Shots Heard 'Round NAA: Slugger Si Takes Swings at Parade's Ballpark Party

By: Greg Mitchell The hit of opening day at the Newspaper Association of America convention in San Francisco might have been batting practice at the Giants' beautiful SBC Park at China Basin yesterday. And few did it better than veteran S.I. Newhouse Jr., whose exploits were the talk of at least part of the crowd.

At the opening-night party, sponsored by Newhouse's Parade magazine, well more than 150 attendees signed up and stood in line on the playing field to fulfill childhood fantasies of hitting the ball in a major-league park (even if this particular stadium wasn't built till well after their childhoods).

While a large crowd looked on from an enclosed area in the second tier of the stadium, publishers, their wives, and some of their children took turns down below on the field -- the men hitting against a mechanical pitcher and most of the women facing gentle tosses from an actual Giants' employee. Some of the women smashed the ball pretty well, after doffing shoes and high heels.

As the night wore on, the line of about 20 waiting for their turn at the plate never seemed to get shorter. So much for mingling. Young, very old, it didn't seem to matter.

Dozens of attendees also took 20-minute guided tours of the ballpark, jumping at the chance to sit in the amazingly spacious (visiting team) dugout on the field and prowl the surprisingly small (visiting team) clubhouse. No steroids were spotted.

One tour guest stunned the guide and the group by answering a question about the pitching distance in Little League baseball (46 feet). But the guide stumped the crowd when he asked what was the biggest seller at the concession stand. No, not hot dogs or even -- this being San Francisco -- sushi, but Gilroy Garlic Fries.

Parade had to be happy, with its name and various covers on display for a full three hours on the giant screen over center field.

Among those casually waiting his turn to grab some aluminum lumber: Tony Ridder, CEO of Knight Ridder. When he got to the plate, he did quite well, after missing the initial offering, launching a single to right and a couple of decent fouls.

But reports swept the crowd that Newhouse, well into his 70s, had hit three or more solid shots in his turn in the cage. Approached by E&P afterward, he more or less confirmed the story. Asked to explain it, he said, "I've played some baseball." At what level? He started to answer, "Camp," then good-naturedly, like any seasoned slugger who has seen and done it all, waved off any further inquiries.


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