Giants, fans embracing do-it-all infielder 'Ooooh! ... Ree-Bay!'
A quarter century ago, the San Francisco Giants' former home, Candlestick Park, wasn't a particularly joyful place. The team wasn't very good, the ballpark was cold and old, and fans were usually cranky.
But things changed in the mid-1980s. The creaky concrete basin was suddenly fun, even lively. And the sound of that fun was a two-part cheer, with half the stadium shouting "Ooooh" and the other half responding "Ree-Bay."
The cheer was a tribute to the Giants' smooth little shortstop Jose Uribe, part of a terrific double play duo with young Robby Thompson. Thompson and Will Clark became the best-known stars of that team, which went to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years in 1987 and on to the World Series two years later.
The Ooooh! Ree-Bay! cheer was an indication of the pleasure fans took in the team's less famous players and their appreciation of the small, important things in the game.
Fast forward two decades to the Giants' delightful new home, a place made for fun. The team is in the World Series, the ballpark is an aesthetic joy and the fans are deliriously happy. And the cheer from the past roars through AT&T Park.
Juan Uribe is the Giants' sometime shortstop, sometime third baseman, all the time clutch hitter. He is a clubhouse leader, a playful presence, a World Series winner.
And a link to the Giants' past.
Uribe is the second cousin of Jose, who died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic in 2006. Because of the 20-year age difference, Uribe called Jose his uncle.
"It got me very emotional," Uribe said of the first time he heard the chant. "I'm very happy the fans do it."
And the Giants fans are very happy Uribe does what he does. This era's "Ooooh!" "Ree-Bay!" cheer is the sound of clutch October offense.
In their remarkable postseason run, Uribe has been the Giants most reliable run producer.
• His sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth won pivotal Game 4 against the Phillies.
• His eighth-inning home run in Game 6 in Philadelphia put the Giants in the World Series.
• His three-run sixth-inning home run cracked Game 1 of the World Series wide open.
• On Thursday, in Game 2, his RBI single in the seventh gave the Giants a 2-0 lead, which seemed very important until the Giants went on to score seven runs in the eighth inning.
• Uribe drew a walk in that inning, forcing in a run. That's a rarity for the free-swinging Uribe.
Uribe has also anchored the Giants left side of the infield this season. He played 101 games at shortstop. But in the postseason, with Pablo Sandoval riding the bench, he is playing third base. He started the season playing second base, when Freddy Sanchez was injured. He's one of the players that has given manager Bruce Bochy so much flexibility.
And he's one of the characters that have given the Giants so much personality. Uribe is beloved, always happy, consistently upbeat. He regularly tells his teammates he's going to have a big game. He tells the team beat writers in virtually every city they go to that "this is my town."
Aaron Rowand, who played with Uribe on the White Sox World Series team -- on which Uribe was the starting shortstop -- said that Uribe "walks into the clubhouse every day like a little kid ... He never changes."
"I don't really know how he is as a teammate because he doesn't speak English very well," said Aubrey Huff, joking, adding, "I'm kidding.
"We love him as a teammate. He's got a lot of energy. And he's a fun guy. If you can understand him."
Huff is kidding, sort of. Uribe doesn't speak a lot of English. This week, as he's been mobbed by the World Series horde, he's been provided with a translator. That's fine and the interpreter has dutifully translated Uribe's explanations of his hits, his defensive plays and his overall feeling.
But Uribe's own words didn't really need any translation. After his sacrifice fly won Game 4 against Philadelphia and Uribe was mobbed by his teammates, he described himself as "a whole lot of happy."
This month he's making this era's Giants fans a whole lot of happy.
And making a cheer from the past connect with an exhilarating new era.