Tonight, thanks to a night off, I got to actually use my own season tickets and enjoy the game from the Arcade section (the view is actually much better than my photo at right makes it seem — you can judge pitches quite nicely from these seats).
As I made my way to the seats from underneath the center field scoreboard, since Marina Gate is my favorite gate of the four at AT&T Park to enter, I passed the ballpark operations crew that runs the water cannons, the Barry Bonds home run counter and the intentional walks chicken toteboard. For those who don’t know, the Giants keep track of the number of intentional walks issued to their players by a tally next to a cartoon representation of a chicken and a string of rubber chickens hanging on a line, one chicken per intentional free pass. It started in 2004, when Barry Bonds was racking up intentional walks so fast, he outpaced every other entire team in baseball by a huge margin. The Giants even started selling a special orange, SF-branded rubber chicken named "Walk’er" as part of "Operation Cluck."
A few of the chickens hanging from the wire affixed to the Arcade in foul territory down the right-field line are a special breed — they’re known as "Neifi chickens," named in honor of former Giants infielder Neifi Perez, who, as the frequent No. 8 batter in the order ahead of the pitcher, received three intentional walks in 2004. Perez has pretty skinny legs, so Giants broadcasters Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper found a particularly scrawny chicken on the string, circled it with the telestrator and dubbed it the "Neifi chicken."
Now, what causes a Neifi chicken? Is it the runt of the flock that didn’t get enough rubbery feed at the rubber farm? Does the cold weather cause some birds to shrink to conserve energy in some weird form of adaptive evolution?
Nope. Turns out, as I have witnessed out on the Arcade before games, the chickens must have air blown into them to puff them out, and yes, this is something the gameday staff have to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation style. It appears some rubber chickens don’t get as much of the breath of life as others.