Salami War at the
paddling into McCovey Cove, Game 5 of the
2002 World Series
If you didnt see the
World Series, when games 3, 4 and 5 arrived in San Francisco, Taco Bell
floated a huge inflated target in McCovey Cove, and they promised everyone
in the country a free taco if one of the batters hit the target with a
From the moment the Fox
TV camera first turned its lens on the Taco Bell floating target, I wanted
nothing more than to pop it. I didnt mind it being there, a blatant
marketing stunt. It was just that the camera showed it and nothing but it.
The camera ignored all of the other hooligans populating the cove, and the
camera ignored the huge baseball mitt over left field, and the giant coke
bottle in left center. Taco Bell was bogarting the action. They were
hogging the camera.
On Thursday, my friend
Ethan Watters persuaded me to join the circus in the cove. Hes an
expert river raft guide, and he owned a canoe. A chance to be a part of
history, he said, and I couldnt argue. He showed me his life vest;
built into its shoulder strap was a small emergency knife. I was in.
The Cove was crammed with
a hundred kayakers, a few dozen surfers on their boards, a few dozen life
rafts with dinky plastic paddles, a water polo game (yes, theyd set up
a water polo net), and a few outrageous get-ups. It was like Halloween.
Some guys in prison stripes pretended to have escaped from Alcatraz;
another group had built a floating putting green and were dressed as golf
caddies. We all had the same thing in mind: cozy up to the Taco Bell
target and get on television. We drank a lot and listened to the game on
our radios and got very, very hungry.
In the second inning,
some large things started flying through the air and landing among us.
What the hell? They were being launched from a yacht anchored a row back.
water balloons ?
we couldnt tell. They made big
splashes, they were covered in plastic, they were aimed primarily at the
Taco Bell target
I saw one raining down at me, reached out with my
baseball mitt and snagged it. It jerked my arms, heavier than I
anticipated. It was
a one-pound bag of
sliced Gallo Salami.
The yacht moved into
view. Gallo Salami was doing some guerilla marketing of its own. Using a
water-balloon slingshot, they fired a hundred bags of salami at the Taco
Bell float, hoping to land their product in the middle. Within seconds, we
had the salami bags ripped open. Some people were eating the salami, but
in a few more seconds it became clear that hard salami slices make
excellent Frisbees, and soon there were several thousand salami slices
flying every which way, slapping us in the face, landing on our legs, so
many slices you almost couldnt open your eyes, wed throw them back,
and then theyd be thrown back again, like gnats these slices,
occasionally stuffing one into the mouth to stave off hunger, washing it
down with Jack Daniels, taking a few in the face, down the neck. Then
we started flinging the wet salami slices onto the Taco Bell target, and
soon it was layered with a thousand slices, the biggest salami taco the
worlds ever seen.
It helped the Giants were
winning. Benito Santiago and Jeff Kent, (who bat before and after Barry
Bonds), finally came through in the clutch. If youve seen the games at
Pac Bell Park on television, youve seen a home run go over the right
field wall, and watched as the kayakers dive into the water trying to
recover the ball. What you dont see, and what I didnt know happened,
is that were sitting there in our watercraft, listening on the radio,
and we hear the announcer, Theres the pitch
to right field, its deep! And the crowd jumps to its feet, and
everyone screams, so that we can no longer hear our radios, and a baseball
comes flying over the wall into the water, and theres a mad
swim-scramble for the home run ball, then the crowd quiets, and we can
hear our radios again, the announcer saying, And the throw into second
is late, as J.T. Snow has another standup double. What? Double? But it
was a home run, right? And about then whoever won the swim for the home
run ball would surface proudly, beaming, and wed all laugh, because we
realized it was a fake. Some mischievous fan sitting in the right field
stands was throwing a ball over his shoulder every time there was a hit to
right. There were a half dozen fake home runs that night.
Luckily, there were also
some real home runs, and the Giants built a big lead.
In the 6th
inning, we squeezed in close to the Taco Bell target. Id like to take
credit for it, but the truth is, a couple drunk surfers right next to us
beat us to it. All of a sudden they paddled away furiously, bumping into
the other kayaks, running over some swimmers, and I heard a whishing sound
and could see the gash below the water line. Ethans knife, for the
record, never left his shoulder strap. I hoped they were showing this on
TV. The circus erupted in glee as the target listed, then sagged, and I
helped a few revelers jump aboard and use it as a trampoline to drive the
air out. The target was guarded by only one lone kayaker. He was cool. The
cops circled in jet skis, but didnt dare insert themselves into the
melee. The target went down in less than an inning. We sank it to the
bottom, and we harvested the target itself, which was a large tarp that
had been strapped over a truck-tire innertube. It ended up as a cape on a
In the 8th
inning, after yet another home run celebration, I tipped over the canoe. I
had been standing up, cheering like a fool. Our radios, camera, cell
phones, and extra clothes all went overboard. The water was about 56
degrees. It took us a good minute or two to flip the canoe back and fish
all our valuables out of the water. Among various word choices to describe
the water, I think bracing would be more accurate than
refreshing. Theres an old myth that salt water doesnt feel as
cold as fresh water. Its a myth. We paddled the mile home to stay warm.
I dont remember much else that night.