The San Francisco Giants and Zimbabwe: An Unlikely Connection

On 9 July 2010, the San Francisco Giants were 45-41, but 5 games back of the NL West leading San Diego Padres and were 9th overall in the National League. They had just lost to Steven Strasburg and the Washinton Nationals in DC, with Matt Cain giving up 8 runs, 7 earned in just 6 innings to the Nationals that would eventually finish 69-93, 28 games out of first place.

Also on that day, I was disembarking a train in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe accidently leaving my one and only San Francisco Giants hat on that train, losing it to the continent of Africa for good. Because my head rarely fits baseball caps well, the perfect fit that this one provided made me quite disheartened over the loss. This was accenutated by the significant history this cap hat witnessed in its lifetime. But in the end, perhaps it ended the drought of my hometown ball club.

It was not a traditional Giants hat with the classic black and orange. It was navy blue, the SF logo in sky blue with white trim. It was a adjustable cap, but one that fit very comfortably and could also be attached to my bag by stringing the adjustor through a strap so as not to get left behind. I got the hat while in San Francisco in 2000 when my parents were in a particular generous mood and offered to buy me my first Giants hat. The store we were in that day was running some promotion where if you bought one hat you got one at a significantly reduced price. I had fallen in love with a black cap with the ‘SF’ in red with white trim. Never much liking the color navy, I choose it regardless because it was the only other cap that had the Giant’s logo in blue. The black/red hat got much wear during our trip as most the pictures from the rest of the family vacation in California had the black and red hat covering my head in nearly every shot. Both hats made the trek back to Slovenia where my family would live for the next two years.

For some reason, as I grew and as the shape of my head changed, the red/black fit less well and deteriorated in quality, and the navy/blue cap felt much more comfortable to wear, but I still neglected the hat on the basis of it being navy. Both hats survived the moved back stateside, but after that the history of the red/black hat gets fuzzy and eventually dissappears from memory. The navy/blue eventually made it’s way out to San Diego for university, where after 1.5 years in La Jolla it accompanied me to my first stay in South Africa in 2007. It was the only head covering I took to Southern Africa and it made both the trek north to Malawi, and then up to Namibia where it is prominent in nearly all of our pictures from our day in Sossuvlei.

Alex and Mo at Sossusvlei

By that time the hat was so well worn in that the color made less of a difference to me and was simply THE Giants hat.

It made it back in my suitcase through OR Tambo airport (where we know not all things pass through so easily) back to San Diego (where ironically enough, I hardly ever wore any hats) and finally back to Washington DC with the rest of my stuff after finishing university.

When packing for South Africa this past summer, it was a no brainer to take it with me as now it had become my “African” travel hat. I have left many things along the way in my travels, nearly all by accident or forgettfulness, but somehow the hat had made four transatlantic crossings, one 6 month stint on the tip of the continent and was now returning once again.

I should have known that this trip would be its last as Alisa and I sat in the back of a bakkie with 20 plus other Mozambicans as we made our way out to Vilanculos for our pre-World Cup ‘vacation’ in May 2010. On this day Alisa was wearing my hat (likely because I hate all the hats she owns or because she had been kind enough to take it off my bag and prevent it from being crushed). And as we sat smushed in by the people standing up around us and those lucky enough to secure a ‘seat’ on the bakkie’s bed rim with the wind howling in our faces, the Giants hat slipped off Alisa’s head and was headed towards the Mozambican bush, but it was caught before it reached the end of the bakkie and was lost forever. I had not had my eyes on her when this occurred, I only noticed when she lets out an exclamation and turn to see her clutching the hat with a worried face. She explains to the white South African sitting next to her that my hat had been to Africa and back once before and that I would be very upset with her if she lost it only a week into our Mozambican adventure.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Alisa and Alex at Sossusvlei

Our trip from Bulawayo to Vic Falls was the final trip it would take in my possession as the hat was finally lost in the station at Victoria Falls, and perhaps the curse that it inflicted on me and my Giants through my adult life was finally lifted as well. The Giants turned around their season and went 18 games over .500 the rest of the season. Even though there is likely some Zimbabwean wearing the hat right now somewhere in the region of Victoria Falls (if it hasn’t been sold on by now), the fact the Giants finished the season with an NL West Crown, went on to win the National League Pennant, and then bring home the first World Series to San Francisco more than makes up for my lost Giants hat in Zimbabwe.

I would like to think that it was part my forgetfulness and part rural Zimbabwean poverty that played some small part in lifting the first World Series trophy by a team from San Francisco.


 - Maputo, Mozambique

The last known picture of the Giants hat - Maputo, Mozambique


3 thoughts on “The San Francisco Giants and Zimbabwe: An Unlikely Connection

  1. I noticed that over the years Barry Bonds’ head grew and the shape of his head changed so that it would no longer fit in a SF cap either. I think you should be tested for steroids.

  2. Such a great story, Alex. I’m sad that hat’s gone, but the coincidence of the Giants’ season is uncanny.

  3. Barry,
    If I had been juicing, I think my career as a soccer player would have gone a bit better and I wouldn’t have had to ‘retire’ into refereeing

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