Missing a perfect game

San Francisco sports writer Art Spander in his element  John Boyette/ Staff
John Boyette/ Staff
San Francisco sports writer Art Spander in his element

By now you know San Francisco's Matt Cain threw a perfect game last night.

I am painfully aware because I had a chance to attend the game. Let me explain:

When I made plans to attend the U.S. Open at Olympic a few weeks back, there was discussion of going to Tuesday night's Giants game. I also was invited to a party hosted by Art and Liz Spander on Wednesday night.

Perfect, we could do both.

Wrong. As it turns out, the Tuesday night plans fell through and some of our fellow golf writers opted to go to the Wednesday game because Dustin Johnson was doing a promotion for TaylorMade before the game.

Chronicle columnist Scott Michaux (check out his new Web site at scottmichaux.com) and I decided we'd honor our commitment. After all, the Spanders were gracious enough to charter a van to take us to their beautiful home in Oakland and they were celebrating their upcoming 50th wedding anniversary.

For those who don't know, Art Spander is somewhat of a sportswriting legend in the Bay Area. Name a major sporting event in the past 50 years and he was probably there.

In addition to his writing talent, Art is well known for two things: his gift of gab and his fabulous wine collection.

We left the media center around 6:30 Wednesday night and headed for the Spander residence. We had to cross the Bay Bridge to go into Oakland, and of course we got tied up in traffic headed for the Giants game. Little did we know that history was going to be made at AT&T Park in a few hours.

The Spanders live in the hills of Oakland/Berkeley and have a stunning view back toward San Francisco. When we finally arrived after a 90-minute journey, the guests were already enjoying the hospitality. I'm not a wine drinker, but I did indulge in a glass of Pinot.

Then Art said he was going to give a tour of his wine cellar and his office. I wouldn't know a good bottle of wine if it hit me over the head, but I did notice a stack of old sports magazines tucked in one corner of the basement cellar. Vintage Sport magazines were surrounded by old programs, including one for the 1954 Giants. (You know, Willie Mays and "The Catch" and beating the 111-43 Cleveland Indians. Sorry, Dad.)

But that was only a hint of things to come. Not far away was a den that was covered with photos and writing awards and other trinkets that Art has gathered through the years. If my wife thinks I'm a pack rat, she should see this. And she will: I took pictures!

The most impressive items were personalized cartoons/drawings to Art from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. The two had become good friends through the years, and Schulz was an avid golfer.

On the way over one of the golf writers said he had heard a story that Art had introduced Jack Nicklaus to the art of enjoying and collecting wines. So I asked Art if that was true.

I'm not sure I got a straight answer, but Art said that after Nicklaus won the 1972 Masters he was presented a case of wine from Augusta National. The Spanders and Nicklauses were friendly, and they would sometimes have dinner together. That is probably where they discussed the finer points of wine.

Art also casually mentioned that he missed Jack's first major win, the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The one where he beat Arnold Palmer in a playoff. Art and Liz got married that weekend, so he's excused.

We continued on into Art's office, and it was covered with more memorabilia and piles of newspaper clippings. Art assured us he had cleaned up, but I didn't see anything wrong. I was mesmerized by his tales of going to 59 Rose Bowls, and I was particularly impressed with all of his media badges. He started covering the Masters in 1967 -- Gay Brewer won that year -- and sure enough there was the round working press badge from the Masters.

As the night progressed we enjoyed more drinks, good food and fellowship. At some point I checked my phone and saw on Twitter that Cain was closing in on a perfect game. It seems some of the writers who had gone to the game had opted to leave early. Pity for them.

Before we left we knew that Cain had indeed completed perfection. Some in our party wondered "what if" and we all looked at AT&T Park, still lit up, as we crossed over the bridge.

Deep inside, though, we knew we had done the right thing. Celebrating with Art, Liz, their children, grandchildren and friends was a very special time. There will be more perfect games, but no more chances to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a special couple.

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Jake
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Jake 06/14/12 - 01:17 pm
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Great article. Lot's of

Great article. Lot's of sports writers covered the perfect game but you are the only one that I know of who covered going to the Spander's house. I would have loved to see some of the things he has collected over the years. I hope you are liking your visit out here in California.

John Boyette
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John Boyette 06/14/12 - 01:24 pm
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THanks, Jake. It really is

THanks, Jake. It really is like a time capsule back into the 60s and 70s. Lots of cool stuff.

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