of the Grateful Dead, including two nights of Dead songs played by the San Francisco Symphony.
"Jerry would have been thrilled to hear the symphony play his songs," said Jerilyn Lee Brandelius, author of the "Grateful Dead Family Album," an intimate book about the band and its extended family celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The tribute night raised $35,000 for the Dead's Rex Foundation and other band-related charities. Roger McNamee, a Silicon Valley mogul who heads the band Moonalice, contributed $15,000 of the total.
During the game, a clean-cut Deadhead played a version of "Family Feud," naming popular Grateful Dead songs like "Sugar Magnolia" and "Uncle John's Band" and winning $50, eliciting cheers from the tie-dye clad crowd.
Between innings, Dead songs boomed over the stadium sound system. It was especially poignant to hear Garcia's mournful voice singing his autobiographical San Francisco song, "Mission in the Rain," inspired by his youth in the city's Mission District.
The Giants' Director of Special Ticket Events Faham Zakariael explained that the team alternates tribute nights, honoring the Dead one season and Garcia the next.
"The next time we honor Jerry," he said, "will be on the 20th anniversary of his death."
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at firstname.lastname@example.org