If you’re a San Francisco Giants fan, you probably know Jorge Costa’s work. You won’t find him on the team’s roster but as the Giants' director of operations, in charge of making sure the home field is green, the scoreboard is working and the park is in spiffy shape.
But every home opener, Costa becomes part of the on-field tradition as he strolls out wearing a new suit made just for the occasion. It’s an opening day ritual that’s become tradition over the last 30 years. What will Jorge wear?
"It’s brought up at our staff meetings," said Stan Sprinkles, the Giants' director of logistics. "We’re all waiting to see what Jorge is going to wear this year."
At some point during every home opener, Costa will stroll out of his office and onto the field’s warning track sporting a new suit that doesn’t scrimp on pizazz. If there’s a common thread to Costa’s selections over the years, he seems to favor Giovanni double-breasted pinstripe suits made of shiny fabric.
He said he begins plotting the outfit with his tailor Domenico Vacca — the suit material, the color of the pocket square and tie, the shoes — almost a year before the actual season opens.
One year’s selection was in homage to the dark suits worn in the film "Men In Black." Except Costa turned it into men in black and orange — replete with an orange pocket square and matching tie.
In 2012, he went for a classic New York City look, augmenting his suit with a cane and fedora. But his most controversial look was the year he showed up in a bright blue suit.
"Apparently it’s too close to Dodger blue," Costa grinned.
There is a bit of superstition involved in Costa’s tradition. He can’t repeat an opening day suit. And a suit worn during any Giants opening day loss is sent to the bench and banished from future appearances — especially during the playoffs. One of his favorite suits got the boot after the Giants blew a 4-1 lead against the Cubs.
"After that, I have retired that one to the back of the closet," Costa said.
Costa joined the Giants in 1989, just months before the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the Bay Area and damaged his new charge — Candlestick Park, where the Giants then played. That’s the year he began donning a swanky suit each opening day, exporting the tradition to the Giants new ball park — now called Oracle Park — when it opened in 2000. The tradition has far outlasted any of the names the new ballpark has worn since opening.
"I do it because I love the history and tradition of baseball," Costa said. "I do it to honor the game and tradition."
Costa grew up on the Portugese Madeira Islands near the northwest coast of Africa, moving with his family to the Bay Area when he was still a boy. He embraced baseball as a way to assimilate into the new country, overriding barriers of language and culture. One of the photos that first caught his eye was from April 15, 1958 — the Giants' inaugural game in San Francisco after leaving the East Coast. The photo showed the stands of Seals Stadium filled with men in suits and women in dresses.
"There are so many people dressed up," Costa said, gesturing to the photo which is now on the upper plaza wall of Oracle Park. "All the men — suits, hats, pocket squares — bang bang bang."
In the modern era of fandom, Costa and his suit stand out like a … well, like a guy in a suit at a baseball game. As such, he’s gotten a bit of razzing from the fans
"Shiny suit, shiny suit," he said, imitating a fan chant at one game.
"Hey dude, are you an FBI agent?" yelled another.
Costa won’t let on how many suits he actually owns.
“That’s a classified number,”" he said with a laugh.
A cloak of secrecy surrounds the suit he’ll wear for opening day — no one is privy to his choice except his wife and tailor. Even the Giants staff doesn’t get to see it until he strolls out of the office and makes for the field. The level of secrecy has created its own tradition of opening day intrigue.
"Like the Oscars," Sprinkles said. "Who’s going to get nominated? Who’s going to win? What is Jorge going to wear?"