SAN FRANCISO — It was just like old times for the Giants on Friday night, and not just because the team was back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The Giants sold virtually every seat at Oracle Park for their National League Division Series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not that many fans were using them when Buster Posey skipped a two-run home run off a water tower above the right-field wall and into McCovey Cove in the bottom of the first inning.
Team officials believed before the game that at least 40,000 tickets were sold, the threshold for a sellout, but the final tally ended up being 41,934.
The Giants recaptured the hearts of much of the Bay Area during a magical 2021 season that began with modest expectations and saw them lead the majors in victories. So with dreams of another World Series run — and a historic first-ever playoff game of the modern era against their fiercest rival — the Giants figured to have a pretty full house. And it was, including appearances by former Bay Area sports stars Barry Bonds, Chris Mullin, Jerry Rice and Steve Young.
But it had been a while since that many fans — on Friday armed with orange towels to wave as they chanted “Beat L.A.” — had been buzzing around the waterfront ballpark.
Since the park opened in 2000 the Giants have typically ranked among the top draws in the majors, and they set a National League record with a 530-game sellout streak between October 1, 2010 and July 17, 2017. That stretch, of course, included the Giants winning World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The dip in attendance continued as the team struggled on the field, and then COVID-19 hit, emptying the ballpark completely in 2020. Attendance was damped down early this season because of coronavirus protocols, and even when the ballpark was opened up fully in mid-June the Giants played mostly in a half-full (or less) home park.
The first signs that the fans were coming back en masse were the first weekend of September, when the Giants had two sellouts and barely missed a third for their pivotal series against the Dodgers.
Another sellout crowd was on hand for the penultimate game of the season — a potential NL West clincher against the San Diego Padres — and 36,901 were in the park for the clincher the next day.
The Giants expect another sellout for Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday night.
Fans looking for tickets on Friday night didn’t have a lot of options. And it was a seller’s market.
Less than an hour before first pitch, the most inexpensive ticket available was a view reserve seat in left field that was going for $117 plus fees on Stubhub and there were fewer than 100 tickets that cost $200 or less. If price was not an issue, Dugout Club seats were going for $1,025.