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For many Los Angeles Dodgers fans living in San Francisco, rooting for the SoCal baseball team can be divisive particularly in a city with famed rivalry and hatred for said team. However, there is one sports bar in the Mission District where Dodgers fans can turn to for camaraderie and a relaxed atmosphere while they watch the game.
The Flying Pig Bistro Pub, located on South Van Ness Avenue between 15th and 16th streets, has housed the “Dodger Fans in the Bay Area” meetup group since 2016. Founded by Debbie Dare, Patrick Fleming and SF State psychology professor Kevin Eschleman, the group provides a safe haven for Dodgers fans living in San Francisco and surrounding cities.
Though the bar isn’t Dodgers themed (there are even a few Giants’ pennants scattered along the walls), a Dodgers fan can walk in during a nationally televised game and feel safe from the wrath of Giants fans.
“We started coming here because we realized there are no Giants fans here,” Dare said, “so we could take over the bar.”
Though the original group started back in 2013 in San Jose, it gained traction in 2016 when the Dodgers made the playoffs and Dare, Fleming and Eschleman took over.
“You’re in San Francisco and you have this nostalgia of being in LA and watching the Dodgers, and you don’t get that [in this city],” Fleming said. “There’s nothing like watching a game with people who have the same attitude and the same feelings that you have and the same joyfulness of watching the Dodgers.”
Co-founder Eschleman was responsible for finding the home away from home for his fellow Dodgers fans. Luckily, he was already friends with a local bar owner.
“I’ve been coming here since my first couple days in the city,” Eschleman said. “Ben [Sapone, the owner of the Flying Pig] is my sports-watching buddy. We’ve had a lot of bets on Giants and Dodgers [games]. Eventually, I starting [asking] him, ‘Am I allowed to bring [Dodgers fans] in?’ and he finally caved.”
“Kevin’s a good friend of mine,” Sapone said. “He just wanted to have a meetup with some friends, and of course that’s fine. So that’s how it started, very small. The first time they made the playoffs was when it really started to grow.”
“Against Houston in the World Series … we had way too many people in here, way over capacity. I think people had a lot of fun.”
Eschleman, who teaches psychology at SF State, will often show off his Dodger pride on campus. He’ll even wear his Dodgers cap to his students’ graduation ceremony at Oracle Park, the Giants’ home stadium, as a statement of resistance.
“During playoffs, I’ll always wear my colors,” Eschleman said. “About half the class would be up for it, and the other half would be booing me. It’s a baseball school.”
The Flying Pig isn’t your typical sports bar. Technically, it’s not even a bar at all. Its official title is a “bistro pub,” and it closes at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends, though Sapone has been known to keep the place open late if a playoff game goes to extra innings. But it has that indescribable “Cheers” vibe that makes you want to stick around for an hour longer than you said you would. The food is good, the drink menu is vast and the people will welcome you like family, no matter what team you root for.
“I was never worried about Giants fans being pissed off,” Sapone said. “This place is really casual. In San Francisco, no one’s from here, everyone’s from all over the country, all over the world. People do talk trash every now and then, but it’s all for fun.
“There’s not a lot of places that are really welcoming to Dodger fans,” he added. “It’s become the place where Dodger fans tell their friends, ‘Oh, come watch [the Dodgers game] here.’”