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The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #23: Some ballpark patriotism revealed to be sponsored by the military

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Baseball has always featured the National Anthem before “Play Ball” and red, white and blue bunting has been commonplace in ballparks for years. After 9/11, however, baseball saw a surge in patriotic displays –tributes to the troops, the flag, veterans and the like — before, during and after games.

This is understandable, of course, as our nation went to war and such sentiments surge during wartime. At some point in the past 14 years, however, the exercises began to become increasingly scripted and increasingly rote. More troubling, they also became more a function of corporate sponsorship than unadulterated, heartfelt patriotism. It wasn’t just Major League Baseball saluting the troops. It was Bank or America. It wasn’t just the Kansas City Royals offering veterans seat upgrades at games, it was Budweiser. At some point after 9/11 professional sports saw fit to allow corporations to ride on the back of patriotic sentiment in an effort, intentionally or unintentionally, to bolster their own image.

Against that backdrop came a story last May about how the military actually spends tax dollars to pay for a lot of this stuff, using it as a recruitment and P.R. tool. Indeed, National Guard officials admitted as much when asked about it. Nothing illegal occurred in this, but many considered the practice to be manipulative in that fans were clearly led to believe that these salutes to the troops and “Hometown Hero” tributes were public services by the team or, at the very least, spontaneous tributes. Which they clearly were not. They were advertisements. Soon after the report came out a Congressional investigation was launched and a bill was introduced aimed at outlawing the practice.

As for baseball, one gets the distinct impression that the conspicuous displays of patriotism, while far from being pushed out of the game, are beginning to be ratcheted back ever so slowly. A comparison of the pre-World Series game activities from 2014 to 2015 showed a shift from military-related ceremonies and public relations opportunity to more community based, youth baseball-focused ones.

Baseball will never dispense with giant flags and patriotic associations, but one gets the sense that, each year, the post-9/11 volume we experienced with these things will be dialed back a tad.

Giants beat Mariners again in road game playing at home

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SAN FRANCISCO — The nomadic Mariners are taking their bats from the Bay Area to Southern California for three more “home games” on the road.

Wilmer Flores hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 6-4 win Thursday that sent Seattle to a second home defeat played in San Francisco’s ballpark because of dangerous air quality in Western Washington.

The series was moved because of smoke from all the West Coast wildfires. Now, the Mariners are altering their air travel reservations once more and headed to San Diego for a weekend series at Petco Park.

“It’s disappointing, but its the world we’re living in in 2020,” Mariners starter Nick Margevicius said. “There’s a lot of things we can’t control, a lot of things in the season, a lot of things in the world right now.”

Darin Ruf homered in the second inning to back Giants starter Tyler Anderson, who hurt his own cause when he was ejected in the bottom of the third by plate umpire Edwin Moscoso for emphatically expressing his displeasure with a walk to Kyle Lewis.

“Tyler knows that that just can’t happen,” mangaer Gabe Kapler said. “It puts us in a really tough spot.”

Wandy Peralta followed Anderson and threw 49 pitches over a career-high three innings, and Rico Garcia (1-1) worked one inning for his first major league win. Sam Selman finished for his first career save, stranding two runners when Lewis lined out and Kyle Seager flied out.

“Peralta came up huge for us,” Kapler said. “As tough as that was it was equally rewarding and in some ways inspiring to see him come out and give us the length that he did and battle. It gave us a chance to climb back into the game. I thought our guys continued to be resilient.”

JP Crawford hit a two-run single in the second following RBI singles by Tim Lopes and Phillip Ervin, but Seattle’s bullpen couldn’t hold a three-run lead.

Margevicius was staked to an early lead but Kendall Graveman (0-3) couldn’t hold it. The Mariners capitalized in the second after Anderson hit Seager in the backside.

Seattle has fared better against San Diego this season after losing all four to San Francisco. Manager Scott Servais had prepared himself for the possibility his club might have to stay on the road a little longer.

“I think with our players and everybody else it was going to be a two-day trip. That’s what we were led to believe that everything was going to clear up in Seattle,” Servais said. “We can’t control the weather it’s bigger than all of us and with what’s going on there with the smoke. Certainly understand why we have to go but I don’t think anybody was really prepared for it.”

Brandon Crawford contributed a sacrifice fly and Evan Longoria and Alex Dickerson RBI singles for the Giants.

Austin Slater returned at designated hitter for San Francisco and went 0 for 2 with a walk as he works back from a painful right elbow. Luis Basabe singled in the sixth for his first career hit and also stole his first base.

“I didn’t think about it,” said Basabe, who will gift the special souvenir ball to his mother. “I was just happy to get the opportunity.”

Justin Smoak made his Giants home debut as a pinch hitter in the sixth facing his former club after he signed a minor league deal earlier this month following his release by the Brewers.

Anderson, who was trying to win consecutive starts for the first time this season, received his second career ejection. The other was Aug. 13, 2016, while with Colorado.