Are the baseball gods punishing the Giants for removing their most notorious fan from the front rows of the left field bleachers?
Everyone has an explanation for why the defending World Series champions are struggling this year, but if you listen to the bleacher bums in section 139, the Curse of the Dawg is the only plausible answer.
If you're a real Giants fan, you don't need an introduction to Dawg, aka Tim Perrin of Concord. You've met the scruffy landscaper through broadcaster Mike Krukow, you remember when he was the Chicken Man during the Barry Bonds years, and you may have noticed his absence from left field since May 12, the day he reached over the fence and interfered with a flyball off the bat of Marco Scutaro.
At the time, the Giants were seven games above .500 and sitting in first place in the National League West standings.
After his ejection, Dawg said, an awful feeling sank into the pit of his stomach.
“I knew I'd messed up,” Dawg said. “I felt that bad I did that — I should know better.”
When Dawg, 54, returned for the Giants' next home game, he was told he could no longer take his seat up front. If he wanted to attend the game, he'd be watching from the 25th row.
The May 12 incident was Dawg's second strike; he'd interfered with a ground-rule double by J.T. Snow eight years earlier and he wasn't getting another mulligan.
Dawg, who's been a fixture at Giants games since he was in his teens in the mid-1970s, left the park with hurt feelings and hasn't returned.
A week after the incident, Ryan Vogelsong broke his right hand while batting, and three days later, Angel Pagan suffered a hamstring strain that has turned into a long-term issue. In the weeks that followed, Pablo Sandoval, Santiago Casilla, Chad Gaudin, Joaquin Arias and Jeremy Affeldt joined them on the disabled list. Entering Wednesday's game, the Giants had compiled a 22-34 record without Dawg.
Curse or no curse, the fans in left field say the experience just isn't the same without the team's No. 1 fan, which is why they're wearing orange T-shirts that say “Free the Dawg.”
He adds to the atmosphere, they say, using props, like his tape measure (for home runs), magnifying glass (close calls), hook (when pitchers get pulled) and rabbit ears (when he knows the left fielder is listening to his heckles). Whenever the Giants get a hit, he runs down the front row and slaps everyone's hands; if they draw a walk, he walks.
“He's my family,” said season ticket holder Sylvia Lowtznhiser. “Where is he? I miss him terribly.”
Even the ushers, who claim hundreds of fans have asked about Dawg since his departure, are confused.
“He's probably given us less problems than anybody,” said an usher, who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution. “He doesn't drink, he just has fun. He puts a lot of smiles in the stands.”
The Giants say Dawg is free to attend games; he just can't sit up front. Dawg has offered to return without his glove, promising to stay away from the wall when the ball is hit to left field. Can a compromise be reached?
“He'd cut off his arm before he'd do that again,” the usher said.
Maybe the Giants are cursed or, perhaps, they have just run out of luck after an incredible three-year run. But at this point, they might want to take Dawg up on his offer; they could use all the help they can get.
Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.