SAN FRANCISCO — Larry Baer left the ballpark in the sixth inning, and he remembers the exact moment because of the Kiss Cam on the scoreboard. The Giants CEO needed to get to Yom Kippur services at his synagogue by sundown Tuesday night, and San Francisco led the Cubs 5-2 at that point.
He listened on the radio as he drove 15 minutes from AT&T Park: scoreless seventh, then scoreless eighth. Baer parked and arrived for the Kol Nidre service at 8:15 p.m. — 15 minutes early for a change — then eventually went inside and turned off his phone.
The final score would have to wait for 90 minutes, yet Baer prepared for a flight first thing Thursday back to Chicago for Game 5 fully confident his club would stave off postseason elimination once more. The Giants had done so 10 times in a row, after all.
“I walked in, turned off my phone, ignored my phone — off in terms of me looking at it … not being checked,” Baer told The Associated Press on Thursday. “A big Giants fan was sitting near me and said as I was literally walking to sit down, ‘We got out in the bottom of the eighth.’ So, I took a deep breath and got into services for an hour and a half.”
With the Jewish High Holidays service over, a man from a couple of rows back approached and told him, “I’m sorry.” Baer initially thought someone had died. Then he got it. The season was over, an even-year failure for the first time this decade after World Series championships in 2010, ’12 and ’14.
“That’s how I found out,” Baer said of the 6-5 loss in Game 4.
He skipped socializing after the service and headed for his car, then “sat in silence for a while.” Eventually, he called family members and then general manager Bobby Evans “to make sure he was sane.”
“I just sat in the car stunned,” Baer said. “Stunned.”
Baer has endured both the highs and lows as a baseball executive and devoted Jew when the postseason and High Holidays collide.
Two years ago when he readied to break the fast following Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Baer endured a similar story with a far sweeter ending.
“This has a better outcome,” Baer recalled.
The Giants were in Washington for the NL Division Series and he stayed back in the Bay Area to be in temple. His father was being remembered, too, after Monroe Baer Jr. died in March 2014 at age 91. That time, Baer parked his car with the Giants trailing 1-0 late in the game. A stranger in the courtyard whispered in his ear “Man on first.” Baer went inside and the service was just beginning when someone else tapped him on the shoulder from behind with, “Tie game.”
Baer assumed Game 2 went to extra innings but heard nothing when services ended, so his gut told him maybe the Giants had lost. A friend then urged him to “get home, it’s the bottom of the 13th.”
“I’m like, ‘Wow,’ so I went to a party, a break-the-fast,” Baer said of the celebration two blocks from temple. Baer noticed there were far fewer people around the food and the host immediately sent him upstairs, where rabbis and friends were gathered around a television watching the Giants in the 14th.
They stayed put through the 15th, 16th and 17th — and everybody then knew this game would end in the 18th, a significant number in Judaism derived from the Hebrew word chai, for long life.
“As we go to the top of the 18th, the rabbis and four people including myself simultaneously say, ‘It has to happen in the 18th because of the significance of the No. 18,'” he said. “It was also pointed out that half of chai is up to bat, No. 9, Brandon Belt.”
Belt homered, and the Giants won 2-1.
“And the place erupts,” Baer said. “That was the perfect symmetry. … So, we’re talking about complete bookends, both characterized by the holiday. It’s incredible. I’m amazed. I thought I’d be in temple Wednesday and be flying at 7 a.m. Thursday to Chicago.”