SAN FRANCISCO -- Tyler Huffman keeps the white shirt, white pants and homemade cap stored in his closet. Occasionally, he'll wear the orange bow tie to Giants games just to see if it gets a flicker of recognition from hard-core fans.
"We still have our Melkmen outfits," he said. "We didn't give Melky the LeBron James treatment and light everything on fire."
A year ago, the ensemble was among the most recognizable images at AT&T Park, right up there with panda hats and bushy black beards. The Melkmen, named in honor of Melky Cabrera, were the unofficial mascots for a glorious run by the All-Star left fielder who was leading the National League in hitting and propelling the Giants toward a World Series season.
"We were blowing up," Huffman, 23, said. "And then we really blew up."
Their bottles came crashing down Aug. 15 with the news that Cabrera had drawn a 50-game suspension for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs. That was the end of Cabrera's time in San Francisco -- and the Melkmen disappeared right along with him.
With a two-game series opening Tuesday in Toronto, the Giants will see Cabrera in uniform for the first time since that awkward breakup. Cabrera, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Blue Jays in the offseason, will be presented a World Series ring for his abbreviated contribution to the Giants title run.
Manager Bruce Bochy will present the ring personally, and Cabrera is touched by the gesture.
"That's a big blessing God sent me," Cabrera told the Toronto Sun over the weekend, through an interpreter. "They called me and they told me that they would give me a ring. I asked them to ship it and they said, 'No, we're going to give it to you when we go to Toronto.' It's special for me."
Outfielder Gregor Blanco, who was one of the Cabrera's closest friends on the team, said there are no hard feelings: "I think it's going to be great to see him. ... A lot of guys here see Melky as a leader, and he's going to be fun to watch in a game."
For Huffman and the rest of his Melkmen, the series is a reminder of their own dizzying highs and crushing lows. This week marks the anniversary of their debut at AT&T Park, when they showed up dressed as milkmen and instantly became, as Huffman recalled Monday, "part of Giants lore."
"I just try to think of the good times. It was unreal," the San Jose State journalism major said. "Obviously, the Giants were on a roll. And it was like we picked the Kentucky Derby winner. We picked the hottest horse."
The Melkmen consisted of Huffman, his father, Rawn, and friends Thomas Davis, James Knecht, Justin Cheung, Ivan Gutierrez, Markus Gutierrez, Patrick Gotingco, Robert Midson and Harry Jamerson.
They hitched their wagon to Cabrera by showing up in costume for the first time on May 18, when the Giants beat the A's 8-6. Cabrera went 2 for 4 in that game as part of a sizzling month in which he batted. 429 and set a team record with 51 hits in a single month.
But when the suspension hit later that summer, disgruntled fans turned on the Melkmen, too. Their Twitter account (@TheMelkMen), which had more than 5,000 followers, went from a frolicking oasis to a forum for outrage.
"Since they couldn't talk to Melky about it, they were just going to yell at us. They were going to make us out to be the bad guys," Huffman said. "Even Giants fans went from loving us and embracing us to wanting nothing to do with us."
The Melkmen's free game passes dried up. The cameras vanished. Their place in Giants lore cut short.
Still, Huffman looks back on those days of Melk and honey with fondness, calling it "a whole summer hanging out with my dad and with my friends and doing something fun."
Cabrera is hitting .261 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 157 at-bats for his new team. The Melkmen have a chance to see him again in person June 4-5, when the Blue Jays visit AT&T Park.
Huffman said the group is undecided about whether to take the Melkmen outfits out of storage.
Follow Daniel Brown on Twitter at twitter.com/mercbrownie.
Giants (Barry Zito 3-1) at Toronto (R.A. Dickey 2-5), 4:07 p.m.